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EmotionsReview - Emotions
A Social Science Reader
by Monica Greco and Paul Stenner (Editors)
Routledge, 2009
Review by Dina Mendonça, Ph.D.
Mar 23rd 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 12)

The aim of the book is to give students, scholars as well as the general public, a broad overview of the research done in the study of emotions in the work of social scientists in the course of the last three decades. The extracts chosen reflect the 'affective turn' of many of the social sciences such as to show how emotions not only became another item of study but in addition this study has the potential to modify the way these disciplines understand their acquisition of knowledge and their research activities. The editors have selected mostly from the tradition of qualitative research and the size of the extracted pieces varies. The reader is organized into four parts (I. Universals and Particulars; II. Embodying Affect;  III. Political Economies of Affect; IV. Affect Power and Justice), each of which contain three thematic sections, and all of these sections are preceded with introductions that provide a guide for the specific themes and highlight the complementarities of the chosen extracts. Also, the book offers a selected bibliography for further reading thematically organized.

The first part, Universals and Particulars of Affect, shows the centrality of the debate for the definition of emotions, showing how the different disciplines have made contributions for the structure of the tension between the universalized and contingent aspect of emotion. The first section, "Emotions, history and civilization" begins with an extract from Thomas Dixon's book From Passion to Emotion, where he proposes that the shift from 'passions' to 'emotions' cannot be understood simply as the employment of a new word to describe the same thing. The following extract, from Norbert Elias whose work has been credited for providing something of a paradigm for subsequent historical and historical-sociological research of emotions, is an illustration of an approach that focuses on the norms of emotional reality. The next extract is one from a work, which has taken Elias idea and applied and developed it with application to social phenomena. In "The politics of agoraphobia" (1990), Abram De Swaan presents an analytical framework for understanding how social developments may have altered the intimate relations between people. The fourth and final extract of this section is from a book by Peter and Deborah Stearns, in which they present a number of methodological choices in relation to the problem of causation in historical focus, or of adopting a larger, meta-historical focus of analysis, specifically focusing on the discussion of causation in relation to changes in specific emotions. The second section, "Emotions and Culture", focuses on the constructivists' contribution to the field of emotion theory and how they define emotion more as a social judgment than an internal feeling state and how their research focuses on the transfer of emotion concepts into the social processes than surround them.  The first extract, by Catherine Lutz, is one of the best-known exponents of the constructivists approach to the study of emotion. The second extract, from an article by William Reddy, takes issue with the strong constructionism drawing and on post-structuralists insights about language and on reformulations of classic psychodynamic concepts, to offer a post-positivist and non-essentialist account of feeling. The author of the third extract is another ethno historian of emotions, Michale Harkin, who also draws on psychodynamic approaches in explicit contrast with discursive ones. The last extract, by John Lindquist, is a recent contribution to the vast body of anthropological research on emotions in Southeast Asia, which examines malu (shame, embarrassment) as a key emotional trope for contemporary Indonesian migrants. In the third section, "Emotions and Society", the editors tried to provide a balanced selection of the seven theoretical variants in the sociology of emotion (dramaturgical and cultural, ritual, symbolic interactionist, symbolic interactionist and psychoanalytical elements, exchange theorizing and evolutionary) while they also include a contribution from the system-theoretical perspective. Starting with an extract from Jack Barbalet's book Emotion, social Theory and Social Structure (2001) which presents a macro-sociological approach to emotions, the section moves on to an extract of Goffman's classic article "Embarrassment and Social Organization" (1956) where he recognized that emotion is a genuine social category by showing how embarrassment is part and parcel of socially prescribed behavior and not a primitive and irrational biopsychological force that disturbs orderly conduct. The following four extracts of this section are taken from sociologists who have made a significant contribution from the second half of the '70: Susan Shotts "Emotion and Social life", Arlie Russess Hochschild "Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure", Theodore Kemper " Power status and Emotion", Randall Collins "The role of Emotion in Social Structure, Niklas Luhmann "Individuality of Psychic Systems". 

In the second part, Embodying Affect, pieces on the relationship between emotions and selfhood, emotions and place, and emotions and health are given such as to show how these different areas of interest interact with one another. The first section of this second part deals with "Emotions, Selfhood and Identity" starting with an extract of Silvan Tomkins, a key to the "affective turn, which focuses on his script theory. The second extract, "Cool Rules" by Dick Pountain and David Robins, offers an anatomy of attitude examining how the script of cool has been highly influential in our modern world, while the following extract by Charles Morgan and James Averill "True feelings, the self, and authenticity" deals with the more romantic script in which feelings are construed as the source of authentic identity. The next extract by Agneta Fisher and Jeroen Janz's (1995) "Reconciling Emotions with Western Personhood" applies anthropological lens to western culture, and poses the question of whether or not a tension exists between the idea of rational and self-contained personhood and the ordinary conception of emotions as irrational and involuntary forces. Finally, the section ends with an extract about the absolute central emotion for self-identity: shame (for shame is the "self-conscious affect" (Tangney and Fisher 1995)). In "Self-consciousness in Shame: the role of the other", W. Ray Crozier (1998) focuses on shame and how it implies core aspects of the self. The second section, "Emotions, Space and Place" focuses on how space and place are decisive ingredients of the social understanding of affect. The first article from Nigel Thrift's (2004) article "Intensities of Feeling towards a special politics of affect" where he attempts to develop a 'non-representational' theory of the affective turn capable of moving beyond the a discursive version of social constructivism. In the second extract from Rani Kawale (2004) "inequalities of the heart" exemplifies a social constructionist concern to challenge the "naturalness" of heterosexuality through an analysis of the ways in which everyday places are "felt". While the third extract by Mimi Sheller (2004) called "automobile emotions" is about the "feeling" of everyday spaces mainly focused on the feeling of the car, the last extract of this section is from Ben Anderson's (2005) article "Domestic Geographies of Affect" where he explores some of the affective dynamics involved in the operation of making judgments in mundane domestic spaces. The last section, "Emotions and Health" is an illustration of the long history of research on emotion in connection to health and disease. The first extract is from a widely quoted article by Peter E. Freund, which argues for the relevance of an existential phenomenological perspective in understanding the link between emotions and health. Followed by an extract of "Portrayals of Suffering" by Alan Radley, who is a pioneer in the study of biographical, narrative and cultural aspects of the experience of illness. In the next extract, "Metaphors our bodyminds live by", Wilce and Price outlines an agenda for "local biologies". In the next extract Elizabeth Wilson with "The work of antidepressants" exemplifies one of the ways in which engagement with the (natural) sciences of emotion can be productive o innovation in social theory.  Finally, the last extract entitled "Disorders without Borders? The expanding scope of psychiatric practice" by Nikolas Rosa, considers the increase of quantity of mental disorders and how we have become more capable of recognizing mental disorders.

The third part, "Political Economies of Affect" covers the impact of emotions in political economy. The first section, "Emotion in Work and Organization" begins with an extract, which addresses the relatively neglected topic of emotion work in connection with "race". Kiran Mirchandani's argument draws on anti-racism feminist theory to propose not only a focus on "racial silences" in the literature on emotion work, but also a methodological critique of dominant approaches in the field. The following extract by Stephen Fineman, "Getting the measure of emotion – and the cautionary Tale of emotional intelligence", also offers a set of critical methodological reflections addressed at the recent growth of quantitative techniques for the study of emotion work.

The third extract, "The Caring-Killing paradox" by Reeves and colleagues illustrates a different use for quantitative investigation in the study of emotion at work by exploring the psychological ramifications of euthanasia related work in the context of animal shelters. The fourth and final extract by Allen Smith and Sherryl Kleinman looks at emotion management in the context of the profession of medicine. The following section of this third part, "Emotions, Economics and Consumer Culture" pays attention to the way emotions are central to economic processes of production and consumption, as well as processes of decision-making. The first extract is taken from Colin Campbell's work "The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (1987) and deals with the connection of pleasure as an ethical element of consumerism which shows that while pleasure can be used for commercial interests such usage has a way of promoting romanticism. The second extract, drawn from Danny Miller's A theory of Shopping (1998), is a good reading to counterbalance those writers who mainly stress the illusory, shallow and hedonistic values of consumption for it shows how love, caring, obligation, responsibility and habit play a crucial role in shopping.  Love is the issue of the third extract by Daniel Lefkowitz, "Investing in emotion", where he examines how television commercials are associated with loving and nurturing and care or with anger and violence. The last extract is from an article "Emotions and Economic Theory" by Jon Elster (1998), which is a pioneer work in attempting to bridge the gap between emotion theory and economic. The last section of the third part, "Emotions and the Media" explores the fact that mass media does not only mediate what we know but also much of what we feel. The first extract Briggitta Höijer, examines Swedish and Norwegian audience reactions to television news and documentary reporting of human suffering in the Kosovo war. The second extract "Chav Mum, Chav Scum: class disgust in contemporary Britain", Imogen Tyler (2008) examines the emotional characteristics associated with figure of the "chav" in British newspapers, TV comedy and Internet for a, and newspapers. The third extract, "Talking alone: reality TV, emotions and authenticity" (2006), by Minna Aslama and Mervi Pantti looks at the various ways in which "real life" emotional encounters are staged within reality TV shows. Finally, the last extract from Film Structure and the Emotion System by Greg Smith (2003) draws upon a growing tradition of work that analyses the relationship between motion pictures and emotion. 

In the last part of the book, "Affect Power, and Emotion", the editors choose articles that address the relationship between emotions and social justice. The first group of extracts concern the connection of emotion and politics. The first extract of this section, "The Emotional deficit in Political Communication" by Barry Richards addresses a broad change in the forms of political communication in recent years, towards what he calls an 'emotionalization' of politics, which stems partly from the increasing influence of popular culture on the sphere of politics, and from the tendency for people to relate to politics in a 'mode of consumption'. In the second extract, Anne-Marie Fortier examines the role of emotions in the press media response to the publication of the Parekh Report on 'The future of Multi-ethnic Britain' (2000) discussing the effects of displaying of emotion on the kind of national community and national identity.

The third piece, "A museum of hope: a Story of Robben Island" by Sharing and Kempa, examines hope as a 'technology of governance' namely a collective sensibility that can be steered in various directions by governing agencies. In the fourth extract, Deborah Gould examines the role of emotional ambivalence in shaping lesbian and gay responses to the AIDS crisis in the US, and the emergence of militant AIDS activism.

The second section, "Emotions and Law", offers five thought provoking extracts on how emotions are reflected in law and how particular theories of emotion are implicitly embedded in particular legal theories. The first extract is from Kathy Laster and Pat O'Malley Sensitive New Age laws (1996) and it illustrates the reassertion of emotionality in law in relation to rape, domestic violence, and psychological distress in Australian criminal law. Next, Bettina Lange's (2002) article "The Emotional Dimension in Legal Regulation" shows emotions as a crucial 'link concept' between the legal realm and society more generally and the underlying enterprise of the law of regulating conduct. The third extract, 'Affective versus Effective Justice by Arie Freiberg (2001), deals with the broader question of crime prevention policies and argues that successful policies must address the deeper affective aspects of the social place and meaning of crime. The fourth extract, from an article by anthropologist Yael Navaro-Yashin "Make-Believe Papers, legal forms and the counterfeit: affective interactions between documents and people in Britain and Cyprus" (2007) is the example of a study that looks at objects as phenomena that generates affect carrying affect research into a the new domain of physical things. The final extract by Susanne Karstedt "Emotion and Criminal Justice" (2002), critically develops the theme of the 'emotionalization of law', describing it as a process which has transformed criminal justice globally in the last decade including certain emotional states as 'barometers' of social morality. Emotions such as anger, disgust and shame, for example, have been re-introduced into criminal procedures and are increasingly recognized as 'barometers' of social morality. The fourth and last section of the book, "Compassion, Hate, and Terror", begins with an extract from A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the legacies of torture (1998) by Feitlowitz and shows how she sets about constructing a lexicon of terror which bears witness to some of the perversions of language that wrapped up in the suffering inflicted upon so many victims of the regime. In the second piece, Lauren Berlant scrutinizes some of the issues at stake in the recent re-branding of the US Republican Party as 'compassionate conservatism' where Berlant suggests that compassion might be better though of as a social and aesthetic technology of belonging' rather than some authentic, organic emotion. The same theme appears in the third extract of the section "Violence, Mourning and Politics" from Judith Butler where he is interested in whether a basis for community can be found in our response to loss and our sense of vulnerability, particularly in the context of political violence. The following extract from social psychologists Elaine Hatfield and Richard Rapson is concerned to address the part played by what they call 'primitive' forms of 'emotional contagion' in the forms of hatred now associated with words such as 'Serbia and Bosnia', 'Cambodia', 'Rwanda', 'Palestine and Israel' and 'Kenya'. The final extract from Natan Sznaider The compassion of Temperament (2001) presents compassion as an organized effort to lessen the suffering of strangers as a distinct modern form of moral sentiment.

The lengthy amount to excerpts described above is sufficient to identify the broad offer of reading the book provides and how, despite the great diversity of approaches presented, the social sciences share the affective turn as a turn. Unfortunately, not all excerpts give the same thought provoking challenge of wanting to read the full work from where it comes and despite the thoughtful effort of the well written introductions it is not always visible what the whole work from which the extract was taken is all about. Hopefully everyone will be generally informed of what is at stake on the research of emotions in the social sciences, and each reader will be enticed to read more of the works selected according to their interests and their field of studies. Among other things this book will serve to open the doors between the different corridors of the world of social scientists and their different areas of expertise, educated students to maintain the attention to other social fields so as to be capable of identifying research outcomes as well as to be critical of research trends. 


© 2010 Dina Mendonça


Dina Mendonça, Ph.D. Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa


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