Massumi, Brian 1956-

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Massumi, Brian 1956-


Born May 8, 1956. Education: Yale University, M.A., 1981, Ph.D., 1987; Stanford University, postdoctoral study, 1988.


E-mail—[email protected].


University of Queensland, Australia, researcher; State University of New York, Albany, associate professor; McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, professor of English; Université de Montréal, professor of communications.


A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

(Editor) The Politics of Everyday Fear, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

(With Kenneth Dean) First and Last Emperors: The Absolute State and the Body of the Despot, Autonomedia (Williamsburg, Brooklyn), 1993.

(Editor) A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze and Guattari, Routledge (London; New York), 2002.

Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2002.

Coeditor of the "Theory Out of Bounds" series published by the University of Minnesota Press.


Philosopher Brian Massumi was born on May 8, 1956. He attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received an M.A. in 1981 and a Ph.D. in 1987, both in French literature. In 1988 he undertook postdoctoral work in art history at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, continuing his research at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. After working as an associate professor in the English department at the State University of New York in Albany, Massumi moved to Montreal, Canada, where he first became a professor in the English department at McGill University, then worked as a professor in the communications department at the University of Montreal.

Massumi's works deal with the interplay of image and everyday experience, and with the ways human beings make ethical decisions. Intrigued by abstract concepts such as optimism and freedom, he studies their role in human expectations and moral choices. In an interview with Mary Zournazi for 21C magazine, he asserted that "ethics in this sense is completely situational. It's completely pragmatic. And it happens between people, in the social gaps. There is no intrinsic good or evil. The ethical value of an action is what it brings out in the situation, for its transformation, how it breaks sociality open. Ethics is about how we inhabit uncertainty, together. It's not about judging each other right or wrong."

In his book Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Massumi examines his theory of how movement and bodily sensation affect our self-experience in relation to the space around us. He covers social and cultural restrictions and the way we view our surroundings as a response to our experience. He argues that the constant flow of universal movement, exemplified in growth of all kinds, assumes the potential for an energetic dimension that blurs the lines of existence and energy in all its forms, including matter and thought. Massumi considers the economic and political sides to this theory, discussing the flaws in capitalism that stifle movement in an attempt to quantify, objectify, and control it.

In her review of the book for Art Journal, Maria Fernandez wrote: "Parables for the Virtual is required reading for anyone working with digital art. The complex relationship of the user's body to the work of art in this field has no theoretical language in either the history of art or cultural theory. It is from these emerging theorizations that scholars can approach related issues such as digital aesthetics and the relationship of digital cultural forms with other media."



Art Journal, September 22, 2006, Maria Fernandez, "The Body Is More than Flesh," p. 120.

British Journal of Aesthetics, January 1, 2004, Ian Heywood, review of A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze and Guattari, p. 105.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 2002, W.F. Williams, review of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, p. 617.

Cultural Studies, May 1, 1997, Ian Buchanan, review of The Politics of Everyday Fear, p. 358.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1993, review of The Politics of Everyday Fear, p. 56.


5Cyberconf, (July 2, 2008), author profile and abstract of "The Evolutionary Alchemy of Reason."

21C, (July 2, 2008), Mary Zournazi, "Navigating Movements: An Interview with Brian Massumi," and author profile.

Brian Massumi Home Page, (July 2, 2008).

M/C Reviews, (August 14, 2007), Tim Roberts, review of Parables for the Virtual.

Université de Montréal Web site, (July 2, 2008), author curriculum vitae.