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JOURNÉE D'ÉTUDE REPORTÉE | Emotional and social communities

Journée d’étude


Emotional and social communities:
historical perspectives from the 18 th century to the present day

organized by David Do Paço and Guillaume Piketty

Over the two last decades, the relations between social history and the history of emotions have been strongly reexamined. To a classical approach that considered emotional communities as the reflect of social classes, groups, or circles, responded a cultural approach exploring the transversal dimension of emotional community.
History of emotions has progressively moved its focus away from the institutions to explore the actors’ ability to navigate between the moral, religious and political constraints put on their emotions. If studies on emotionology particularly insisted on the institutional control of communities in the way their members privately and publicly expressed their basic emotions – and in defining acceptable and unacceptable emotions – as a form of social control, William Reddy invites to consider the normative order for  motions established by political regimes as a more or less strict system. Indeed, ‘emotional regimes’ can cope with deviant emotions and even absorb such deviance in creating space, time and opportunity to catalyze emotives in appropriate ‘emotional refuges’, a seclude private or secret social area. By definition, emotional regimes need to let a room open for useful deviance. In a same political area, emotives are usually part to different completing, overlapping or conflicting emotional regimes to which they adapt, struggle
or play with.
Doing so history of emotions progressively meets social history. According to Barbara Rosenwein, an emotional community is ‘a system of feeling’ based on a ‘social community’, i.e. a relational group of people sharing the same economic, social, political interests. This community could be socially diverse and was not exclusive. An individual could also belong to several emotional communities, based on the different moments of her/is life, and the different interests s/he defended when s/he performed her/is emotions. This multiple communities would gradually overlap: household, family, neighborhood/parish, association, club, city, nation
etc. Such communities do not necessarily complete each other. They can strongly compete and clash, and the dynamic aspect of emotions that can only be properly understand in the specific context within which they were expressed. Doing so, historians can, and have to comprehend and appropriate the field of emotions in a permanent discussion with psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists. Belonging to several emotional communities can generate political issues. It can, at some point, undermine an emotional regime. It also participates to a dynamic dominant norm that allows certain emotional practices and adaptations, while banning others and thus creating some emotional suffering. It is a central dimension of the permanent reconfiguration of emotional regimes.
Focusing on emotives, Reddy’s work actually invites social historians to engage even more with history of emotions. Microhistory – which is today the dominant methodology for global historians – refutes given-social categories and aims to identify the different circles of belonging of historical actors from the process of social bonding in which they engaged. Individuals belonged to several more or less official relational communities at a same time. While operating, at least from the early modern period, in a global world of which social, cultural, religious and linguistic bonds were more and more diverse, they developed strategies of emotional coexistence that at some point totally challenged religious and cultural  narratives about the allegedly ‘clash of civilizations’, and our own academic fields based on regional areas. Both, the commensurability and incommensurability of motions/emotionology/emotional regimes can be explored in many different historical topics from the social bonding in war zone to daily economic interactions, from urban catastrophes to history of immigration, etc. 

In this workshop, we have invited scholars to:
- Reinvestigate social relationships through the prism provided by the history of emotions;
- Question the religious and cultural divisions of the world from the perspective of emotions studies in a crosscultural and/or interreligious context;
- Focus on and emphasize the multiple emotional communities to which an individual can possibly belong in a given crisis context, and analyze the different possible combinations of these emotional/social circles;
- Address the issue of integrating the history of emotions in the methodology of (global) microhistory.


Welcome and introduction, 9:00-9:15

Panel 1: News and New Emotions, 9:15-10:45

Maria Ferenc  University of Warsaw.
“Warsaw Jews facing news about the Holocaust”.
My paper discusses various patterns of emotional and social reactions to news about the Holocaust among Jews inhabiting Nazi-created Warsaw ghetto. What kind of emotional reactions did this information evoke? How did it coincide with and affect established social systems of navigating through emotions provoked by the war-time crisis situation and German terror?
How did emotional responses overlap or conflict with the social hierarchy of access to knowledge?
It certainly did exist in the Warsaw ghetto: people connected to the underground had been receiving reliable and corroborated news about death camps in Chełmno (Kulmhof), Bełżec, Sobibór and eventually Treblinka, while the majority of inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto (‘ordinary’ Jews, lower strata in the hierarchy of knowledge), learned about it from rumors, gossip, hearsay, echoes of what someone had said.
Another important divide existed between ‘optimists’ (who throughout the war believed that the conflict would end soon and later, at least for some time, did not believe that all Polish Jews might be murdered) and ‘pessimists’ (who listened to their deepest fears and doubts regarding the future).
How did spreading of knowledge about the destruction of Jews influence those divides?
The concept of ‘emotional communities’ provides a deeper understanding of the behavior of Shoah victims because it allows capturing both continuation of previously existing systems of feeling and disruption caused by the destructive knowledge of the Holocaust. It enables us to see that Warsaw Jews did belong to various emotional communities at different points of time and depending on their individual attitudes and access to reliable knowledge about what is going on outside the ghetto walls. Last but not least, it allows us to examine society in the unique moment of disintegrating of ‘emotional regime’ under the unbearable pressure of an extremely strong feelings of fear of individual and collective destruction.

Paul-Arthur Tortosa  European University Institute in Florence et Université de Strasbourg
“Fears of an epidemic or epidemic of fear”.
In August 1804, a handful of Spanish sailors died of suspect fever in the port of Livorno. Although physicians declared that the seamen died of seasonal infection, rumor has it that the mariners actually died of yellow fever, a disease considered as dangerous as plague. Despite the city officials’ appeal for calm, fear spread and half of the inhabitants left the city which was soon to be put in quarantine by the Tuscan army. In this presentation, I will study how the fear of an epidemic was lived, handled, and manufactured. In doing so, I will show that articulating the history of emotions and social history enhances our understanding of the complex  relationships between science and religion, knowledge and superstition. First, drawing on private writings, I will study how fear was expressed by the people who stayed in order to sketch the city’s ‘system of fearing”. Fear of epidemics is a social construct deeply rooted in the city’s history for Italy repeatedly suffered from plague epidemics since the Middle Ages. Second, Il will show that the
collective reaction to fear was a mix of religious and scientific practices aimed at improving public mental and physical health considered as intertwined elements. For instance, large fires were lit all over the city. On the one hand, this created warm spaces for people to gather and cure their mental distress; on the other hand, medical theories of the time considered fire as the best way to
purify putrid air. Third, I will demonstrate that fear was not only spread but also manufactured by Tuscany’s rival, the Republic of Ligury. Indeed, Genoese authorities created fake documents and spread fake news in order to provoke civil unrest in Tuscany.

Pause, 10:45-11:00

Panel 2: Emotion, Social Norms and Childhood, 11h-13h


Monika Baár  Leiden University ERC-funded project Rethinking Disability
“Disabling Emotions and Emotionalizing Disability”.
The proposed presentation aligns with the intention of the workshop to interrogate the relationship between the history of emotions and social history at different levels. Disability is a condition that connects people across borders and across social and cultural divides and as such it forms the basis of a transversal emotional community. Some of the emotions associated with the community of disabled people are reactions to certain emotions expressed by the able-bodied community: these include pity, fear and even disgust. Chronologically, the presentation focuses on the period encompassing approximately the last half century, in alignment with the timescale of the rise and unfolding of the disability social movement. The communal experience of exclusion and marginalization constitute fundamental experiences from which the emotional regimes of the movement have evolved. However, for several members of the disability movement the membership in other emotional communities is just as or even more significant which have often led to the overlaps and conflicts between these.
By focusing on the emotional and social communities of disabled citizens this proposal has a twofold aim: to showcase the potentials provided by the lens of disability to enrich the history of emotions and the potentials provided by the prism of the history of emotions to enrich the study of disability history. At the methodological level, the proposal aligns with the call to address the problem of how to integrate the history of emotions in different scales of historical analysis ranging from micro- to global history. This is a particularly relevant issue, all the more so because both the concept of disability and the emotions around it are contingent and relational: they can have very different manifestations across the globe.

Mary Hatfield  University College Dublin.
“The Happy Irish Child: Emotion as a Tool for Medical and Educational Assessment in Nineteenth Century Ireland”.
This paper examines the idea of the ‘wild’ Irish child and efforts to curb, discipline, and understand childhood emotion during the nineteenth century. Within literary accounts of the Irish family, children were often portrayed as uniquely disordered and wild. As part of the newly established United Kingdom, efforts were made during the nineteenth century to bring Irish children under the civilising and regulatory influence of schools and medical institutions. Using a combination of medical and educational texts, the paper considers how teachers and medical authorities worked together to teach children how to manage their emotions and ensure that childish emotion fit within the range of ‘healthy’ development and expression. During the first half of the century, medical doctors used observations of children’s emotional state as a diagnostic tool; cheerfulness was thought to be a sure sign of good health. Within Irish schools’, representations of emotional stability/instability were used to assess the success of an education and comment on the perceived failings of educational competitors. Part of the ‘soft’ socialisation of Catholic convent schooling for girls, was the regulation of emotional display, with calm cheerfulness considered the ideal state for young girls to achieve. Focusing on the idea of cheerfulness allows us to consider the historical trajectory of happiness as an integral part of the medical field’s assessment of childhood health, and how the coercive dimensions of performative happiness were translated into the schoolroom.

Elena Rizzi  European University Institute.
“L’art à l’école. Painting Mural Decorations in Parisian Schools in the 1930s: Images between Political and Emotional Communities”.
In the 1930s, the city of Paris launched a program of mural decorations especially addressed to primary and secondary schools. The program was conceived as an answer to the economic crisis that was tearing France apart in the early 1930s and as a way to face artistic unemployment. Going beyond the economic rationale from which the project of mural decorations stemmed from, the present paper wishes to discuss the artistic interventions as attempts to visualize and, we might assume, to create emotional communities. In order to do so I will try, as my first attempt, to bring together some of the methodological tools proposed by the history of emotions with visual history.
Besides the notion of emotional communities as conceptualized by Barbara Rosenwein from which my presentation will draw, recent research has tried to investigate how art influenced and activated emotions (Erin Sullivan and Marie Louise Herzfeld-Schild, 2018), whereas recent visual history has particularly emphasized the (potential) performative dimension of images, namely their capacity to
create realities (Paul Gerhard, 2011). It might be argued that the mural decorations were not only pedagogical images but images aiming at creating emphatic bonds among the children at school, emotional responses in relationship to the social world and life outside the school, such as family or working contexts for the grown-up. Above all, these mural decorations attempted at institutionalizing happiness in a context of economic and political crisis creating a space where the childlike and youthful gaze met, crossed and imbricated with the artistic one.

Lunch, 13h-14h15

Panel 3: Silent emotions, 14h15-15h45

Karsten Lichau  Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.
“How to feel silence? Learning political emotions in the history of the minute’s silence”.
Established in the aftermath of World War I, the minute’s silence has become an important element of memory cultures in different political and social contexts. Micro-historical case studies from its early history make it possible to revisit the complex negotiations in which emotional regimes are reconfigured. To date, most studies in the history of emotions have dealt with competing or clashing, yet (pre-)existing emotionologies or emotional communities. But what happens when political subjects are called on to perform emotions which they have not yet learned to perform in a given context?
This is what happened to a whole bunch of competing or even clashing emotions that participants in a minute’s silence might (or were supposed to) feel: grief and mourning, pride and honor, gratitude, joy, or even anger and hatred. In Great Britain, France, and Germany, the political struggle over these emotions was also tangled up with the shifting role and influence of different institutions involved in modern memory politics, many of which were themselves in crisis: the churches, the state or political parties, the military, veterans‘ organizations. In order to show that emotions do not only have a or reflect history, but themselves make history, I examine the struggle over which ‘basic emotion’ was supposed to be privileged – humble mourning (as many veterans would argue) or joyful glorification (as requested by the government) – as well as the more general feelings of unease or hilarity evoked by some sources.
In order to account for both the discursive and non-discursive dimensions in emotional regimes, my micro-historical case studies centre on the bodily performance of ‘emotional practices’ (Monique Scheer), arguing that the process of learning emotions (and the subsequent (re-)stabilization, transformation or decline of emotional regimes or communities) can only be understood if the latter are conceived of as ‘mind-body-complexes’, intrinsically woven into a complex fabric of linguistic, physiological, sensory, cognitive, and media practices.

Eleni Braat  Utrecht University.
“Secret emotional communities. Dividing and uniting loyalty in Dutch and Greek intelligence communities, 1960s-2000”.
We know little about the social fabric that binds together intelligence and security services, as important actors in (Cold War and current) international relations. Scholars of intelligence history primarily focus on the (at times spectacular) operational history of services, putting adventurous agents and their handlers in the limelight, who seem to act in a strategic and calculated manner. This focus neglects both a broader selection of intelligence personnel and the less-adventurous emotions that influence their actions. This paper
demonstrates that the secret nature of intelligence communities reinforces feelings of loyalty, that both divide and unify these communities. Intelligence employees may experience feelings of loyalty towards their service, their own section, colleagues with the same political affiliation, and towards their family, making them navigate between several, at times contradicting, emotional communities. By putting these feelings of loyalty in a historical and internationally comparative perspective, this paper shows how loyalty as an emotion differs over time and across national context. These findings are empirically based on original and in-depth oral
history interviews within Dutch and Greek intelligence communities, reflecting memories of the organizational culture of these communities between the 1960s and 2000. By demonstrating how different ‘loyalties’ critically affect the social fabric of intelligence communities, this article contributes to current and future research that integrates research on emotions, history, and intelligence studies.

Pause, 15h45-16h

Panel 4: Emotions and Families, 16h-17h30

Britta McEwen  Creighton University, Omaha.
“Shame, Sympathy, and the Single Mother in Vienna, 1880-1930”.
This paper takes the crisis context of an unsanctioned pregnancy in Vienna, for the years 1880-1930, and asks how activists and reformers used shame and sympathy to build an emotional community to challenge reigning attitudes about illegitimacy. Social relationships between doctor and patient, philanthropist and aid recipient, bourgeois and working-class feminist, employer and servant were all illuminated by this emotional community, which re-arranged traditional hierarchies in favor of solidarity.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, those Viennese actors (doctors, social workers, feminists, socialists) committed to reforming the conditions of single mothers and their children expressed shame regarding the ill-functioning city structures, such as the foundling house and the children’s guardianship system, designed to “serve” them. Shame in these sources is social, shared, and agreed upon silently. It is circulated in rhetoric that demands better treatment for women and children.
In addition to shame, reformers introduced sympathy into the public discourse about single motherhood at the turn of the century, complicating an older narrative of sin and transgression. Sympathy, as opposed to shame, is openly discussed. It is extended, carved out, demanded even in extreme examples, in order for it to settle on the common story of the single mother. This implication of solidarity takes effort in the sources I have identified, and sympathy as an emotion or point of view must be actively pursued rather than passively accepted.
These two emotions combined to create a potent argument for changing the status of unwed mothers and their children. Ultimately, the trauma of World War I and the founding of “Red Vienna” in the interwar period brought new possibilities for parity. Yet I argue that these events were only building upon the emotional labor done by activists and reformers throughout the fin-de-siècle to undo the stigma of birth out of wedlock.

Nisrine Rahal  University of Toronto.
“Love is Political: The Ideal of Love During the Revolutionary 1840s in the German Confederation”.
By the mid-nineteenth century, emotional and in cases religious, ideals of love were mobilized as political and revolutionary concepts in the German Confederation. In democratic, religious dissenting, and liberal circles, love countered the traditional hierarchy and power of the state and religious authorities. In pamphlets distributed during the revolutionary uprisings of 1848-1850, love was the central concept tied with freedom and self-development. In these pamphlets, love provided not just a rhetorical route to discuss moral corruption and the social question, but also a way to discuss the cultivation of individual minds, bodies, and society as a whole.
My paper brings forth the ways that love was redefined and reimagined as an emancipatory concept in German-Speaking Europe. This is especially the case in the Christian dissent movement and the kindergarten movement. For the two movements, love was a pedagogical element as well as an emancipatory concept. For kindergarten activists, love was the vital educational element necessary for early children development. Love was not only a source of humane development for all of society but also located within the bodies of women- through their ability to nurture and care for children. For Christian dissenters, love was an oppositional stand against the traditional authority of the church and the state. Love for Christian dissenters was also not only embodied in women, but also within the larger community. Love for this group constructed a new society based on freedom and rights. Both movements exemplify the ways love had become a highly charged political concept during the mid-nineteenth century. The notion of love within these movements was not different.
My paper highlights the vital changes in emotive terms utilized during the revolutionary 1840s.
“Emotive terms” captures what I see were the key concepts that mobilized activists during this period. Concepts such as love were vital in the new political scripts that emerged during the revolutionary era. This new political language of emotion however was not just rhetoric. It reflected a new understanding of the self and a desire for rights.

18h Conclusions