Affect, Classic and the Happy Family

by annawahloo

the happy family

Classic is a central concept in my thesis that explores the phenomenon Modern Furniture Classic. It is a complex and problematic term. It is a travelling concept (Bal, 2002), inherited from other disciplines (Classical studies, Literature, Art and Music), that is used comprehensively today, about old and new, here, there, and everywhere. It often lacks definition or explanation. In the “world of furniture” has the concept become increasingly recognized. I believe that terms chosen to describe a phenomenon is relevant to how it is perceived, interpreted and contextualized (Robach, 2010:16). I will in the following briefly reflect upon the concept of classic in relation to affect as explored by Sara Ahmed in her article “Sociable happiness” from 2008.

There is no stable definition of affect as Nigel Thrift points out but it is often associated by words like emotion and feeling, for example happiness (2008:175). Ahmed illustrates a way to use affect in a practical way. She writes; “This paper explores how happiness is directed towards objects and directs us towards objects. Reflecting on happiness as the restriction of sociability, the paper considers the family as a happy object not because it causes happiness, but because of the demand that we share an orientation toward the family as a good thing. Those who are not oriented in the right way become affect aliens and kill-joys” (2008:10). I find her text relevant to my research, in particular her survey on the happy family as it has several similarities with the classic/classical concept. The way Ahmed reasons about the family as a happy object as in our collective memory works in the similar way for a classic. We have been taught through the years that a classic is a good thing and stands for good taste. To like a classic is safe. To say that you like the mass produced, stackable white plastic garden chair is on the other hand not safe (even though more than half of the population in the world most likely has got one, or maybe because of that).

I believe that the term itself affect our perception of a classic. Classic implies that we have to do with an ideal or norm, something that intends to express approval and to commend. The concept of classic is symbolically loaded with values, mostly good ones. The term has since the late 1800’s widening its boundaries and is nowadays associated with all imaginable everyday things, not just matters of (high)culture (Peters, 2004). A classic can be a traditional phenomenon, for example The Wimbledon Tournament as in a tennis classic. It can apply to major sport tournaments and competitions (spelled with a capital letter). Moreover can a classic be a film, a dish, an ice cream, a car, a watch, a haircut, a song, a piece of clothing or a TV program. I guess it is the same with the happy family. Who lives in a nuclear family any longer?


Ahmed, Sara. (2008). “Sociable happiness”, Emotion, Space and Society. Vol. 1 Issue 1, p10-13. Elsevier.

Bal, Mieke. (2002). Travelling concepts in the humanities: A rough guide. University of Toronto Press.

Peters, Pam. (2004). The Cambridge guide to English usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, reprinted 2006.

Robach, Cilla. (2010). Formens frigörelse: konsthantverk och design under debatt i 1960-talets Sverige. Diss. Uppsala University. Stockholm: Arvinius Förlag.

Thrift, Nigel. (2008). “Emotion, Space and society”. Non-Representational Theory: Space, politics, affect. Routledge.