From Methods and Methodologies to Collaborations and ‘Collaboratories’…

cropped-musical-group1.jpgThis weekend the second CHE Methods Collaboratory takes place here in Melbourne. Yep, “collaboratory” was a new one for me, too, when I took up my postdoc with the centre. It has not yet appeared in either the Oxford or Macquarie dictionaries (I just double-checked to be certain), but I’m sure it’ll make the 2013 editions.

Presumably half way between a collaboration and a laboratory (interdisciplinarity alert!) the idea is to get researchers together; from all fields, and from all over. I’ve been to several Centre collaboratories in the past fourteen months, and even run one myself – the wonderful Faces of Emotion, with Stephanie Trigg – and I can assure you, it works. The collaboratory licenses organisers to think differently in their approach, especially in how papers or research are presented and discussed. This is turn can help lead to freer and more open discussions, and, ultimately, wider dissemination for our work when the collaboratory is over. Stephanie opened Faces by appealing for a ‘greedy and generous spirit of scholarship’ to prevail over the days that followed. These are words that have stuck with me since in thinking about how we share not just our own work with others, but the things that we come across in the course of course research. I’ve often been the recipient of an email letting me know of a new book that looked like it might be my kind of thing; “saw this quote and thought of you;” or even personal notes and transcripts from people’s archival research. Amazing. This has happened throughout my career, but I’ve found Centre members to be especially generous in sharing their work, their reading, and their ideas. I wonder if we (I) tell people often enough how much we appreciate these morsels, however small? If any of those who’ve sent such things to me are reading this now – thank you! Your generosity has and will continue to enrich my research.

Of course, that’s not to say I’m not greedy for more… And more is on the way. Tomorrow Sarah and I host “Feeling Things: Objects and Emotions in History” which we’ve called a ‘mini-symposium’ rather than a collaboratory. We probably should have gone with the ‘collaboratory’ afterall, since the topic turns out to be even more popular than we’d hoped, and we’ve somehow managed to double the numbers we originally planned for! Thereby also doubling the opportunities for intellectual give-and-take. (Chairs, however, are the ‘object’ of the day. I’ve been feeling things about chairs all morning.)

BUT tomorrow evening we kick off two further days of discussion about Methods in the history of emotions more generally. Researchers and associates from across Australia arrive in Melbourne to talk together about their progress so far, and about the various theoretical tools and methodologies available to historians of the emotions. What are they? How effective are they? A spirit of greed and generosity is essential here, too. It begins with ‘greed’ for me – my own! Tomorrow at 5.15 there is a public lecture by none other than Professor William Reddy, (spoiler alert!) who I plan to introduce in the panel discussion following Feeling Things tomorrow afternoon as “a generative force in the history of emotions.” (If you’ve not seen his 2001 book, The Navigation of Feeling, do!) His evening lecture is provocatively titled, ‘Do Emotions Have a History: The Example of Romantic Love’, and I can’t wait. Not least because discourses around ‘love’ are of interest to me in the context of my own research, but also because Reddy promises to deliver a global perspective on what is already an enormous subject (see his new book, the Making of Romantic Love, University of Chicago Press in 2o12, which moves well beyond figurations of love in the European imagination). Reddy has also drawn attention to the ways in which neuroscientific research may benefit humanities historians of the emotions – I can’t wait to hear more on this on Friday.

So, in the spirit of generosity, and for those who can’t or won’t be there, I thought I’d share the rest of the program for the Methods Collaboratory with you:

Friday 15 March



Introduction: What do we hope to achieve in this meeting? Philippa Maddern


Plenary paper: Professor William Reddy, Duke University; ‘The Self as a Domain of Effort: The Convergence of Neuroscience, Ethnographic, and Historical Evidence’ (Chair, David Lemmings)


Morning tea


Responses to plenary, leading the discussion, ‘How can we best use these theoretical insights in our history of emotions?’; Professor David Lemmings (Adelaide); Professor Marcello Costa (Flinders University, Adelaide); TBA



1.30-3.00 pm

New research fellows, Associate Investigators, and Ph.Ds: 5-minute research project presentations

3.00-3.30 pm

Afternoon tea


Program group discussion: What progress have we made in each program? What discoveries are emerging?


‘What good is a history of emotions?’ Presenting the work of CHE to a wider audience; public image and research impact.


Collaboratory dinner (Mezza, Lygon St)

Saturday 16 March


Plenary paper: Professor Volker Kirchberg, Leophana University, Luneburg; speaking on the affective turn in the social sciences and methodologies for studying aesthetic experiences in the field


Morning tea


Responses to plenary, leading the discussion, ‘How can we best use these theoretical insights in our history of emotions?’: Professor Jane Davidson, Dr. Penelope Woods, Dr. Sarah Randles

12.15-1.15 pm


1.15-2.45 pm

Small-group discussion; future collaborations

2.45-3.00 pm

Afternoon tea

3.00-4.00 pm

Organizing the theme day ‘Historicizing Emotions’ for the CISH conference, Jinan 2015. CHE and the History of Emotions group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, have been asked to organize this theme day. How do we think sessions should best be organised? What themes and problems should we try to present?


Wrap-up and farewell!

Posted by Stephanie Downes

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