Reflections on ‘Remembrance and The Expressive Arts: A Study Day’

Image: ShinYoung An, Candlelit, 2011, Oil on Prepared Newspaper, Mounted on Canvas. © ShinYoung An.

Image: ShinYoung An, Candlelit, 2011, Oil on Prepared Newspaper, Mounted on Canvas. © ShinYoung An.

Reflections on ‘Remembrance and The Expressive Arts: A Study Day’,
hosted by Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and The University of Melbourne on Friday 11 September 2015 9.30am-5pm at
Theatre 227, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 234 Queensberry Street, Melbourne.

by Jane Davidson and Penelope Lee

noun: the action of remembering something or someone.
synonyms: commemoration, memory, recognition, reminiscence, nostalgia

Whether remembering family members lost in a disaster, or even reminiscing about times with a sweetheart, there is strong historical documentation and modern psychological evidence that the arts can function as useful technologies for emotional expression while also offering creative routes to recovery after trauma and loss.

In addition to those facing trauma, for those living with dementia or dealing with mental health challenges, the expressive arts can offer a means of communication, solace, a moment of clarity and even reminiscence of happier times. They can be used as a tool to construct a day-by-day narrative and form a bridge between a remembered and a changed sense of self-identity. All these interpretation of remembrance found their way inside the study room. Of course, the date of the event had is own symbolism: 9/11.

The theme of remembrance in the study day was principally stimulated by the research interest within The Centre of the History of Emotions on the interaction between memory and emotion; the acknowledgement that the expressive arts have a profound connection with acts of commemoration and remembrance; and the beginning of outreach work on a project around objects of emotions and mementos. The event was based around eight short presentations that shared research results and practical case studies with the participants. An additional and vital thread running throughout was how mementos have been used in cultural practice. All presenters and participants of the study day were invited to bring a memento to share with and a special session was dedicated to small group discussions of each memento, its history and its significance.

Participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds: visual and creative arts and music therapies; nursing and allied health work; music, arts, history and literature researchers. People travelled from afar to attend, with interstate and international representation. The shared mementos varied immensely from digital music files, books, images, textiles, paintings, jewelry and other portable objects, spectacles, books and photographs. The symbolic power and sense of attachment between person and memento was profound. Clear ground rules and emphasis on small-group work encouraged exchange and a warm and safe atmosphere for sharing.

Father's spectacles. Shared by Arnold Zable. Image by Lucy Burnett.

Father’s spectacles.

Grandmother’s crystal beads.

Further to the group discussion, seven individuals contributed in a more public outcome. Each participated shared in a 1:1 recorded interview where their objects of remembering were documented and insights into their histories, significance, associations and memories of the objects were provided. The array of the objects varied significantly. While some were clearly old family heirlooms passed down the generations, like the grandfather’s Victorian silver match box and the set of grandmother’s crystal beads, other objects where recently produced and/or identified as a memento.Two interviewees intentionally created paintings as the means of honouring and remembering someone else’s story life. The works served as a tangible reminder of the relationship and functioned as a reflective and therapeutic tool for both creators. Another person bought in a newly acquired object that represented a recent experience, thus serving as a testimony to a particular period and accomplishment in his life. He acknowledged that the object may not carry meaning for others, but that he would know what it meant and that’s all that mattered.


Grandfather’s Victorian silver match box.

All the objects stirred strong emotional responses from the participants. As they held, touched, scrutinized and reflected upon their precious objects, sentiment, love, loss, sadness, grief, delight and happiness were all expressed.

These interviews will become part of a larger public digital repository to be located on the CHE website in the near future (watch for details).

The two explicitly historical presentations dealt with different aspects of collection of objects and memory. Monique Webber (Claiming the past: Conceptual spoliation of Nazi Occupation) spoke about German artist Anselm Kiefer’s 1969 photographs that appeared in a series entitled Occupations. Looking at the images, a new layer of meaning was revealed as the spaces depicted were of well known sites previous overwhelmed by Nazi occupation. Assuming a purposefully cavalier imitation of a Nazi uniform and performing 
their salute, as a presence in each photo, Kiefer was shown to ridicule Hitler’s visual and political identity. Webber pointed out that Kiefer was not the first person to attempt a desensitisation of Hitler through misrepresentation of visual identity. The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, and the musical The Producers had already done this, but Kiefer was the first to do so outside comedy.These art works, presented as a conceptual spoliation of Third Reich ideology, performed from the perspective of those who had suffered from it. The talk led the audience to consider how layers of meaning could be created, even decades after its creation. Through performance and its remembrance, Kiefer sought to alter the connotations of place and to reorient the balance of emotional power to those the Nazi spoliation had robbed.

Anselm Kiefer, 'Heroic Symbols'1969. Courtesy of the Tate Museum. © Anselm Kiefer.

Anselm Kiefer, ‘Heroic Symbols’1969. Courtesy of the Tate Museum. © Anselm Kiefer.

By outlining the original Nazi enactment of systematic spoliation from Jewish families as it advanced across Europe, Monique also enabled participants to reflect on the significance of cultural heritage and also how its appropriation as spolia demeaned and emotionally dispossessed the victims of war.By inquiring into the complex interaction of memory, emotion and place as performed in the post-war public sphere, Monique was able to explore the role of cultural imagery in confronting the past. The images were powerful and provocative.

CHE’s Angela Hesson (Vestiges of devotion: Mourning jewellery and the materiality of remembrance) offered a journey through the history of mourning jewellery from sixteenth-century Europe to modern Australian designers. She showed the emergence of the jewellery in part a response to the commercialization and increasing secularization of religious relics and in part to feed the human desire to remember.

The examples shown were sumptuous, with much focus on the inclusion or representation of human hair – whether in the form of a simple lock enclosed in a locket, or in the elaborate varieties of hairwork favoured in Victorian mourning jewellery. These provided a clear link to the relic tradition, and manifested themselves as literal representations of corporeality and intimacy of the mourning process.

Mourning Ring. Enamelled gold and woven hair under a rock crystal pane. 1791. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The inscription around the enamelled edge of this mourning ring tells us that it was made to commemorate Gabriel Wirgman, who died on 12 September 1791 aged 53.

Mourning Ring. Enamelled gold and woven hair under a rock crystal pane. 1791. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The inscription around the enamelled edge of this mourning ring tells us that it was made to commemorate Gabriel Wirgman, who died on 12 September 1791 aged 53.

Today such works are highly sought-after by collectors, especially those which include fragments of the body. Angela highlighted the complex history of associations and values ascribed to these objects: on the one hand, the most intensely personal of artefacts, but on the other hand, they are also commodities subject to all the impersonal processes of commerce.

Locket. Engraved gold and ivory painted in watercolour with a miniature embellished with hair and pearls. Made between 1775-1800 Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

She questioned the relationship of the modern collector to pieces which are, in essence, the love tokens or relics of a usually unknown person. She asked whether the collector choses them merely as aesthetic objects manifesting disappearing forms of craftsmanship, or whether they maintain some of their totemic status and meaning even in the absence of their original religious, familial or romantic connections.

The paper cleverly examined the manner in which love, loss and longing were fetishized through mourning jewellery, and its capacity to reflect shifting ideas and practices of memorialization.

Shifting from historical enquiry to that with a therapeutic expressive arts practice focus, Arnold Zable (Story and the displaced: A 3-act drama, with many variations on a universal tale) explored how stories empower us and how the both restore memory and assuage nos-thal-ghea, the pain of longing for the return. In a rich web of stories within stories, Arnold explored how we all have a story to tell. Referencing many leading psychologists, Arnold also highlighted the ways in which the denial of the power of story can lead to individual despair.  Speaking from the standpoint of someone who has led many writing retreats and workshops with communities who have experienced displacement, loss and grief, Arnold discussed how retrieving one’s story can provide renewed purpose for the displaced person, the asylum seeker, the holocaust survivor, the bushfire victim, and for the aged and those in palliative care.fig_tree

Powerfully drawing on his involvement in a range of story telling projects Arnold explored techniques that encourage people to recreate their life’s journey through retrieving their life’s tales. He revealed his own theorization of those who have suffered a major disruption in their lives living their life-stories like a three-act drama, with many variations on a universal tale. Act one is the time before; act two, the rupture, a specific event or series of events; and the third act, the time after, the roller coaster of a person’s life after a major change in their lives.

This talk revolved around by being able to understand the three-act nature of disruption we are able to facilitate the remembrance of stories, and help restore a deeper sense of self.

Detail from 'LOST and loving' by Anne Riggs. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Detail from ‘LOST and loving’ by Anne Riggs. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Anne Riggs (On suffering and joy) offered profound insights into how visual artists delve into shadowy places. Through examples from her own art practice and work undertaken in her community workshops, she illustrated how materials such as bones and the transformation of materials juxtaposed with themes like death, grief, trauma, and ageing provide endless opportunities for exploration, metaphor and expression. Intuitive responses to remembrance, loss and mourning were discussed through two books she had created Lost and Loving and Wander Wonder, part of a larger collection of handmade books entitled A Small Library on Suffering and Joy. The small, intimate and personal books were explored as evocations of a lost past.

Detail from 'Wander Wonder' by Anne Riggs. Image courtesy of the artist.

Detail from ‘Wander Wonder’ by Anne Riggs. Image courtesy of the artist.

Both Arnold and Anne shared aspects of their own life stories and family relationships within their presentations too, highlighting the reflective space and complex personal relation practitioners have with their own craft.

There were four papers that focused on music as a companion to memory and a technology of healing. Gary Ansdell’s “A Sympathy with Sounds:” The case of a professional musician, a music therapist and an iPad” outlined his work undertaken in the Community Music Therapy context with an 85-year-old bed-bound professional musician in a care home in London using an iPad to help with musical lifestory work .

In his presentation Gary provoked discussion of the difference between reminiscence and the ‘making present’ of musical memory that new technology affords, and also the bittersweet aspects of such work when “musicianhood” is a key factor (that is, ‘being a musician’, not just being musical). He spoke at length about the loss and longing for the performance skills his client no longer possessed.Gary’s rich contribution to the field can be found in a new series published by Ashgate: Music and Change: Ecological Perspectives 

Katrina McFerran (Teenagers expressing grief and loss with music as a form of therapy) spoke of her experience working with bereaved teens following the Black Saturday Fires in Victoria in 2009.  Community concern for young people at one of the local high schools resulted in the creation of a music therapy project that engaged a range of young school-aged men and women in three different groups.  In this presentation she described how each of the groups explored their response to the fires and reflect on the particular opportunities for growth that emerged through the therapeutic context.   Musical examples were shared to represent the distinctiveness of each group as well as the shared elements of the experience. See Music Therapy with Young People in Schools: After the Black Saturday Fires and  Creating music cultures in the schools: A perspective from community music therapy for more on her work.

Sandra Garrido (The affective outcomes of nostalgic remembering with music: The influence of personality and coping style) explored music as a trigger of nostalgia and its capacity to evoke strong emotions associated with particular times, events or people with just a few notes. Strong arguments have been made for the positive psychological functions nostalgic remembering can fulfill, particularly in situations of loneliness, personal discontinuity or meaninglessness. Sandra discussed an ongoing project titled “My Life as a Playlist” and described the results of a study in which 664 participants listened to a self-selected piece of music that made them feel nostalgic. The results suggest that nostalgia can have mixed psychological outcomes, becoming encompassed within the habitual coping style of the individual, whether adaptive or maladaptive. This project is being conducted in partnership with ABC. More information on the project is available here.

My paper (Remembrance and song: Cases from a special cohort) discussed the vital and therapeutic role of music in the lives of singing groups involving old people, some living with dementia. The short paper examined the impact of six community singing groups on several health and wellbeing outcomes for participants. I also explored the impact of music as a technology of remembrance, particularly among a cohort of ill or aged singers who are living in a highly conscious expectation of their own future death and may experience ‘preparatory’ grief. Music can play a vital role in both coming to terms with impending death, and in celebrating life. Singing, in particular, can provide both joy and a sense of companionship for those dealing with grief prior to the loss of their own lives or that of a loved one.

It was clear that by the end of the day all those in attendance were fully nourished and wanting for more. Individuals within the audience responded warmly and positively to the day’s presentations finding the content illuminating and relatable. Within days of the event, CHE was contacted by participants and interviewees providing feedback and suggestions to further develop the themes of remembrance, objects and emotions.

Forging connections between research and engagement is a vital part of CHE’s remit. Building on the formula of the day, future programs and activities are planned throughout 2015 to 2017.

Professor Gary Ansdell is one of the world’s leading scholars in the field of music therapy. He has worked with many client groups in the UK and Germany (currently in adult psychiatry) and has been involved in developing and researching Nordoff Robbins music therapy and its broader growth within the Community Music Therapy movement. In 2008 he was awarded the Royal Society for Public Health Arts & Health Award. He has written five books and published widely in the fields of music, music therapy and music and health/wellbeing. 

Professor Jane W Davidson has published extensively in the disciplines of music psychology and performance research. She is currently Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and Professor of Creative and Performing Arts (Music) at The University of Melbourne.

Dr Sandra Garrido is a postdoctoral research fellow at the ARC’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Her research in music psychology focuses on understanding emotional response to music and the impact of music on health and wellbeing.

Dr Angela Hesson is a postdoctoral curatorial/research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotion. She is currently working on an upcoming exhibition in collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria, focussing on the subject of art and emotion (in particular love) in European society in the period 1400-1800.  Much of her research to date has examined theories of fetishism and their relationship to femininity, as well as to practices of collection and connoisseurship.

Professor Katrina McFerran is a music therapist dedicated to examining the therapeutic uses of music with young people across a range of settings including paediatric hospitals, special and mainstream schools, as well as community programs. She is a prolific publisher in both international and local refereed journals, both within the music therapy discipline and more broadly. She is Director of the National Music Therapy Research Unit at The University of Melbourne and Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of VCA&MCM.

Dr Anne Riggs is a practising visual and community artist interested in expressions of human trauma, loss and grief. She has worked with victims of abuse and vulnerable communities internationally. She teaches arts practice, creative thinking and expression. She is a lecturer at Chisholm Institute. 

Dr. Monique Webber is an Honorary Fellow and adjunct faculty member with Classics and Archaeology at The University of Melbourne. Her current research inquires into the afterlife of monuments and objects, and its role in negotiating past and present societal concerns.

Dr Arnold Zable is an acclaimed writer, novelist and human rights advocate. He has travelled extensively, living in US, India, PNG, Europe, India and China. He has been a guest lecturer in a range of universities in Australia and internationally, and has conducted workshops for diverse groups including asylum seekers, refugees, problem gamblers, the deaf and bushfire survivors using story as a means of self-understanding. He has a doctorate from the school of Creative Arts, Melbourne University where he recently completed a term as Vice Chancellor’s fellow.


Emotional Cultures and the Politics of Peace

Seoul, South Korea, June 1987: protest movement against the authoritarian regime of General Chun Doo-Hwan. © Roland Bleiker

Seoul, South Korea, June 1987: protest movement against the authoritarian regime of General Chun Doo-Hwan. © Roland Bleiker.

By Emma Hutchison and Roland Bleiker, The University of Queensland

How can societies torn apart by war and trauma become peaceful? This question has for long preoccupied politicians and scholars. But despite endless debates and scholarly contributions there is no consensus about how to deal with entrenched conflicts. Or, perhaps, there is a consensus that each conflict situation is so difficult and unique that there is no approach to peace that fits all cases. Some highlight peacekeeping missions to stop violence; others focus on negotiation strategies between parties in conflict; others again stress the importance of democracy or state building or social justice or truth telling or amnesty. The solutions offered are as varied and complex as the conflicts they seek to address.

Marking International Peace Day we highlight a crucial but often neglected link: that between emotions and peace. We focus on how emotions are essential to the task of moving societies from conflict-prone practices towards cultures that promote peace.

We introduce and discuss the idea of ‘emotional cultures.’ We show how they are central not only to fueling practices of violence but also to shifting communities away from antagonism towards conciliation. We suggest that the concept of ‘emotional cultures’ offers important insight into how emotions can be actively used in strategies that seek to promote peaceful communal transformations.

Nicosia, Cyprus, July 2014: peace graffiti in Green Zone. © Roland Bleiker.

Nicosia, Cyprus, July 2014: peace graffiti in Green Zone. © Roland Bleiker.

Emotional Cultures

What are ‘emotional cultures’? What does it mean to say there are prevailing ‘emotional cultures’ in a community or society? How do we know what types of emotional cultures exist – are they something we can see or touch or feel, and where do they emerge from?

To speak of ‘emotional cultures’ is to highlight how broad sets of emotions emerge and become dominant in a society at a particular time in history. Feelings, concrete emotions as well as general moods and sentiments and subconscious dispositions – some call them affects – circulate in a society and, in doing so, become intertwined with the prevailing values, principles, behavioral norms and moral standards.

While only a few scholars specifically examine emotional cultures, the notion draws upon well-known research. The emphasis here lies on how seemingly individual emotions are always intertwined with larger collective emotions that shape how we feel and interact with each other. Arlie Russell Hochschild, for instance, writes of ‘feeling rules:’ the customs and rituals that engender and regulate not only the meaning and display of particular emotions but also our social and political attitudes.’ [1] William Reddy refers to ‘emotional liberties’ and ‘emotional regimes’.[2] Others speak of the emotional ‘habitus’ of communities and reveal how the ebbs and flows of emotions are culturally, socially and historically situated.[3] Others again stress that ‘feelings are not substances to be discovered in our blood but social practices organized by stories we both enact and tell.’[4]

Established through tradition and time, cultures of emotion can therefore profoundly influence how individuals and communities interpret the social and political world. Emotional cultures frame how groups embroiled in conflict perceive of each other and the issues that divide them. They are, as a result, fundamental to understanding both the nature of antagonism and violence and the possibility of peace.

From Cultures of Conflict Towards Cultures of Peace

Recognizing the emotional cultures that prevail within communities helps to better appreciate how particular dominant perceptions, mindsets and political practices come to be.

Consider how community attachments based on fear and anger almost inevitably lead to volatile political environments. If is often a matter of time until resentment spills over into an open conflict. In the worst case the result is a cycle of violence from which it becomes almost impossible to escape. From the Middle East to Afghanistan, Kashmir to Somalia, years and often decades of conflict and antagonistic emotional cultures have left societies deeply divided and traumatized. New forms of violence constantly emerge, generating yet more hatred. Some speak of so-called intractable conflicts: situations where antagonisms have persisted for so long that they have created vicious cycles of violence.[5]

How is it possible to deal with and perhaps even overcome such entrenched conflicts? There are no easy answers, nor is there a general theory that can offer a way out. Each conflict is rooted in particular historical circumstances. Understanding and dealing with these circumstances is essential if conflict is to give way to a more peaceful environment.

This is why scholars, politicians and peacebuilders should pay more attention to emotional cultures. Solving conflict is often thought to be about finding rational solutions and building institutional stability. But equally important is dealing with the emotional legacies of conflict and violence. Fear, anger, mistrust and betrayal can bind a society together but they often generate emotional cultures that revolve around anxiety, humiliation and resentment.[6]   Rather than initiating a much needed process of healing, such emotional cultures provide the basis for new cycles of violence and hatred.

Prevailing approaches to peacekeeping and peacebuilding are not well equipped to deal with emotional cultures. Their purpose is often to deal with immanent and seemingly more important challenges: providing security, building institutions, creating democratic accountability and generating economic progress. All these aspects are undoubtedly crucial but they cannot alone lead to a genuinely stable and peaceful society unless they also address, in an active and political way, the deep emotional wounds that inevitably exist after protracted conflicts.

An obvious starting point is simply to recognize how emotional cultures are intertwined with practices of violence. The task of politicians, diplomats and mediators here is – or at least ought to be – to create a space where grievances can be freely expressed, and corresponding emotions can be collectively and empathetically worked through. At stake here is not simply the suspension or cessation of violence, but also, and crucially, that adversaries are encouraged to come together in the hope that their relations can be realized anew. The aim would be to draw out and work through the collective, politicized forms of emotion that may unknowingly constitute animosity and divisive political relations. Being able to stop and critically reflect upon what has led events to be as they are is therefore fundamental.

Political leaders and the media should become more aware of the implications involved in the proliferation of collective fear, anger, humiliation and suspicion. Rather than building community and formulating policy around emotional cultures of distrust, they have the responsibility to initiate and promote emotional cultures that open up possibilities for the transformation and peace. Doing so will inevitably take time. Emotional cultures are deeply entrenched and move only slowly. But move they do. We all, from national leaders to everyday citizens, have a responsibility to transform them in ways that promote tolerance, social justice and peace.


Emma Hutchison and Roland Bleiker both hold positions in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. The former is a postdoctoral fellow and honorary researcher with CHE, and the latter a professor of International Relations. They have conducted single-authored and collaborative work on emotions, most recently a Forum on ‘Emotion and World Politics’ in International Theory (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2014). Emma’s book, Affective Communities in World Politics: Collective Emotions After Trauma, will be published by Cambridge University Press in early 2016.


[1] Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012 [1983]), p. 57.

[2] William M. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 129; William M. Reddy, ‘Emotional Liberty: Politics and History in the Anthropology of Emotions’, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1999, pp. 256-288, at pp. 271-275.

[3] Monique Scheer, ‘Are Emotions a Kind of Practice?’, History and Theory, Vol. 51, May 2012, pp. 193-220.

[4] Michelle Rosaldo, ‘Toward an Anthropology of Self and Feeling’, in Richard A. Shweder and Robert A. LeVine (eds.), Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 143.

[5] Robert D. Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (London: Picador. 2005).

[6] See Thomas J. Scheff and Suzanne M. Retzinger, Emotions and Violence: Shame and Rage in Destructive Conflicts.

Moving Pictures: An Interview with Ute Frevert

Moving Pictures is a video archive of the research activities and collaborations of the CHE since 2012. Developed by Penelope Lee and Jessica Scott as part of the Education and Outreach program of the Melbourne Node of the CHE, the project has evolved over time as the Centre has developed and expanded.

Since 2012, over 40 interviews with visiting scholars have been recorded, many of which are available to browse here.

in December 2014 Ute Frevert, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development Center for the History of Emotions, delivered a keynote address at ‘Emotional Politics in International Relations: A Historical Perspective‘.  She generously took the time to share her thoughts on the history of emotions, and how the field has evolved over the course of her career.

Historicizing Emotions at the International Congress of Historical Sciences, Jinan, 24th August 2015

 Historical-Conference-2015-22nd-CISHBy Amy Milka, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Adelaide. 

The 22nd International Congress of Historical Sciences was held in Asia for the first time this year. The palatial surroundings of the Shandong Hotel in Jinan, China, provided the backdrop for a congress of almighty proportions: over 70 independent sessions covering a vast array of topics, and over 2000 historians from all over the world in attendance. That the history of emotions was allocated an entire day as a Major Theme within this event is testament to the importance of the field and the enthusiasm and dedication of the organisers, Ute Frevert, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development Center for the History of Emotions and Philippa Maddern, founding director of the Australian Research Council Centre for the History of Emotions (1100-1800).

Philippa Maddern, CHE founding director, 24 August, 1952- 16 June, 2014.

Philippa Maddern, CHE founding director, 24 August, 1952- 16 June, 2014.

The day began with a tribute to Philippa Maddern, who passed away on June 16, 2014, and who had worked closely with Ute Frevert to bring the conference to fruition. They had envisaged a conference which would take a long view of history, and which would tackle some key themes in emotions history: emotions and the economy, the creation of ‘others’, bodies and spaces, and of course theories and methodologies. Around the discussion of these four areas, important questions and issues emerged about the problems and the benefits of studying emotions, which led to much stimulating debate throughout the day.

The day was organised into four sessions, corresponding to the themes mentioned above, with presenters speaking for only 10 minutes to summarise their pre-circulated papers. Discussants Ute Frevert, Charles Zika and Jacqueline Van Gent then gave their responses and observations to the papers, after which the audience were invited to participate in discussion and ask questions. The first session, ‘Emotions, capitalism and the market’, showcased a range of approaches to how emotions are generated and fuelled by a market economy. Papers included ‘Emotional economies in early modern Europe’ (Laurence Fontaine, CNRS-ENS-EHESS, Paris), ‘The Pre-History of Stress’ (Anna Geurts, University of Sheffield), and ‘Advertising culture and the making of the modern consumer’ (Anne Schmidt, Max Planck Institute, Berlin). The papers addressed many different ideas about economy, but were united by an interest in the emotional politics of saving, spending and risk, demonstrated in the prodigality of the aristocracy in Fontaine’s paper, Geurts’ discussion of economies of time for nineteenth-century tourists, and Schmidt’s focus on the ethics and rationale of consumption in early twentieth-century Germany. This led discussant Ute Frevert to ask some important questions about the impact of capitalism in propagating emotions such as envy over empathy, and in generating new emotional styles. She noted the recent turn towards the idea of ‘moral economies’ as one way of approaching these issues.

In the second session, we heard three papers considering the emotional politics of ‘othering’: ‘Feeling rules in Mexico: crying in colonial contexts’ (Andrea Noble, University of Durham), ‘Fear and fascination – savages in the slums and the colonies’ (Christianne Smit, Utrecht University), and ‘A comparative study of emotional pedagogies: emotions as analysis in mission studies’ (Makoto Harris Takao, University of Western Australia). Discussant Charles Zika stressed the importance of thinking not only about how ‘others’ are constructed, but also how discrete groups create their own ‘other’ identities in emotional communities which are distanced from mainstream culture. The third session focussed on ‘Emotions in bodies and spaces’. Papers included ‘Emotions and mourning rites in late medieval Sicily’ (Fabrizio Titone, University del País Vasco), ‘Emotional expression and the Passion at the basilica of St Anthony of Padua in the early eighteenth century’ (Alan Maddox, University of Sydney), and ‘Love making homosexual bodies? 20th century perspectives’ (Benno Gammerl, Max Planck Institute, Berlin). Jacqueline Van Gent’s summarising comments focussed on emotional transformations, reflecting dramatic social changes, and shifts from subordinate to powerful positions. She highlighted the importance of urban spaces in all three papers, suggesting that they facilitated dramatic emotional change.

The final session featured two papers, ‘What can the history of the emotions learn from the neurosciences’ (Tuomas Tepora, University of Helsinki) and ‘Emotions and memory in ego-documents: from correspondence to oral history’ (Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková, Palacky University Olomouc), which both considered the bigger methodological and theoretical issues facing the historian of emotion.

The day concluded with a discussion of the major questions emerging in our field: what are the vectors of emotion? How long can emotions last? Where and when do emotions occur, and how do they change across space and time? Is there a ‘true’ emotion, and if so, how can historians attempt to access this? What is the divide between cognition and emotion? Are there ‘special’ emotions which work differently from others? While of course, many of these questions were left open, the day also came to some useful conclusions; we were reminded that emotions are not states in their own right, but rather practices, expressions, performances, and even weapons.

Discussion also focussed on the importance of dialogues between cultures: historians should be sensitive to the idea that emotional translation does not happen in a vacuum, and that the terms for this exchange are often dictated by a particular cultural or political context. While we had heard papers from very different periods, and with very different social, cultural and political concerns, these questions and conclusions seemed to apply in many ways to the work of all the presenters, and to the preoccupations of the audience.  Indeed, an interest in emotions was evident in many other sessions across the congress, in a half-day panel devoted to nostalgia, and in ‘New Directions of Research in French Revolutionary History’, where Timothy Tackett (University of California) and I both spoke about the importance of emotions in making sense of revolutionary violence and political radicalism.

The Historicizing Emotions Day was a thought-provoking and stimulating experience, with enriching debate for those of us involved in emotions history. It brought together postgraduates, early career researchers and established scholars from a variety of backgrounds. It was also an important opportunity to broaden awareness, and to encourage more scholars and students to take an interest in this fast-growing field.


Jack Goody and the History of Emotions

Posted by Melissa Raine, Associate Investigator, University of Melbourne

The recent death of anthropologist Jack Goody prompted me to reflect on his legacy. In a career spanning more than five decades, emotions were a prominent feature of Goody’s research. He was repeatedly critical of claims — in his assessment, ethnocentric and unjustifiable — for the uniqueness of significant forms of affect and interpersonal relationship and their impact on European culture. In Food and Love, he challenges the notion that romantic “love” is a Western, (indeed English) phenomenon, which allowed the development of “the modern affective family,”[i] seen by historians of Western Europe as crucial to the process of modernisation. Rather, Goody believes that “this elaboration on the discourse of love, this idealisation of the beloved, occurs in societies with writing and is therefore not only earlier than the eighteenth century and even the troubadours, but is found in all cultures which developed literary traditions.”[ii] In this formulation, before we can talk about emotions, we need to think carefully about language: Goody connects the inscription of ideas about self-experience with our ability to elaborate on them. Written language is pushed into prominence as a technology that is deeply implicated in our capacity to express emotions, one that also actively shapes the experience of self across time and place.

Na Casteloza, an early thirteenth-century trobairitz whose love poem Goody discusses. (BnF ms. 12473)

Na Casteloza, an early thirteenth-century trobairitz whose love poem Goody discusses.
(BnF ms. 12473)

Goody does not of course represent the entire field of anthropology, but the parameters of his discipline might shape his writing in ways that are not immediately palatable to those who work more closely with history. In short, Goody’s insistence on foregrounding these basic ideas might appear to be simplistic and essentialist. I would argue, though, that this potential dynamic between written language and self opens up a space that can be expanded to include nuanced consideration of discourses, the material means of transmitting texts, and the historically specific aspects of reading practices. As such, it provides a strong and flexible basis for thinking about the relationship between textual objects, upon which we are so reliant for our access to the past, and the ways in which selves from other periods experienced and organised their own emotional regimes. And in adopting this approach, we are well positioned to situate the historical and cultural specificity of our work within larger chronological and cultural contexts, should we choose to.

Goody’s insights seem to me to mesh well with current directions in medieval studies which could take the history of emotions in interesting new directions. At the recent ANZAMEMS conference in Brisbane, a well-attended session took place: “The Global Medieval in the Antipodes”. Several of the six panelists were motivated by the concerning use of the term “medieval” to describe contemporary events, particularly acts of violence occurring in the Middle East. They spoke of their conviction that it was time for the study of the European Middle Ages to broaden its scope and engage proactively with topics and disciplines beyond the usual boundaries. It was acknowledged that while contemporary events made the sharing of research and ideas compelling, such a project is far from straightforward; after all, “medieval” is, by necessity, ethnocentric, focusing on a specific chronological period of European history. Nevertheless, panelists and audience members gave examples of both positive and negative encounters between medieval studies and other disciplines that are beginning to take place. The example of what “medieval” means to Chinese historians was given, which put me in mind of Goody’s comparison of a thirteenth-century trouvère poem to a much older tradition of Chinese love poetry.

Goody compares the European poem to the much earlier Chinese Book of Songs, the first poem of which is reproduced here by the eighteenth-century Qianlong Emperor.

Goody compares the European poem to the much earlier Chinese Book of Songs, the first poem of which is reproduced here by the eighteenth-century Qianlong Emperor.

Goody’s paring back of many complex historical phenomena might well offer some clear, coherent points of engagement with which to begin connecting diverse scholarship.


The “Global Medieval in the Antipodes” Roundtable, ANZAMEMS 2015

The “Global Medieval in the Antipodes” Roundtable, ANZAMEMS 2015

A working group was established at the “Global Medievalism in the Antipodes” session. If you are interested in joining, please contact Sahar Amer (

[i] Jack Goody, Food and Love: A Cultural History of East and West (London: Verso, 1998), 96.

[ii] Goody, Food and Love, 110.

The first happy child in English literature?

By Melissa Raine, Associate Investigator, University of Melbourne.

The Friar dancing in the brambles while Jack Pipes Historie van de jongen geheeten Jacke, printed by Michiel Hillen van Hoochstraten Antwerp, 1528, p.1. (From the digitale bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse letteren, This woodcut also appears in the Wynkyn de Worde English edition of the poem, c.1510.

The Friar dancing in the brambles while Jack Pipes Historie van de jongen geheeten Jacke, printed by Michiel Hillen van Hoochstraten Antwerp, 1528, p.1.
(From the digitale bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse letteren,
This woodcut also appears in the Wynkyn de Worde English edition of the poem, c.1510.

Children’s Book Week, which celebrates contemporary literature designed specifically for young people, prompted me to reflect on children and books from medieval England. Precious little survives of children’s own responses to reading – fragments of verse that they might have uttered, marginal remarks in schoolroom texts – and there is not even certainty over which stories were intended for children. The mere appearance of a child, especially a child significant enough to speak for him or herself, by no means automatically suggests an audience of children. The dream vision poem Pearl, where a dead girl offers a sophisticated consolation to the grieving narrator (probably her father), could hardly be thought of as a “children’s” text. Nor is the gruesomely murdered child of Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, who sings after his own death until justice is served, a promising candidate.

The “proper lad” hero of Jack and His Stepdame fits much more closely with modern expectations of a capable, mischievous and youthful protagonist with whom children could potentially identify. This narrative emerged in the last decades of the fifteenth-century and continued to attract enormous popularity for several hundred years, known in printed form as The Friar and Boy. Some evidence suggests that it appealed to children.

Here is the story:

Jack’s stepmother attempts to starve him while persuading his father, the head of household, to send him away. The father compromises by sending Jack out into the fields during the day to guard his animals. While outdoors, Jack complies with a request for food by a passing old man, who rewards him by granting three wishes: a bow and arrow that never misses; a pipe which causes anything living to dance uncontrollably; and, a stepmother who loudly farts when she looks at Jack with anger.

That night, when his father offers him food, his stepmother’s ire is raised and she is humiliated in front of the household. She exhorts a Friar to beat Jack when he returns to the fields, but the boy lures him into the brambles to collect a bird shot down by his bow and arrow. Jack plays the pipe, causing the Friar to injure himself extensively while dancing uncontrollably.

The distressed Friar returns to the house, where Jack’s father, fearing the devil’s involvement, demands that the boy play his pipe. The household and the village beyond dance uncontrollably, but the father is delighted by the merry music, and bestows his approval on his son.

Jack’s role in the Friar’s ordeal produces one of the most memorable lines of the poem:

Ever the boye blewe and lewh amonge.
How the frere lepe and wronge!

[The boy constantly blew and laughed at the same time.
How the friar leapt and wrung his hands!]

The image of a child transported by sheer joy is powerfully evoked by the laughter that interrupts, and dissolves into, the blowing into the pipe: it is not difficult to imagine the sound of music, a tune bent and broken, unexpectedly loud and soft in turns, as merriment overcomes Jack’s very breath – we can virtually feel his happiness through these implied sounds. This is one of the most powerful descriptions of a child’s own experience of happiness that survives in Middle English.

That exuberance remains arresting for a modern audience, and much of the narrative’s humour will make sense to modern readers; however, there is also a great deal in this text that marks its medieval sensibility. The stepmother’s humiliation is brutal and decisive; the Friar’s more protracted and sadistic. To many modern readers, these episodes will seem gratuitously cruel. Beyond our altered cultural standards around violence and misogyny, the “reason” that Jack’s mischief is applauded is simple: he is his father’s son. His father, it is implied, is a prudent man, successful in his station, whose place in the world Jack will one day inherit. Jack lives up to his birthright through his resourcefulness (importantly, he acts, rather than complains), and by punishing interference with what is rightfully his, proffered by a woman and a religious figure. The stepmother’s machinations damage the father’s honour “from the inside”, and the Friar has no place in the productivity of the household over which the father presides. Jack’s childish antics are celebrated because he has his father’s interests at heart. He is not a rebel, or a delinquent, but a lad who knows and accepts his place in the existing order, who indeed upholds that order, even when ostensibly engaging in subversive boyish amusement. This is a story for parents as much as children.

In this early example of a child protagonist, we see how Jack’s status as a child hero is intimately related to broader cultural values. As such, Jack and His Stepdame offers an opportunity for reflection on how far we have come, as a culture, in addressing children as children.

The text of Jack and His Stepdame is available at

A modern translation of the poem can be found in Medieval Comic Tales, ed. Derek Brewer (New York: D.S. Brewer, 1996). 

By Kimberley Reynolds, Professor of Children’s Literature, Newcastle University UK, & CHE Senior Honorary Research Fellow

To mark Children’s Book Week I was asked to think about how the voices of children from different eras can be identified in literary and archival materials. This request came about because for the last 18 months I’ve been working with colleagues from CHE on a collection of essays about emotional responses to the death of children in the early modern period. There is quite a lot of evidence about how adults responded to child death, but as so often is the case, the voices of children themselves are hard to locate. That is one reason why I was excited to discover, while working on an entirely different project, a publication put together by pupils from Britain’s public schools system in the 1930s (perversely, in the UK ‘public’ actually means ‘private’). The story of this short-lived journal is worth briefly reprising briefly before looking at a few examples of how it gives us access to the lost voices of children and young people from this turbulent decade of the last century.

Writing and rebellion

Cover of ‘Out of Bonds’ Volume 1, 1934.

One morning in the early summer of 1934, a hand-picked group of public school pupils received an anonymously produced circular announcing the birth of an anti-establishment magazine written by pupils for pupils. The circular invited its readers to become involved with this new publication which was to be called Out of Bounds: Public Schools’ Journal Against Fascism, Militarism and Reaction. Its aim was to introduce pupils in Britain’s elite public schools to left-wing political ideas and to make them relevant by linking them to what its editors identified as significant forces of militarism and oppression in the public school system: the Officers’ Training Corps (known as the OTC), fagging and corporal punishment. Their aspirations went beyond reforming schools, however. As the second editorial explains, Out of Bounds was intended to be a vehicle for reforming society by changing a key mechanism for reproducing the status quo. The forces of conservatism, or what are called reactionaries in Out of Bounds, it claims, ‘have long regarded Public Schools as their historic stronghold…. It is our job to attack them in their stronghold. But we must go further than this…. We attack … the vast machinery of propaganda which forms the basis of Public Schools and makes them so useful to the preservation of a vicious and obsolete form of society…. ‘

Esmond and Giles Romilly. Photo by Howard Coster, 1934. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Esmond and Giles Romilly. Photo by Howard Coster, 1934. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Though they may sound mature, these are the voices of teenagers, in this case Giles and Esmond Romilly, nephews of Winston Churchill and pupils at Wellington College. The Romilly brothers headed an editorial board made up of pupils from across the public school sector. Under their guidance four numbers of the journal were produced and sold in 23 public schools, despite the fact that it was immediately banned in the majority of such schools. In fact, the ban and an article in the right-wing Daily Mail which identified contributors to Out of Bounds as a ‘red menace’ in Britain’s public schools probably stimulated sales: the initial print run of 1,000 rose to 3,000 for the second number.

In terms of children’s reading and the history of emotions, Out of Bounds is interesting for the way it explores youthful passions, concerns and ambitions, often in relation to reading. The dependence on reading in this pre-television era is clear throughout the journal which, of course, was itself meant to be read. The Romilly brothers had educated themselves in the concerns of the Left through reading, and Out of Bounds features lengthy book reviews of the kinds of materials they recommended as well as advertisements and offers from radical bookshops. There were few children’s books on suitable subjects so many of the books recommended are for a general audience. When left-wing children’s books were available they were reviewed; Geoffrey Trease’s 1934 Bows Against the Barons, for instance, is ‘wholeheartedly’ recommended as ‘an enthralling study of England in the Middle Ages that shows ‘that every uprising has an economic cause’.

Two page spread from ‘Out of Bounds.’

Contributions to Out of Bounds frequently find young people railing against war and fascism. One letter to the editors gives a detailed account of attending the huge Blackshirt rally at Olympia in 1934. The correspondent explains that though he had gone out of curiosity, not yet being sure what the British Union of Fascists stood for, the event turned him firmly against fascism after he was brutally attacked by the Blackshirts in the melee that broke up the rally. Other contributions urge young people to turn away from militarism and join the peace movement. Even more heartfelt are the discussions of sex in public schools. In a feature called ‘Morning Glory (Sex in Public Schools)’, Giles Romilly complains mightily about the lack of sex education in public schools.   The piece boldly discusses masturbation, boys’ passions for each other, lewd talk, and the efforts of masters to control though not to explain sexual desire in adolescent boys. Girls too wrote about the way single sex education affected behaviour. Phyllis Baker of Ashford High School contributed an article on the unhealthy worship by girls of some female teachers (‘she must be young, fairly short, and essentially “sporty”; she must have fair hair, a good figure, shapely legs, and a very short gym tunic’). The article ends with the observation, ‘what a lot of anguish would be saved by educating the two sexes together’.

Despite its popularity, Out of Bounds was not solvent. Once it became known that the editors had outstanding debts it is likely that printers refused to take on the journal, but other factors contributed to its short life. By the time the fourth and last number appeared, Esmond was in a remand centre because his mother claimed he was out of control. This coincided with the outbreak of civil war in Spain, an event that saw many of those who had been passionate in their opposition to war become equally determined that fascism needed to be defeated. On his release Esmond joined an international brigade. Giles too went to Spain but as a journalist. Out of Bounds was gone, but that does not mean it was ephemeral. Producing the magazine was a defining moment for both its contributors and its readers. In the course of writing articles, reviewing books, advertising and reporting on peace rallies, and devising ways to circulate their magazine, they helped call to into being an idea of youth as resistant to authority. Many went on to become active members of left-wing political parties and continued to work to overthrowing the conservative forces that had previously shaped their lives. Their youthful voices are preserved in the pages of Out of Bounds and in the journal it is clear that reading and writing together enabled this group of young people to fashion themselves in ways that arguably changed British society for ever and helped bring the nascent welfare state into being.

Why Science Needs “Passion”

By Louis C. Charland, Partner Investigator
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Psychiatry & School of Health Studies Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.Louis Charland

In this blog, I briefly share some results of research undertaken in my role as Partner Investigator with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, based at The University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia. In honor of National Science Week in Australia, I argue that science needs “passion” and that for this we must turn to the history of emotions.

The term and concept “passion” no longer figures in contemporary scientific efforts to understand emotion or other related phenomena in the affective domain. “Emotion” now is the keyword and paradigm theoretical posit of the affective sciences, although “feeling,” “mood,” and “affect” also play a significant role. The verdict appears to be that “passion” is now a matter of historical interest only, and can otherwise be ignored, although admittedly, the term is sometimes still employed in everyday discourse and some academic research, to refer to very intense and powerful emotional states. Note that even the history of “passion” now falls under the rubric of “emotion.” For example, this blog entry is meant to be a contribution to the dissemination efforts of the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for the History of Emotions. Again, the keyword here is “emotion,” even though the topic is “passion.”

In general, situating the historical study of “passion” under the general rubric of “emotion” does not pose major problems. In many cases, older usages of the term “passion” can, with appropriate provisions, even be rendered using the term “emotion,” a common practice. However, there is at least one particular context where this practice proves to be misleading. This is the case where both the terms “passion” and “emotion” and their associated concepts are intended as distinct, but mutually complementary, posits in an overall theory of the affective domain. There are in fact several pivotal milestones in the history of affective terms and concepts where this occurs. In such cases, rendering the term “passion” as “emotion” is misleading. The reason is that it obscures an important lexical and conceptual distinction in the original texts under study. Yet, there are cases where “passion” has been uncritically rendered as “emotion” in the study of such texts. As a result, the importance of the distinction is lost on readers, especially when the original texts are not present or easily available. This makes it appear as if we can dispense with “passion” in the translation and interpretation of such texts – as if “emotion” can do all the work that “passion” used to do. But this is not so.

The primary thesis of this short essay is that this relegation of “passion” to the proverbial ‘dustbin’ of history represents an important loss, not only for the history of “emotion,” but also for contemporary science; in particular, scientific efforts to explain the nature of “emotion” and other related phenomena in the affective domain. In particular, this omission leaves us without adequate conceptual resources to properly describe and explain the nature and organization of long term affective states and processes. We must therefore reinstate “passion” into science. No doubt, this is a call for reform on a grand scale. It is also a telling lesson on the importance of historical studies for present day science, philosophy, and even public life and our common sense understanding of “emotion”.

All of this, of course, requires stipulating an appropriate sense of “passion,” which admittedly is a term with a long and variegated history of conceptual change. As we shall see, though it is certainly complex, the history of “passion” and its relation to “emotion” is still vibrant and full of promise for those who wish to study it. This is no ‘dustbin.’ On the contrary, it is an historical domain with important lessons for how we should understand the function and limitations of our current term “emotion.”

In the sense intended here, “passions” are complex long term affective states and processes that differ from “emotions,” which are affective states and processes of shorter duration and lesser complexity. Moreover, properly understood, passions often serve to organize emotions and so must therefore be carefully distinguished from these. So, for example, think of jealousy over time, perhaps months or years. The jealous individual in the throes of such a passion will respond with very specific emotions – suspicion, anger, rage, and revenge, or maybe forgiveness – during the course of that passion. They will also experience very specific associated feelings – despair, resentment, and maybe, we hope, eventually relief. Eliminate the passion, and you eliminate the specific, rule-governed, course of emotional dispositions and responses that typically accompany and issue from that passion. In contrast, an individual who is not in the throes of such a passion will not respond, or be disposed to respond, in the same way as the person who is.

Cover of 'From Passions to Emotions' by Thomas Dixon.

Cover of ‘From Passions to Emotions’ by Thomas Dixon.

Now for some history. Before we go any further, it is important to be reminded of the fact – and it is an historical fact – that the term “emotion” is a relatively recent arrival on the contemporary philosophical and scientific stage. Prior to the arrival of “emotion,” “passion” and its various lexical cognates in various languages was the primary term of art in matters that concerned the affective domain. Since its emergence, both the denotation and connotations of the term “emotion” have changed dramatically, although the term itself, as a lexical item, has remained mostly the same. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was common to refer to ‘emotions of the pulse’, or ‘emotions of the clouds’, a physical usage that has changed as the term has acquired more psychological connotations. Historian Thomas Dixon gives a wonderful, very comprehensive account of these developments from “passion” to “emotion” in his classic work, ‘From Passion to Emotion: The Creation of a Secular Category’. The bulk of Dixon’s discussion focusses on this transition in English texts, but it also occurs – to some degree, sometimes rather differently – in French, Spanish, Italian, and German texts of the same period.

A key figure whose influence is notable across much of this history is the French philosopher-scientist, Rene Descartes (1596-1650). He argued that it would be better (mieux) for science if we started referring to ‘emotions’ of the soul, rather than ‘passions’ of the soul.

Yet, at the same time, in keeping with tradition, Descartes decided to title his 1649 book on the topic ‘The Passions of the Soul’ (Les Passions de L’ame).

les passions

Cover of ‘Les Passions de L’ame’ by Descartes.

Descartes wrote in French, which like Spanish and Italian, has easily recognizable lexical equivalents for the English words “passion” and “emotion.” His suggestion that it would ultimately be better for us to speak of “emotion” rather than “passion” in scientific efforts to understand the affective domain, is tantamount to a conceptual revolution. He introduced a new, emerging, psychological meaning of the term “emotion” to the scientific world, setting in motion a larger transition in which “emotion” eventually came to replace “passion” as the keyword of the affective sciences. In doing so, he also refocused the scientific study of affective states and processes on episodes of relatively short duration, in keeping with the methodological orientation of current inquiries into the heart and nervous system. It was hard to find a place for affective states and processes of long duration in this new explanatory paradigm that focussed on direct observation and measurement in the here and now. That had been an important characteristic of the older passions, from which a person could suffer chronically for months, or even years. The new emotions were more sudden, transient, motions of the soul, now ‘active’ determinants of action and behavior that moved individuals to act. This made them quite different from the more ‘passive’ passions of the soul of ancient times, which the soul was said to suffer (Gr. pathé).

Front page of of 'Della Pazzia' by Vincenzo Chiarugi.

Front page of of ‘Della Pazzia’ by Vincenzo Chiarugi.

Another, later, medical writer who also used both the terms “passion” and “emotion” is the Florentine medical doctor, Vincenzo Chiarugi (1759-1829). His views on “passion” and “emotion” are contained in his 1793-5 classic work on insanity, Della Pazzia. He referred to these concepts in his native Italian, as “passioni” and “emozioni.”

Crucially, unlike Descartes, who argued that ultimately it would be better (mieux) to use the term “émotion” instead of “passion,” Chiarugi forcefully demonstrated that we must retain and use both terms, because they serve different purposes.

Chiarugi therefore apparently disagrees with Descartes on the relationship between “passion” and “emotion.” While the French scientist suggests that we can replace “passion” with “emotion,” the Italian doctor asserts that we need both, which means that we cannot replace the former with the latter, as Descartes had suggested.


Chiarugi’s work constitutes an important example of our thesis that “passion” and “emotion” are distinct, but mutually complementary, theoretical terms and concepts in the affective sciences. Other, different versions of the distinction, and the reasons for making it, can be found in the work of medical writers like Philippe Pinel (1745-1826), Sir Alexander Crichton (1763-1856), Jean-Étienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840), as well as the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). What is curious about all this is that, although they are all major figure in their respective fields, this aspect of these major thinkers’ work has been almost entirely overlooked, not only in the history of affective terms and concepts, but also the history of “emotion” more generally. Likewise, there appears to be little or no appreciation of the importance of the distinction between “passion” and “emotion” for science, or indeed the ‘philosophy of emotion’, today.

How did this happen? The answer is too long for this blog and constitutes a major research project of its own. Suffice it to say that, in the end, Descartes’ strategy proved to be the more compelling, and numerous philosophers and scientists across Europe began to adopt the term “emotion” as their primary theoretical term of art in their studies of what used to be called the “passions.” Interest in long term affective states and processes diminished as the study of short term affective states and processes increased. The development of new experimental methods and paradigms in the sciences probably played a major role in this change. In any case, by the 19th century, “emotion” was firmly in place and “passion” had largely disappeared from the theoretical vocabulary of science and philosophy.

As indicated above, there are some famous exceptions to this trend which takes us from “passions” to “emotions.” Together those exceptions form part of a distinct development, namely, the history of “passion” and “emotion,” which must be contrasted with the wider and far more influential history from “passion” to “emotion,” which is the received view. The key figure in this alternate history where “emotion” does not displace or eradicate “passion,” but both coexist together alongside each other, is somebody we have not mentioned yet. It is the French pioneer of experimental psychology, the philosopher Théodule-Armand Ribot (1839-1916).

Théodule-Armand Ribot. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Théodule-Armand Ribot. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ribot’s overall position with respect to these issues is set out in his 1907 ‘Essay on the Passions’ (Essai sur les passions). There, he argues very clearly and forcefully, that we must retain – and reinstate, where necessary – the term “passion” in science and philosophy. The strongest argument that can be marshalled in defense of Ribot’s thesis is that there are theoretical tasks in philosophy and the affective sciences that can only properly be accomplished with “passion” working alongside “emotion.” Ribot’s work on this topic is, by intention, very schematic and structural, as he is primarily concerned with the general form of psychological concepts at this stage, treating the more specific psychological study of those states as a separate task that must inquire into their place in culture and history. According to him, so far as their form is concerned, passions are complex and dynamic long term affective syndromes, or tendencies (tendances), that emanate from and are centered around a fixed idea (idée fixe). It is important to stress that, for Ribot, passions are thoroughly embodied. In a psychophysical monism that is reminiscent of Spinoza, he views the mental and physical aspects of the passions as two sides of a common coin.

A key aspect of the above definition is how it straddles the distinction between psychopathology and normality. Passions may begin innocently, and when they progress and develop within healthy limits, they can fill life with meaningful activities and purpose. However, when they evolve to extremes, passions can become obsessional, or even delusional, and they begin to suck all of an individual’s activities and energy into a single, all-encompassing, downward spiral – a process Ribot likens to an avalanche. When they get to these extremes, passions can also severely limit a person’s agency and capacity to make decisions, much like an addiction. Tragically, sometimes passions reach a point of no return and the individual in question is caught in the grip of a powerful affective syndrome from which they are unable to escape. They have lost control and are now ruled by the passion – by the ‘heart’ rather than by ‘reason’. Therefore, passions can lead to mental disorder, as well as physical illness and even death, although this is not always, nor necessarily, the case since, within limits, passions can also fill life with healthy, purposeful activities and meaning.

Note that cognitive, or thinking-based, therapies are unlikely to vanquish such powerful affective syndromes once they get entrenched, although they might be of limited help in preventing or slowing them. Commonly, only new, alternate passions can reverse, block, or divert pathological passions. Bursts of shorter affective interventions that employ the elicitation of short-term feelings and emotions can also be helpful in weakening the hold of a morbid passion on an individual’s thinking and behavior. Recent empirical research on Anorexia Nervosa undertaken by the present writer in association with clinical collaborators in psychiatry, has shown that the concept of “passion” has much to offer contemporary psychiatry in this area. Likewise with the study of emotion regulation and intelligence, which are substantially ‘blind’ without the contribution of passions that often serve to direct and organize emotions. In effect, passions connect the emotional dots that are typically associated with the different passions at various stages of their development. You need the construct “passion” to properly connect the dots – scientifically, in law-like, rule-governed, ways. Finally, the distinction between “passion” and “emotion” has also proven helpful in solving several vexing interpretive problems in the exegesis of some of Shakespeare’s plays, revealing his masterly psychological insight and erudition in a manner that is more perspicuous than before.

All of this adds up to a very respectable, and indeed a very promising legacy for a concept that has until now been largely relegated to the ‘dustbin’ of history. Scientists should be reminded that it is possible to make ‘discoveries’ in history that are not only of importance to contemporary historical studies, but even to contemporary science itself. This shared mission is certainly something to celebrate during Australian National Science Week.

Readers interested in pursuing these questions are invited to contribute to this blog, which unfortunately cannot offer a detailed bibliography. Most of the material from which this discussion is drawn is cited on my personal website at and many of the articles themselves are accessible through . Some of the research is unpublished and some of it is still ‘in the twinkle of my eye’. I wish to dedicate this blog to Philippa Maddern (1952-2014) whose untiring encouragement and support gave me faith and confidence in this project when I was in need of it.

Emotion Space Environment

By Tom Bristow, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

Max Tom

Are emotions and space related? Spatial theory invites us to clarify the locus of human action – sometimes referred to as the practice of everyday life. Transcultural encounters are very interesting in this context, but how might a focus on ecology, landscape, city, metropolitan area or bioregion respond to this invitation?

This June I decided to seek out some help with these questions by visiting our partners within the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

There has been lots of exciting research in our Centre that has considered emotions in the contexts of performance, ritual and public spaces. There are also several researchers examining the idea of emotional contagion, something that affect theory lends itself to in terms of transcorporeality in a way that the biographical aspect of emotions theory short-circuits in its desire for the psychoanalysis of the individual subject. Professor Anne Brooks in her CHE blog outlines the specific role that the discipline of geography has to play in the contested space of the seats and sites of emotions in her review of the Edinburgh conference on Emotional Geographies, and readers of this blog would benefit from reviewing that entry before they read this contribution.

When I first came to the Centre I was struck by how much of our work is focused on human feelings, on society, on the mind; I couldn’t help but think how anthropocentric this all was. That response was partly owing to how in the preceding decade I had been over-exposed to environmental ethics, environmental philosophy and ecocriticism, which are critically oriented to dissolving the human subject into a larger field of play: to articulate a transpersonal fabric of life in which we are concerned for the ways that we inhabit more-than-human relationships that affords freedom, expression, and the curtailment of these. CHE was one of a number of collaborators at the Humanities Research Centre Conference (ANU) on this theme last year, titled Affective Habitus. However, slowly but surely, I began to observe how a number of scholars have pushed through with the question of the environment in a manner that my theoretical training and the new field of ecological literary studies had not.

Initially, I wondered why the focus on ‘society’ did not extend to the ‘environment’; I felt perplexed by the ways that theories of evolution seemed to end up in discussions that were primarily concerned with the mind, the hippocampus, and not the body, not the lifeworld in which we enact and respond to the affective contours of our experiences with others. I felt that a dualism between affect and emotion had not been resolved; rather, a diversion from some of the difficult conceptual terrain had been taken, resulting in a narcissistic turn to the human and most especially to the cognitive field – and my prejudices fuelled an instinct that this problem was particularly acute with scholars less comfortable in their bodies than their minds! It was time to stop here, rethink, and look again. Calm down. Breathe. Just what was it that I was referring to and naming the ‘environment’ – was there something ‘out there’, external to us humans? Was it something that physically registered the impact of climate change? How were these ideas nothing other than an extension of the dualism evident in the mind-body split that I was critiquing? It was time to go back to basics and rethink the traditional ‘somatic envelope’ as Peter de Bolla writes: the affective, bodily experience of being in the world.

I have recently written on a correspondence between ecocriticism’s promotion of interdependency and intimacy, and contemporary analytical philosophy’s perspectives on the embodied, enactive, embedded and extended mind (the 4E ontologies). Both belie the radical separation of mind and body, body and world inherent to dualism, while also considering what constitutes an ‘environment’ for minds and things. My research project requires me to think through a difficult question: how might the environmental humanities – particularly the field of environmental literary studies – learn from the history of emotions? Put more simply: are there approaches or findings in the emotions project that can help us better understand human relationships with the more-than-human world?

I had been finding this quite a difficult question until I felt an electric charge in the air during our emotions reading group in Melbourne in May this year. We had discussed the advantages of these non-cognitive perspectives when turning to Daniel M. Gross’s article on Darwin, and we considered how thinking of things at play was a way to bridge (or better, reject!) the conflicted epistemology, or schizophrenia evident in our methodology that must respond to theories of evolution and social construction simultaneously. It was one of those light bulb moments that are so rare, and often depend on particular group dynamics. Gross ends his article by drawing on 4E ontologies to state that ‘Just as we cannot understand bird flight by studying only feathers… we cannot understand emotional experience by studying only the face, the eyeball, the ear, the brain.’

The point here, I think, is to analyse, respond to, and attempt to feel the experience of the bird’s body and how this in itself is a creative evolutionary expression of worldliness. While we might like to think of the development of our mammalian brains through natural selection, we might slow down when we think of ourselves as a species, in the same way that we would think of birds. As Mick Smith writes: ‘species are significant for the world’ in that all things with life have effects and carry with them ‘various semiotic possibilities’; to lose species, therefore ‘is to lose [a form of] openness on the world.’ Life, in its various forms, exercises different ways of becoming meaningful, and it harnesses various phenomenological experiences of a sensed world. Perhaps this is a new way to think of our affective experiences as humans? I’m not fully convinced about that, and I’m also keen think to through the project of Romanticism that seemed to ask for a larger sense of self than that constituted by sense experience alone. However, there is something worth exploring here. I would also like to state that this diversion into phenomenology might seem like a long way from what might help us better understand situated emotions, that is emotions in place, in space, in environments; however, it was one of four starting points that I took to colleagues in Berlin and I wanted to share it with you.

With help from Katrina O’Loughlin (UWA), Pen Woods (Sydney) and Benno Gammerl and Edgar Cabanas Diaz (Berlin), a group of us at the Max Planck Institute read articles by Sara Ahmed, Steve Pile, John Ryan and Andrea Witcomb. Taking these respectively, we discussed how happiness is sociable, how geography has come to a theoretical standoff between emotions and affect, how our emotional memories express a relationship with our environments, and how affective atmospheres in museums can trigger ethical responses to environments. When we stepped back to discuss themes running across these articles our findings were twofold: one considered attributes and processes of environmental experience, the other examined bidirectionality (between subjects and objects) and the question of contingency.

First of all, we realised that spatial features of our environments are to be found empirically and in discourse – there are real, physical spaces, and sites of experience that come to us through culture, and there are many spaces that combine the two; by extension, spaces contain and structure affect and also enable unexpected emotional practices. From here we concluded that spaces are conditions of possibility for agents, and those conditions of possibility need to be historicized for they really articulate meaning-making practices – for example, consider a first foray into a gay bar, or an outsider’s experience of an occult ritual. Secondly, after reviewing the academic literature it felt important to clarify that emotions and space are not reducible to each other; ‘space’ and ‘emotions’ move in-between our understanding of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ – just consider causal and organic relations between discrete things in space over time and you’ll soon come to an understanding that the relation between these is ongoing: there is always instability and dynamism. We seemed to like this idea.

As Giovanni Tarantino writes, citing Charles Zika, feelings and sentiments are not diametrically opposed. The different yet related ways of perceiving the world reminds us of the import of acknowledging hybrid environments that we experience through these two interdependent filters. If, as Zika concludes, emotions are integral to all human action, then we might wish to further consider the spaces in which these actions play out, for these spaces are equally subject to cognitive and affective perceptions, and social and biological formations. If emotion is ‘critical to the fields of politics and society’, surely it is critical to our understanding of environments, too? Our group in Berlin were not in a rush to escape what Zika names ‘the widely perceived dichotomy between a social and cultural level’ by simply displacing these scenes of interaction for an expansive sense of the cultural as the ‘environment.’ However, we did agree upon two things: firstly, thinking ‘environmentally’ – i.e. taking seriously humans as part of the more-than-human world (rather than conceiving an ‘external’ environment at a distance from us) – raises methodological concerns about the roles of social construction and evolution and our sense of the body as situated in and imprinted by space. We felt that such a perspective could be attentive to the organic and the material, to their formations and deformations. Secondly, intimate/ traditional knowledge of one’s environment is part of the process of building communities; the naming of things in space is a power that comes from an initiation process (‘sensorial apprenticeship’ as Ryan suggests) instructing us of the ways to put our body in places, for example appreciating a local flower, following a culturally specific ritual. These are exciting findings from an initial conversation and we hope to continue the dialogue between Australia and Germany over the next twelve months.

When the Australian philosopher, Val Plumwood, conceived of rational thought as ‘sado-dispassionate scientism’, that is enlightenment thinking based upon a dualism, which first registered in the cultural distinction between the sacred and profane, she was helping us to conceive of an ‘ontological divide’ that allows us to keep the world of living things at a distance from human experience. In Australia this is a particular problem for two reasons: firstly, we face exceptionally challenging local and global stresses of desalination, the management of the barrier reef and ocean acidification, invasion ecologies, climate change, species depletion, rewilding, and energy and population issues. Secondly, we seem to think that the fuse of our emotions can only be traced back into the mists of a European past; rather it has been lit in today’s environmental contexts and their sociogenic contours, which, taken to the question of the Aboriginal relation to ‘country,’ are inflected by the politics of grief.

For Stephen Muecke, Aboriginal philosophies ‘are all about keeping things alive in their place’ – I feel that a history of emotions, distributed around this country, might be sensitive to the affective immanence of broken landscapes, practices that generate forms of belonging and their concomitant economic, social and political processes, which are largely understated by the now normalised postcolonial euphemism ‘settler society.’ The first step to addressing this obscured narrative of feelings in space, following our first examination of new methodological approaches to emotions in Berlin, would be to rethink the history of emotions in terms of spatial theory and how this extends to a sense of the environment as the site and seat of emotions over time. During a period where a growing acknowledgement ‘of the impact of societal forces on the biosphere’ are couched in terms ‘of a narrative so completely dominated by natural science’ as Malm and Hornborg argue, it is time that our substantial contribution to the critical interpretation of human practices leads us towards a confident interjection in this domain, and helps us to construct a new framework for the ‘environment’ and ‘emotions’ for public understanding and debate.



Further reading:


Sara Ahmed, ‘Sociable Happiness.’ Emotions, Space and Society 1 (2008): 10-13.

Peter de Bolla, The Education of the Eye: Painting, Landscape, and Architecture in Eighteenth-century Britain, Stanford UP, 2003.

Daniel M. Gross, ‘Defending the Humanities with Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872),’ Critical Inquiry 37 (2010): 34-59.

Andreas Malm and Alf Hornborg, ‘The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative,’ The Anthropocene Review 1.1 (2014): 62-69.

Stephen Muecke, ‘The Sacred in History,’ Humanities Research 1 (1999): 26-37.

Steve Pile, ‘Emotions and Affect in Recent Human Geography.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (2010): 5-20.

Val Plumwood, ‘Journey to the Heart of Stone.’ In Culture, Creativity and Environment: New Environmentalist Criticism (Eds Fiona Becket and Terry Gifford). Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. 17-37.

John Ryan, ‘Botanical Memory: Exploring Emotional Recollections of Native Flora in the Southwest of Western Australia.’ Emotion, Space and Society 30 (2012): 1-12.

Mick Smith, “Ecological Community, the Sense of the World, and Senseless Extinction,” Environmental Humanities 2 (2013), 21-41.

Andrea Witcomb, ‘Toward A Pedagogy of Feeling: Understanding How Museums Create a Space for Cross-Cultural Encounters.’ In The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museums Theory (Eds. Andrea Witcomb and Kylie Message). London: John Wiley and Sons, 2015. 321-344.

The politics of friendship: expectations and self-reflection in times of conciliation

By Doctoral Candidate, Angelique Stastny, The University of Melbourne

Narratives of friendship have been inherent to political practices and diplomacy. Friendship and its opposite – enmity – translate in politics as consensus and conflict, and together they have drawn the physical and imagined contours of societies and nations. The politics of friendship and colonialism, for instance, have often worked together, the former being a commonly-used tool by European nations to legitimize colonisation as well as to comprehend, contain, and subjugate colonised populations. The politics of friendship was a way of locating colonised people, first portrayed as strange and unfamiliar, on the colonial axis of power: from allies, unwilling friends, to enemies. These narratives constructed spaces of inclusion and exclusion and created colonial geographies where space was constructed around the binaries of Self/Other, Domesticated/Strange, and Friend/Foe.

Image:  Mr Murray Walker (Designer) & William Barak (Artist) & Tommy McRae (Artist) & Victorian Tapestry Workshop (Maker) 1832, Tapestry - & Now Exploration & Settlement Are Underway, Victorian Tapestry Workshop, 2001. Courtesy of Museum Victoria.

Image: Mr Murray Walker (Designer) & William Barak (Artist) & Tommy McRae (Artist) & Victorian Tapestry Workshop (Maker) 1832, Tapestry – & Now Exploration & Settlement Are Underway, Victorian Tapestry Workshop, 2001. Courtesy of Museum Victoria.

Early colonial school textbooks in Australia reveal that this politics of friendship reflected a Eurocentric notion of social relations and conciliation, within which colonised people were expected to accept, and adopt, the values of the Europe-inherited colonial cultures. European settlers were often portrayed of friendly character and goodwill, and promoted and nurtured friendly relationships with colonised populations. This politics of friendship aimed to contain colonised people and were defined according to European values and attitudes. Such representations of friendship precluded any possibility of foreignness. It beheld assimilatory values and was a political strategy to contain and comprehend the perceived “strangeness”, the incommensurable, by making it commensurable. The colonial politics of friendship was therefore alike “space-making” rather than peace-making/keeping. This space-making consisted in the creation of a desired homogenous community (through inclusion and exclusion) and the concomitant erasure of its perceived vulnerability. This space-making moment – when the colonised “Other” was ascribed the category of either unwilling or compliant friend – was a staged moment of failed or successful friendship, and in all cases an early moment of nation-making. George Sutherland’s textbook Easy stories for Australian children: A junior reader of Australian history correlated with geography published around the time of Federation is, in that sense, most emblematic of these narratives and politics.

The politics of friendship was represented as an emotional drive that brought together individuals and worked in favour of conciliation and the creation or refashioning of nations around colonial European ideals. This politics of friendship was based on the projection of the European Self onto the “Other”, and on the “Other’s” capacity to sustain this self-reflection, rather than on mutual understanding across diversity.

Today, at a time when several societies around the world attempt to grapple with these colonial pasts towards post-colonial futures, and engage in renewed processes of conciliation, the politics of friendship, and the meaning given to this friendship, is a fine line between entrenched self-projection and mutual understanding.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council. 23 April 2015.

Every year, 30 July is the International Day of Friendship; a day during which the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encourages to promote ‘international understanding and respect for diversity’ and to ‘cultivate warm ties that strengthen our common humanity and promote the well-being of the human family.’ His words encapsulate notions of difference, respect and equality in diversity. Yet, only a few days apart, on 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples reminds us that this call for friendship is made in a context of cultural diversity but also of a continuing, global structural disparity born out of European colonialisms. Friendship, a relationship of equals, can exist between individuals within, and despite, this overarching structural disparity but it may take more than benevolence and compassion. It calls for an individual critical reflection on one’s social position and social imagination that transcends unequal power relations. Friendship thereupon moves away from being an emotional drive to being the possible emotional outcome – to be cherished – of an effort of self-critique and mutual understanding.


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