Emotional styles - communities and spaces

Emotional styles - communities and spaces

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for the History of Emotions
Vom - Bis
01.07.2010 - 03.07.2010
Benno Gammerl

Although research in emotions gained momentum in the last decade or so across a wide range of disciplines – including psychology, anthropology and neuroscience –, the historiography of emotions is still a widely unexplored terrain. By focussing on the interactions between different emotional styles the workshop aims at enhancing further investigations into this field.

In which ways can the simultaneity of distinct styles help to understand and to explain the dynamics and the changes of emotional patterns and practices? During the workshop participants will explore and discuss ideas and queries revolving around this question.

Is it possible to discern diverging emotional styles, i.e. ways of dealing with and expressing feelings, within one socio-cultural context? Do different (culturally or otherwise defined) communities develop a certain emotional code? How is an emotional repertoire established, reproduced and altered within a specific group? In what ways do emotional displays contribute to identification processes? What is their inclusive and exclusive potential? Do specific spatial contexts – the cinema or the office, the urban or the rural – command particular emotional styles? Which places and areas qualify as “emotional spaces”? How are the respective emotional codes enforced? How do actors cope or play around with the different, space-specific emotional repertoires?

A few prominent forerunners in the historiography of emotions like Norbert Elias or Johan Huizinga have proposed that the control of feelings has increased across historical time. The last couple of years have seen more nuanced accounts of emotional change. They go beyond the quantifying categories of in- or decrease and allow for qualitative alterations to be traced in a more precise fashion. William Reddy’s “Navigation of Feeling” and Eva Illouz’ discussions of romantic love in the 20th century might suffice to indicate the breadth and the liveliness of this research. Another prominent figure is Barbara H. Rosenwein who introduced the concept of “emotional communities” into the debate. Her approach allows for the assumption of different emotional styles being practised and enacted simultaneously within one socio-cultural context.

At precisely this point the workshop wants to pick up the discussion. The coexistence of diverse emotionalities might serve as a suitable model for explaining historical change as a result of interactions, conflicts, adaptations and hybridisations among different emotional styles. One could argue, for example, that historical actors have a certain scope for decisions and negotiations as to which specific emotional pattern or code they should employ or perform within certain situations. Thus, one might be able to observe upswings or downturns of emotional styles that come to be hegemonic or cease to be subcultural.

Are “emotional communities” – in terms of cultural, national, religious, gender, generational or other identities and differences – the only way in which one can conceptualise the simultaneous coexistence of different emotional styles? Or could individual variation be better suited to explain this coexistence? An additional alternative might arise with the notion of “emotional spaces”. Although interest in ecological influences on emotion is recently growing especially within developmental psychology, not much has so far been written about this from the historical and the sociological perspective.

This spatialised notion of emotional styles might prove to be a useful analytic tool. Can one reformulate the urban-rural divide along emotional lines? Are there specific emotional codes for the supermarket, the church, the office, the beach, home and other spaces? By extension, can one read the postcolonial relation between metropole and periphery in emotional terms?

Communities and spaces: which of these concepts or rather which combination of these is best suited to analyse emotional styles and to explain the dynamic interactions between them, as well as the overall change of emotional patterns and practices? Is there for example something like a “gay” emotional style? If yes, does one acquire it for good during the process of coming-out, or is it rather something one puts on when entering a gay bar or a dark-room? And in which ways is this “gay” style affected by or does itself impact other emotionalities?

These are some of the questions the workshop wants to address. The aim is to produce a fruitful and lively exchange between doctoral and postdoctoral scholars – historians, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, political, cultural and literary scientists and others – who want to discuss their ongoing or recent research projects. All papers will be pre-circulated in order to further the discussion. They will be commented upon by recognized specialists from different disciplines.

“Emotional styles” will be considered within a variety of fields. Urban or rural sensibilities, gendered feelings, homo/heterosexual emotional styles, cultural diversity etc. are possible topics. Discussions will focus on the period from 1800 to the present, not only concentrating on Europe but also including perspectives from other regions.

The workshop will take place in Berlin from 1 to 3 July 2010. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. There is no registration fee.

If you are interested in participating, please send an application to emostyles@mpib-berlin.mpg.de by 18 January 2010 and attach a single word-file containing a short CV and a paper-proposal of not more than 700 words. All applicants will be informed regarding acceptance of their proposals by 22 February 2010. Participants will then be asked to hand in a paper of about 10 to 15 pages by 14 June 2010.



Benno Gammerl

MPI für Bildungsforschung
Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin

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