Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 29–51 | Cite as

The Value of Relationships: Affective Scenes and Emotional Performances

  • Beverley Skeggs


Many theorists have charted for some time how capital extends its lines of flight into new spaces, creating new markets by harnessing affect and intervening in intimate, emotional and domestic relationships, and into bio-politics more generally. Feminists have known for a long time that women’s ‘domestic’ labour has been central to the reproduction of capital but that it has been made invisible, surplus and naturalised and is rarely taken into account in theories of value. Yet we are now in a bizarre historical moment wherein a format has emerged (reality television) in a major capitalist industry (the media) that is premised upon spectacularly visualising women’s labour in all its forms, especially through its focus on relationships, dispositions and emotional performance. Drawing on an ESRC research project, ‘Making Class and the Self through Mediated Ethical Scenarios’, this paper demonstrates how very different spheres of exchange—economy and affect—have come together, offering possibilities for fusing calculation and care. This process bears remarkable similarity to the legal adjudication of property and propriety in intimate relationships. Yet the paper shows how, as attempts are made to commodify affect, it is precisely affect that exposes and disrupts exchange and enables reality television as a technology of affect to visualise the different types of person-value that are constituted through class and gender relations.


Affect Intimacy Reality television Relationships Value 



Thanks to Lauren Berlant, Camila Bassi, Ruth Fletcher and Jin Haritaworn for taking the time to read and publicly discuss the issues raised in this paper, and to Kate Bedford, Anisa de Jong and Jon Binnie for organising the seminar in the CLGS at the University of Kent which provided the space for opening up this discussion. And to Kate and the two reviewers for some great comments. Thanks.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Goldsmiths, University of LondonLondonUK

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