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Session Overview
RN11_02a_P: Theorizing Affect and Emotion II
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Christian von Scheve, Freie Universität Berlin
Location: PB.1.4
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 1.

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Affective Transactions: Rethinking Emotion, Power & Habitus

Jonathan G. Heaney

Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom

This paper will address a number of current debates within social theory and the sociology of emotions concerning the concepts of affect, emotion, and habitus. My aim is to offer and defend a dispositional theory of social practice, based on a somewhat-reframed conceptualization of the habitus, which draws on and critiques not only the work of Bourdieu and Elias, but also the process ontology of Alfred North Whitehead. This question, at its most general, is concerned especially with the constitution of ‘emotional habitus’, and the relationship between emotions and power. It is approached from a distinct theoretical perspective, here called process-relational realism. This suggests that the individual body, engaged in the process of relational becoming, is constituted and re-constituted via ongoing and iterative 'affective transactions' with the (social, cultural, and natural) environment. Such transactions give rise to patterns in emotional practice, which relate to power in a variety of ways, and are historically, structurally, and culturally variable; that the socially-embedded, embodied individual’s affective transactions are mediated via a specific, normative and transformable affective or emotional regimes. Drawing on and contributing to recent work on these issues (Burkitt, 2014, Wetherell, 2012, von Scheve, 2017), I hope to demonstrate the utility of the 'process world view' for rethinking and re-integrating these concepts not only at the level of theoretical abstraction but also for the design of concrete empirical research.

Why sociology of emotions shouldn't worry about affect-theory too much. – A critique of affect-theory from an interactional perspective.

Katharina Scherke

University of Graz, Austria

The concept of affect in its different varieties has gained interest in recent years among scholars from scientific fields like history, literary studies or political science. Scholars like Silvan S. Tomkins or Brian Massumi (leaving here aside all differences between them) see affects as non-intentional bodily reactions, as something pre-cognitive. Socio-cultural aspects get peripheral in these approaches; they even seem to be dominated by the 'autonomy of affect'. The theoretical framing of differences between the concepts 'emotion' and 'affect' is still an ongoing task for sociology and other disciplines. The paper argues that the success of the concept 'affect' can be explained to some extent by features of the current scientific system, in which approaches and methods from the natural sciences are widely appreciated also in the social sciences and humanities. It will be shown that some arguments of current affect-theories are not new at all and that bodily aspects of emotions could be well integrated into an interactional oriented sociology of emotions. Five interrelated dimension have to be analyzed in regard to understand the social character of emotions – physiological aspects ('affect'), expression, experience, evaluation, action.

Practice theory, emotionality and the culture of self-help

Marcel Dominique Autschbach, Thorn-Rennig Kray

Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany

Contemporary forms of work as well as the “ethos of psychotherapy” (Illouz 2008; Nolan 1998; Rieff 1973) propagate a “belaboured self” (McGee 2005) learning to control and effectively invest its emotional capital. These tendencies have been most notably crystallized and codified in the culture of self-help, prominently addressed by scholars of Foucauldian subjectivation (Hazleden 2011; Nehring et al. 2016; Rimke 2000). Our contribution, instead, aims at applying Bourdieuian theory of habitus formation (Bourdieu 2000, 2015) to the analysis of advice literature. Even though Bourdieu did not directly address the question, recent debates on emotionality from different fields, such as the studies of migration (Gray 2008) and education (Zembylas 2007) or feminist theory (Probyn 2004), have increasingly turned towards his work. In addition, specific elements of Bourdieuian practice theory, as for example the concept of habitus/hexis (Brumlik 2009; Scheer 2012) or capital (Cottingham 2016), have been discussed in relation to emotionality. We will probe Bourdieu’s terminology in the field of self-help literature on the work place and focus specifically on exploring emotionality with regard to two interrelated processes: On the one hand, we will show how a specific discursive praxis of narrating emotion is formed in these books and thus inquire into the relationship of explicit/symbolic and implicit forms of knowledge (Reckwitz 2008). On the other hand, we will look at forms of incorporation of these sets of knowledge and thereby point towards the corporeal dimension of the culture of self-help.

A Sociology of Affective Attachment. The Case of Breathwork

Alexander Antony

University of Vienna, Austria

Over the last few years it is possible to observe two interesting tendencies among social scientific approaches to emotions. First, there are attempts to overcome a narrow focus on discrete emotions as different analytic strategies have started to open up for the heterogeneity of affective life. Second, in particular relationist approaches reject the idea that affective states are situated within the individual. In contrast to such views, affectivity is understood as “a matter of socially implemented patterns of intra-actional dynamics within practical domains” (Slaby). According to such an approach complex relational configurations, rather than inner feeling states, serve as a heuristic starting point for empirical research.

Using an autoethnographic research design in combination with considerations from actor-network theory, I want to demonstrate how such an analytic strategy could stimulate research on affectivity. Exemplified with the case of so-called breathwork, I will show how different forms of affective experiences are interactively established and practically evoked. The assumption guiding my research is that we experience our body not as a self-given entity in a passive way, but rather via attachment to specific practices in which affected bodies are enacted in the first place. Moreover, it is argued that empirical research allows us to specify our analytic frameworks. Hence, by referring to the case of breathwork, I will suggest that it might be fruitful to take into account a) different modes of attachment/detachment, b) various sensory orders and c) specific styles of experience in order to sociologically investigate affected bodies in action.

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