Conference Agenda

RN11_01a: Theorizing Emotion
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Jonathan G. Heaney, Queen's University Belfast
Location: BS.3.26
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Emotion and Utopian Imagination

Jordan McKenzie

University of Wollongong, Australia

Contemporary utopian theory offers exciting insights about the role of emotion in the theory and praxis of the political sphere. In place of classical utopian literature from More, St Simon and Bacon, modern utopian literature places this kind of thinking in everyday critique (Levitas 2013; Jameson 2005), everyday praxis (Cooper 2014; Sargisson 2017), and perhaps most importantly, within the realm of inevitability rather than impossibility (Bloch 1954; Abensour 2008). Utopian thinking simply involves critiquing the present in favour of a better future, and for Bloch in particular, this is something that individuals constantly do. Jameson furthers this approach and suggests that even anti-utopian thought is itself a form of utopian thinking as it identifies historical mistakes and attempts to rectify them.

This presentation will consider the role of emotion in utopian theory and praxis. Political discourse is deeply intwined with emotion and visions for a future utopia (in the sense of a best possible outcome for society) are imbued with nostalgia, hope, happiness and pride. Meanwhile, dystopian narratives are often driven by fear, shame, hatred and guilt. There are important emotions missing from this list; loneliness, boredom, envy and so on, and the prominence of some emotions over others undoubtably shapes the direction and tone of political arguments. This presentation will specifically explore the possibility for differing emotional climates to inform and drive directions of utopian discourse.

Emotions in Social Interactions: Human Feelings and the Interaction Order

Maja Sawicka

University of Warsaw, Poland

Emotional communication is an integral and fundamental component of interpersonal communication, and, what follows, also of social interactions. According to existing research on emotions, emotional expression is a universal channel for communicating meanings (Ekman, 1972), initiating interactions, demonstrating intentions and attitudes towards social situations (Oatley, Jenkins 1998) and establishing social hierarchies (Wilson 1982). Additionally, sociologists who analyze emotions in the perspective of symbolic interactionism have proven that people are able to intentionally and purposely use human capacity to feel and express emotions in order to steer the course of interactions and influence interaction partners’ feelings and actions (Hochschild 2003, Kemper 1990).

In this presentation I will demonstrate a theoretical model which links the ways in which participants in the interactions employ the aforementioned ability to use emotions with social-situational factors – key characteristics of selected types of interpersonal situations. I will consider the following types of social situations: anonymous and transient, role-based and recurrent, identity-based and lasting. The aim of the presentation will be to refine general statements by sociology of emotions regarding the role played by emotions in interpersonal communication through identification of specific social-situational factors which circumscribe and channel the presence of emotions in social interactions.

From Alienation To Shame, And Back Again

Lorenzo Bruni

University of Perugia, Italy

RN11.17. theorizing affect and emotion - RN11.26. emotions and reflexivity;

This paper advances the hypothesis of a theoretical affinity between alienation and shame. This attempt will be circumscribed by a narrow intention based on the work of the philosopher Rahel Jaeggi (2014), a leading figure in the latest generation of scholars from the critical theory tradition of the Frankfurt School. Specifically, the paper will try to outline a sociological translation of Jaeggi’s thought, attempting at the same time to identify interpretive and conceptual affinities between a Meadian social-theoretical reading of shame and a hypothetical sociological translation of the German philosopher’s theory of alienation. By argumentative choice, we will maintain our focus within the perimeter of Rahel Jaeggi’s theory of alienation, utilizing it as a conceptual base for some creative sociology.

In the final analysis, the aim of this paper is to construct a conceptual bridge between shame and alienation. As we will see, these two phenomena can be associated in reference to their common twofold root: they are, at one and the same time, social events, objectified and exteriorized, and individual events, linked to subjective experience. Moreover, they both show further ambivalences. They are necessary to the stabilization of social bonds (Scheff 2000, 2003, 2004), but at the same time they can indicate the emergence of social pathologies(Honneth1996a, 1996b, 2004, 2006). A Meadian reading of shame can thus help to compensate for Jaeggi’s lack of discussion of the social aspects of alienation and, at the same time, emphasize the alienation side of shame.

Emotions, Boundaries, and Societal Divides: A Critical Examination from a Communication-theoretical Point of View

Robin Kurilla

University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

As media of sociation, emotions both unite and separate individuals and collectives, creating boundaries with varying degrees of permeability. This paper addresses the relations among emotions and the fabrication, maintenance, and deconstruction of boundaries in a threefold manner. Firstly, the role of emotions in the coordination of collective action will be discussed. Special attention is paid to anger and indignation as means of coordination in social movements and political parties. It will be determined how boundaries are emotionally established and maintained in practical and objectifying ways in the process of coordinating social protest. Secondly, the dynamics of mutually divergent moralizing ascriptions of emotions between different collectives will be explored to illustrate how emotional boundaries can turn into barriers of communication, impeding the societal coordination of action and thus exasperating societal divides. Different excerpts of historical and present political communication regarding separatism, nationalism, and identity politics as well as scholarly literature and its repercussions on everyday life will be analyzed to elucidate this point. Thirdly, the permeability of the boundaries between everyday life, politics, and academia will be critically examined regarding their potential to either aggravate or bridge emotionally fabricated schisms in society in Europe and beyond. The paper concludes with a plea for social reflexivity in research on emotions and an outline of ways this research can contribute to constructing the raw materials for the communicative fabrication of Europe as an inclusive imagined (emotional) community.