rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Convention-al affects: Lois Lane goes to the NDP Leadership Convention!

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

I went to my first political convention last weekend. The NDP Leadership Convention, to be exact. I felt a bit like an imposter: I didn't wear a partisan t-shirt or wave a sign. Instead, I scribbled in my little notebook, took loads of photos and eavesdropped incessantly. I could have been Lois Lane.

I had been offered blogger's media accreditation through my friends at rabble.ca. I jumped at the opportunity to do some academic research on affect.

I'm very interested in the ways technology and affect work together to create embodied national feelings -- feeling with a sense of touch. In a previous post, I wrote about Jack Layton's death and funeral and the contagious affects that surrounded that moment. Despite Layton’s call to “change the world,” I wondered at the time if this particular kind of collective, contagious affect that circulates around public figures is antithetical to grassroots organizing.

I walked into the halfway point of candidates' speeches. "I like how clean it is," said one conventioneer, referring to the collegial behaviour of the candidates. I was struck by how scripted the entire event was. Thomas Mulcair walked through the hall like a king, with a marching band leading the way. Among all the screens was a giant teleprompter, so you could read along to every single word being said. The only unscripted moment I witnessed was when candidate Peggy Nash's script was speeded-up (she had taken up too much time), so she ad-libbed without missing a beat. For some reason, she defaulted to lgbt rights -- it wasn't in her script but I didn't mind. It was the only reference to lgbt anything that I heard the whole time I was there.

In the evening I attended the tribute to Jack Layton. More scripted speechifying, and a succession of straight white men lauding Jack in the video tribute. But I could feel the waves of feeling rolling through the all-ages audience, especially during an upbeat speech by Olivia Chow. The screens were given over to panning shots of the City Hall chalk memorial, that rich Babylon of citizens' voices, reminding me what the affects of activism could be, and contrasting with the exceedingly conventional affects at this convention.

As the convention dragged to its seemingly inevitable conclusion -- the election of centrist Thomas Mulcair as leader, I attended a party comprised mostly of  queer women NDP-ers, several of whom had been to the convention. I spoke with my filmmaker colleague Gerry Rogers, currently provincial MP for St John's Centre, and the first openly queer politican elected to Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly.

At the convention, when the race narrowed down to three leading male candidates, Gerri had helped to convene a meeting of a women's caucus. The caucus invited each candidate to speak to them, querying them on their positions on choice, among other things. They were then able to announce to national media that all of the candidates, including Mulcair, had declared a pro-choice position. That was one of the smartest moves I'd seen all weekend.

The women at the party were veterans of savvy feminist political organizing. The mood was muted (though the drinking was not!). Disappointment in Mulcair's ascendance was palpable. But there was joy and pleasure and high humour, too, and that was certainly contagious. It reminded me of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's notion of ethical possibility, which, she argued, ". . . is founded on and coextensive with the subject’s movement toward what Foucault calls ‘care of the self,’ the often very fragile concern to provide the self with pleasure and nourishment in an environment that is perceived as not particularly offering them.”

To produce ethical possibilities, long-term progressive political organizing requires a circuit of affects. A one-note tune of positivity seems merely to be the melody of the status quo. The recent Ontario and federal budgets and their brutal attacks on poor people, seniors and youth will demand much, much more than that.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.