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In this interview Megan Boler discusses with Michalinos Zembylas her work during the 1980s and 1990s on "feminist politics of emotion". A feminist politics of emotion is historically grounded in the popular slogan of second wave feminism, the "personal is political". This shift to understanding emotions as collectively and socially produced and constructed rather than as private and individualized experiences represented a radical shift in theory and praxis concerning emotions and education. A feminist politics of emotion encourages scholars to analyze and understand the role of emotions in epistemology, ethics, cultural values and beliefs, and in the construction of social relations and hierarchies. The interview highlights the often overlooked histories of feminist pedagogies as a development from the second wave of feminism, and their pioneering attention to the role of emotions in education, learning, and knowledge production. This approach is contrasted with more recent theorizing of ‘affect’, that draws on Spinoza and continues to develop in the work on what is presently termed "new materialism".
Chapter 2
Interview with Megan Boler: From
Feminist Politics of Emotions
to the Affective Turn
Megan Boler and Michalinos Zembylas
Abstract In this interview Megan Boler discusses with Michalinos Zembylas her
work during the 1980s and 1990s on feminist politics of emotion. A feminist
politics of emotion is historically grounded in the popular slogan of second wave
feminism, the personal is political. This shift to understanding emotions as col-
lectively and socially produced and constructed rather than as private and indi-
vidualized experiences represented a radical shift in theory and praxis concerning
emotions and education. A feminist politics of emotion encourages scholars to
analyze and understand the role of emotions in epistemology, ethics, cultural values
and beliefs, and in the construction of social relations and hierarchies. The interview
highlights the often overlooked histories of feminist pedagogies as a development
from the second wave of feminism, and their pioneering attention to the role of
emotions in education, learning, and knowledge production. This approach is
contrasted with more recent theorizing of affect, that draws on Spinoza and
continues to develop in the work on what is presently termed new materialism.
Keywords Affect theory Feminism Pedagogy Politics Emotions Gender
Second-wave feminism Social construction of emotions Consciousness-raising
Feminist pedagogies
The purpose of this short introduction is to provide readers a brief overview of
Megan Bolers work on emotions and educations since the landmark publication of
her book Feeling Power: Emotions and Education (1999) and her highly inuential
M. Boler (&)
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
M. Zembylas
Program of Educational Studies, Open University of Cyprus, Latsia, Cyprus
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
M. Zembylas and P.A. Schutz (eds.), Methodological Advances
in Research on Emotion and Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-29049-2_2
contribution to the scholarship on the politics of emotions. Bolers book was one of
the rst publications in education that not only touched on the taboo issue of
emotions in education but also it did so in epistemologically and methodologically
innovative ways. She labels her approach a feminist politics of emotion. Highly
relevant to education, her approach alerts us to the idea that emotions are a site of
socio-political control and therefore cannot be understood outside culture and
ideology. Further, her work emphasizes how and when emotions function as a
mode of resistance to dominant norms. These epistemological views have important
methodological implications in terms of how one studies emotion in education.
In this interview, Boler reects on the histories of scholarship regarding emo-
tions in their socio-political contexts. and the scholarship on the politics of emotions
in particular that emerged both from feminist legacies in educational praxis as well
as early feminist interventions from different disciplinary perspectives. Boler dis-
cusses the promises and challenges of cross-and multi-disciplinary, as well as
politicized approaches to the study of emotions. The interview concludes by
highlighting the risks of an apolitical affective turn, and contrasts the recent
developments in scholarship on affect with earlier, 1980s scholarship on feminist
politics of emotion.
Michalinos Zembylas (MZ):Your book Feeling Power: Emotions and
Education(1999) explicitly invokes a feminist politics of emotion. Can you tell
us why you chose this approach in relation to the study of emotion? What are the
strengths and weaknesses of a feminist politics of emotion? How would you
describe its methodological valence?
Megan Boler (MB): I chose this approach because of the longstanding cultural
and historical associations of women with emotions, not to mention the fact that at
the time I commenced this work it was solely feminist scholars who dared to
mention emotion as a legitimate scholarly topic. In the early 1980s when I began
graduate studies in philosophy, it quickly became clear that despite increasing
interest in pushing epistemological boundaries (e.g., within philosophy of science),
the idea that emotion might play a substantive role in our economies of attention, in
our conceptualizations of knowledge and processes of knowledge acquisition, in
ethical and moral evaluationsuch notions were not yet popular by any stretch of
the imagination.
This pointed disregard of emotionsroles and place in such arenas as episte-
mology, ethics, and education is most certainly tied to its gendered associations. The
trans-cultural, trans-historical associations of emotion with women represent, to this
day, paradoxical contradictions of cultural myths and ideologies. The idea that
women are innately, biologically too emotionalto function as proper political
citizens, for example, within the public sphere, is a persistent myth which neatly
coincides with cultural demands for women to embody particular kinds of emotion
(ality), and to teach proper values and ethics to children by virtue of womens
(natural) emotional sensitivities. These contradictory cultural suppositions about
women and emotion demonstrate the critical need for feminist politics of emotion
to disrupt and intervene in these retrograde and patriarchal ideologies. These ide-
ologies simultaneously penalize women for being biologically”“over-emotional,
18 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
and thus too irrationalto serve in positions of political power; while also requiring
women to cultivate her emotionality in order to serve as ideal mothers and teachers.
The methodological valence of a feminist politics of emotion can be understood as
drawing centrally upon a lens that asks us to rethink the rigid binaries dening Western
thought. For example, a feminist politics of emotion often begins by drawing from the
popular slogan of second wave feminism, the personal is political,to analyze and
understand the role of emotions in epistemology, ethics, cultural values and beliefs,
and in the construction of social relations and hierarchies (Echols 1989;MacKinnon
1989). The feminist rallying cry of the personal is politicalredened frequently
dismissed personalissues including emotions and other experiences as in fact highly
relevant to politics and to the public sphere. For example, feminist
consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s empowered participants to redene
womens anger as a healthy sign of resistance to oppression, rather than as a patho-
logical symptom of her personal failings. By expressing and sharing previously hidden
and silenced emotions in these collective spaces, women had the opportunity to
integrate emotions as knowledge with critical reection, thereby supporting womens
political organization against male-domination (Boler 1999; Campbell 1994).
MZ: As you are suggesting, a feminist politics of emotion has to do with how
women are excluded on the grounds of their irrationality. But do you think that
this approach is still relevant today given that there has been a relative progress
in womens positions in the public arena?
MB: Absolutely, this approach remains relevant. Although weve seen some
progress in terms of womens inclusion in political and public spheres, the facts of
gender inequality speak for themselves: of the top Fortune 500 CEOs, 4.6 % are
women; the number of women in governmental positions of power is extremely
few, though a handful of women were elected or appointed during the 21st century;
and the shocking under representation of women in sectors like science, tech,
engineering and math (STEM) reveals a leaky pipeline: no matter the vigilance of
educational systems trying to increase the number of women being fedinto these
male-dominated elds, the percentage of women becoming PhDs or leading
research scientists is not rising. Women remain vastly under represented in spheres
of political and economic power; and when women are permitted such positions,
they are subject to extraordinary sexual harassment and double-standards not
inicted on their male counterparts.
In the end, more notable than the limited progress increasing womens positions
of power, is the highly successful backlash against feminism and the effective
propaganda campaign claiming we are now post-feministand sexism is over!
What does a feminist politics of emotionhave to do with questions like gender
inequality around the world? For one thing, studies of the leaky pipelinefailing to
feed women into STEM areas, for example, cannot seem to understand or solve the
problem. At the same time, again and again through the decades we learn that
women are excluded by the culture(read, hostility, sexual harassment) of boys
clubs,whether that be spaces in academia, politics, or private corporate
sectors. The effective exclusion of women depends signicantly on the affective
realm, on hierarchies that are produced and maintained by ensuring that no one
2 Interview with Megan Boler 19
threatens patriarchal social order (or what bell hooks (1994) refers to as white
supremacist capitalist patriarchy). Similarly, women around the world are taught to
abide by gendered norms that impose compulsory heterosexuality and deny
reproductive choice. These gendered norms rely, arguably most stringently, on
internalized emotions and affective rules, as evidenced by the scholarship that
pioneered a feminist politics of emotion.
In their Introduction to The Affect Theory Reader, Gregg and Seigworth (2010)
outline eight orientations to the theorization of affect. One of these they describe as
politicallyengaged workperhaps most often undertaken by feminists, queer
theorists, disability activists, and subaltern peoples living under the thumb of a
normativizing powerthat attend to the hard and fast materialities, as well as the
eeting and owing ephemera, of the daily and the workdayand of experience
(understood in ways far more collective and externalrather than individual and
interior)(p. 7) This formulation most closely parallels what I term the feminist
politics of emotion.
So in sum, yesvigilance is still required in the ongoing struggle to include
women in public spheres (see Boler et al. 2014), and to achieve anything like equity
in positions of power. A feminist politics of emotion is necessarily inter-and
multidisciplinary, drawing from diverse feminist theories and disciplinary frame-
works. Whatever its shortcomings, the women's liberation movement paved the
way for womens studies and feminist theory to nd a place within educational and
intellectual contexts. And the personal is politicalas a basis for a feminist ped-
agogies provides a useful starting point for radical educational praxis.
MZ: What was the impact of this approach to education and pedagogy in
particularboth as a site of politics and research?
As the womens liberation movement swept North America and parts of Europe
from the late 1960s into the 1980s, the ght for womens rights included the
historic-rst establishment of womens studies programs and feminist pedagogies.
Emotions were identied as core to the liberatory work of feminist pedagogies,
whichas a political arm of the womens movementserved as a politicizing,
embodied intervention for social change, seeking spaces for women in the hallowed
halls of higher education where women had been not only refused a place at the
table, but stereotyped as the antithesis of logos and reason (Rich 1979; Culley and
Portuges 1985). Questions about the role of emotions in knowledge and learning,
pioneered by feminist educators, developed alongside Freirean, critical and radical
pedagogies, though feminist pedagogies received much less recognition, to this day.
As one scholar denes it:
Feminist pedagogy is grounded in the primary goal of social change. The foundations of
feminist pedagogy can be unlocked by looking at its origins in grassroots political activity.
Womens consciousness-raising groups that formed in the late 1960s were based on
friendships, common political commitments, and discussions of shared experiences.
Furthermore, they emphasized reliance on experience and feeling, sharing common expe-
riences in collective leaderless groups, and the shared assumption that understanding and
theoretical analysis were the rst steps towards revolutionary change. (Sayles-Hannon
2007, p. 35)
20 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
Feminist pedagogies embrace key principles, such as: attending to power rela-
tions (including those between teacher and student); valuing personal experience
and emotion as these inform knowledge and learning; and transforming injustice
through reexive praxis. Audre Lordes inspiring public speeches delivered in the
late 1970s and her brilliant essays (collected in Sister/Outsider, 1984) challenged
not only axioms of Western thought but white feminist assumptions, and consis-
tently highlighted the importance of emotion as exemplied in her essay Poetry is
Not a Luxury.bell hooks(1981) title invoked Sojourner Truths demand, AintI
a Woman?,reminding feminists of ongoing questions regarding who has the
power to dene women,not only during the womens suffrage movement, but
still today. Women of color increasingly challenged the unaddressed racist
assumptions of second wave feminism, including the white, middle-class concerns
common to consciousness-raising, concerns that often didnt apply to their sisters of
color (Echols 1989; Moraga and Anzaldúa1981).
After the early interventions of feminist pedagogies, it is predominantly feminist
scholars from the mid 1970s who began to pioneer new scholarly directions related
to the politics of emotion. These include the work of anthropologist Michelle
Rosaldo (1974), philosopher Marilyn Frye (1983), educational philosopher Nel
Noddings (1984). In her groundbreaking work The Managed Heart:
Commercialization of Human Feeling, sociologist Arlie Hochschild (1983) con-
tributed a study of women stewards’“emotional laborin the airline industry,
illustrating key concepts such as feeling rules(p. 17) and emotion work(p. 7).
In 1989 philosopher Alison Jaggar follows political theorist Catherine
MacKinnons (1981) assertion that consciousness raising is to feminism what labor
is to Marxism,when she develops a signicant epistemological intervention in her
essay, Love and Knowledge(1989): Critical reection on emotion is not a
self-indulgent substitute for political analysis and political action. It is itself a kind
of political theory and political practice, indispensable for an adequate social theory
and social transformation(Jaggar 1989, p. 64). Like MacKinnon, Jaggars argu-
ment counters the Marxist critique
that reecting on subjective experience is a
bourgeois cultural endeavor not necessary for political revolution. Outlining
emotional hegemony and emotional subversion, (p. 159) Jaggar coined the term
outlaw emotions(p. 160) which represents a radical intervention in the hege-
monic discourses that naturalize womensemotions as pathological and personal.
She argues that by forming our emotional constitution in particular ways, our
society helps to ensure its own perpetuation. The dominant values are implicit in
responses taken to be precultural; or acultural, our so-called gut responses(Jaggar
1989, p. 160; see also Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990). By contrast, outlaw emotions
are incompatible with the dominant perceptions and values, and some, though
certainly not all, of these outlaw emotions are potentially or actually feminist
emotions(Jaggar 1989, p. 161).
Also bridging this divide between Marxism and the question of emotions, in 1981 The Socialist
Review published U.C. Berkeley scholar Peter Lymans pioneering essay, The Politics of Anger.
2 Interview with Megan Boler 21
In sum, the womens liberation movement not only developed feminist peda-
gogies that explicitly valued emotions as knowledge, but as well, laid the
groundwork for the rst womens studies departments established in higher edu-
cation. By the early 1980s, feminist scholarship had gained legitimate institutional
spaces and tactics (such as feminist pedagogies) to challenge the patriarchal binaries
of emotion/reason that silence and dismiss emotions within realms of learning and
knowledge creation.
MZ: How, then, do you perceive contemporary scholarship on the so called
affective turn?
MB: Affect theory emerged in the mid-1990s, and continues to trend as one of
the more popular areas of contemporary scholarship. The affective turnmay be
understood as having two primary lines of inquiry: a trajectory that builds from the
psychoanalytic work of Silvan Tomkins; and a second trajectory that draws on the
philosophy of Baruch Spinoza as highlighted rst by Deleuze and Guattari and then
Brian Massumi. This second line of inquiry distinguishes feeling as personal;
emotion as a socio-linguistic xingor qualied intensity(Massumi 1995, p. 7);
and affect as a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed
and unstructured potential. [A]ffect cannot be fully realised in language, and
is always prior to and/or outside of consciousness (Shouse 2005).
The affective turn has done us the major service of popularizing the study of
emotion and affect. To date, however, this now fashionable arena relies heavily on a
couple of oft-cited readings/uses of Spinoza, and thus a great deal of what counts as
affect theoryis not even secondary but tertiary readings or even further removed,
from original sources. This also results in confusions such as presuming that the
hypothesized autonomy of affectis a concept foundational to all affect theoryor
to Spinozas philosophy. In fact, the autonomy of affect(Massumi 2002)isa
concept built on an (unreplicated) empirical study that found a gapbetween the
affect experienced in the body and the conscious registeringof that affect.
Scholars have attached themselves fervently to this gapand its apparently vast
promise of affectsfreedom, giving hope in the bleak, post-post-modernist
landscape where agencyseems lost forever. While there is much more to be said,
it is fascinating to witness the incredible appeal of an embodied force not polluted
or constrainedby the familiar traps of cognition and consciousness.
Along these lines, affect theoristscentrally engage capacities,potential,how
bodies affect one anotherconcepts sufciently open-ended, and bordering on
poetic, to enable scholars to interpret/riff on these sexy themes without pushing the
more demanding socio-political implications of such accounts. (Quite similarly,
Raymond Williams(1977) concept of the structures of feelingexpressed a
similarly exciting zeitgeist, and since Williams did not develop the concept at
length, its open-ended quality allows for generous interpretation; generations of
scholars have been able to use structures of feelingin every conceivable way).
In their Introduction to The Affect Theory Reader, Gregg and Seigworth (2010)
outline eight orientations to theorizing affect. One of these they describe as
politically-engaged workperhaps most often undertaken by feminists, queer
theorists, disability activists, and subaltern peoples living under the thumb of a
22 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
normativizing powerthat attend to the hard and fast materialities, as well as the
eeting and owing ephemera, of the daily and the workdayand of experience
(understood in ways far more collective and externalrather than individual and
interior). (Gregg and Seigworth 2010, p. 7) This formulation most closely
parallels what I term the feminist politics of emotion.
What I nd most puzzling about the affective turnis the resounding silence
about the feminist interventions weve discussed here, interventions that arguably
laid the groundwork for the popular uptake of affect theoryin this 21st century.
Thinking generously, one might forgive the absence of attention to feminist
scholarly pioneers; but even putting feminist histories aside, given the persisting
binaries that link women with emotion, men with reasonsurely gender (and race,
and class) are central to analyses of affect within patriarchal cultures? Without
attention to socio-political hierarchies maintained by feeling rulesand resisted by
outlaw emotions,affect theory falls short of its potential as theory that can be put
to work. Just as the elds of cultural studies have been challenged to engage their
theories with praxis, so must affect theory be concerned with praxis, with materi-
ality and everyday life that grounds such theory. But perhaps this hope merely
reveals my own commitments to public intellectualism and activism, to discerning
where the rubber hits the road, as they say. Personally, I am less interested in
developing techniques for literary and cultural analysis, than I am in the
socio-political implications of our scholarship.
Gregg and Seigworth pose a related concern to Grossberg, and ask Is it possible
that affect itself has been over invested by theory? Is there a way that affect lets one
off the hook?(2010, p. 314)
I do think that affect can let you off the hook. Because it has come to serve, now, too often
as a magicalterm. So, if something has effects that are, lets say, non-representational then
we can just describe it as affect. So, I think there is a lot of theorizing that does not do the
harder work of specifying modalities and apparatuses of affect, or distinguishing affect from
other sorts of non-semantic effects, or, as I said, analyzing the articulations betweenthe
ontological and the empirical. I think that sometimes affect lets people off the hook
because it lets them appeal back to an ontology that escapes. (p. 315)
It is worth noting that to the extent that affectnow functions as the magical
catch-all term, it replaces some of the ways in which the psychoanalytic concept of
the unconsciousfunctioned (prior to the affective turn) as a way to account for
the many leakagesand escapes of emotions and affect, its myriad ways of resisting
our capture, articulation measurement, perception, and consciousness.
Indeed, for those interested in the political signicance of emotions and affect,
affectis now all too easily invoked as a gesture towards the virtual, the possible
potential, and capacities. However, the most recent emergence of new material-
ismand agential realism(Barad 2012) suggests promising directions for
rethinking the virtualand perhaps grounding this more helpfully within entangled
material relations.
MZ: To go back to an idea you said earlier about a feminist politics of emotion
being necessarily inter-and multidisciplinary, I would like to ask you how
contemporary work on affect can benet from more inter-and multi-disciplinary
2 Interview with Megan Boler 23
approaches. To put this differently, what does this imply in terms of how we study
emotion and affect?
MB: Contemporary analyses of emotion necessarily must draw upon multi-,
cross-, and interdisciplinary studies. The need for such interdisciplinary approaches
are required precisely because of the complexity of emotion. Firstly, what might we
even mean by emotionthe feel, the physiological state? Do we mean eeting
emotions, triggered by obvious environmental events; moods; evaluations, cogni-
tive appraisals nonetheless informed by emotive perceptions? Do we mean emo-
tions as involuntary responses of ght and ight? Do we mean emotions as
socially-constructed responses to complex social contexts and cues?
The recognition of whereemotion or affect might be foundis, at least,
recognized as a trickier question than understood in previous historical periods and
within older disciplinary traditions. With the advent of new modalities of data
visualizationtechniques of tracking and measuringaffective statesthe necessity
of new multi- and cross-disciplinary collaboration has never been more pressing.
Not only are emotions, as states or objects of analysis, increasingly recognized as
inhabiting or existing in different dimensions of the body, self, person, or subject
(depending on your disciplinary purview), but there is opportunity for collaborative
research and study in and of the overlapping realms in which affect is seen to
inhabitor circulate.
No matter the extent to which scholars develop and expand theories of affect, for
example, and no matter what roles neuroscience is understood to play in shaping
what we identify and track as emotions, socio-cultural studies of emotion will
always require analyses of the contextualizing inuence of gendered ideologies that
dene what counts as acceptable or goodemotions, etc. My salient point here is
that, whatever radical changes in theorizations or sciences of affect and emotion we
may witness, the entrenched ideological aspectssuch as those that inevitably
associate particular emotions, emotional labor, and the social burden of character
educationwith womenhave not and likely will not change signicantly.
Although the gendered character of emotional laboris recognized a bit more
widely today than it was in the 1980s, more often than not emotionality is still used
to keep women in their place,contained in domestic spheres and excluded from
public and political spheres. Indeed, to answer your question, these new areas of
inquiry call for research from across the disciplines. Emotion, affect, or con-
sciousness cannot possibly be grasped by any one disciplinary approach except as a
highly partial narrative.
MZ: So, if I asked you, then, to describe the most important recent developments
(analytical/methodological/theoretical etc.) in studying emotion, affect and con-
sciousness in education in recent years, what would you say?
MB: I would cite the innovative, interdisciplinary, and prolic contributions you
have made to educational studies throughout your career, Michalinos, quite seri-
ously. In addition, I would answer this by pointing to the riskiest or most potentially
dangerousimplications of the most recent developments. And here, I see two:
rstly, the most challenging and potentially dangerousdevelopment is represented
by neuroscientic accounts of emotion that effectively reinscribe discourses of
24 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
emotions as biologically rooted, as entirely matters of nature rather than culture.
Secondly, as I have been arguing, it is apparently all too easy to erase or forget the
gendered realities of emotion and the feminist scholarship that put emotion on the
map. This risk of adding another layer of misogyny into the histories of emotion, by
erasing feministswork, is all too real, especially if affect theorists choose not to
ignore the ways in which feminist politics of emotion and affect theory might
productively, mutually inform one another. Nonetheless, both risky directions leave
ample room to explore the implications for education, teaching and learning.
Contemporary scientic investigations and research on the brain and in the areas of
neuroscience has potentially radical signicance for studies of emotion. However,
no matter how advanced these new forms of measurement and data visualization
become, there will remain variables, idiosyncratic differences, cultural differences,
and differences in social mores and rules that govern emotional behavior, conduct,
expression, and reective practices with regards to human experience of emotions.
So while some may anticipate that emotions will be entirely described and predicted
by neuro- and brain science in years to come, it would be easy to overstate how and
what such measurements and visualizations will contribute to cultural studies of
emotion and affect.
MZ: And to go back to the contribution of the affective turnin studying
emotion and emotion. How does this bear on questions of emotion and affect?
MB: Critical humanities scholars may nally have an incredible opportunity to
intervene in the ethically precarious intersection of brain science, data visualization,
and the applications of these techno-scientic information into human (affect)
Patricia Clough recognizes this potential when she writes:
Affect is also theorized in relation to the technologies that are allowing us both
to seeaffect and to produce affective bodily capacities beyond the bodys
organic-physiological constraints. The techno scientic experimentation with affect
not only traverses the opposition of the organic and the nonorganic; it also inserts
the technical into felt vitality, the felt aliveness given in the pre-individual bodily
capacities to act, to engage, to connectto affect and be affected. The affective turn,
therefore, expresses a new conguration of bodies, technology and matter that is
instigating a shift in thought in critical theory.(2010, pp. 23).
The most promising areas of scholarly development that will, I believe, become
increasingly indispensable in our studies of emotion will be work such as that of
Manuel DeLanda (2013), Rosi Braidotti (2013) and Karen Barad (2012), often
associated with new materialism, who bring complexity theory to bear on studies of
the social and biological. Manuel DeLandas(2013) book Intensive Science and
Virtual Philosophy outlines dynamical systems theory, differential geometry, and
complexity theory, all of which can expand the current invocations of Spinozas
notions of capacities and potentials of bodies. Such analyses of multiplicities and
the manifold provide innovative directions for understanding the materiality of
entanglements, contradictions, and frictions that constitute the realities of affect and
emotions in their relational contexts.
2 Interview with Megan Boler 25
Arguing against notions of essence(such as the commonly accepted
assumption that the essence of being human is to be a rational animal,Massumi
2002,p.2)i.e., pre-determined, a priori or otherwise ahistorical traits presumed to
transcend individual instancesDeLanda (2013) draws on a Deleuzian ontology
that replaces the notion of xed essence with the morphogenetic process. A focus
on this process understands species as historically constituted entitiesrather than
a timeless category (DeLanda 2013, p. 8). This underscores a dynamic rather than
static way of accounting for identities, differences, and similarities. DeLanda thus
radically sidesteps essentialism by drawing on notions of multiplicities and the
manifold (2013); drawing from Deleuze, he outlines in this book how multiplic-
ities specify the structure of spaces of possibilities(p. 10). Multiplicities are
concrete universals(p. 13); unlike an essence, the universality of a multiplicity is
typically divergent(p. 22) and the focus on multiplicity over essence allows for a
theory of progressive differentiation.
How does this bear on questions of emotion and affect? My suggestion is that, in
fact, the most robust work in new materialism can be productively put into con-
versation with scholarship on emotion and affect from across disciplines. We need
an ontology of affects that recognizes the dynamic and non-static relationality
within time and space, that simultaneously allows us to speak in some generalities
about particular affects or emotions, but also to understand how singular instances
of emotion and affectwhile part of a dynamic process described by such notions as
that of multiplicitiesare signicant in their very differentiation.
Related to the issue of understanding multiplicity and differentiation as described
by dynamical relation theory, another challenge for future studies is to understand
how contemporary scholarship on affect can pay tribute to feminist, historical
predecessors. The scholars engaging feminist politics of emotion courageously
blazed trails into Western Enlightenment theory with radical new theorizations of
emotions. These accounts understand emotions to be embedded in the materiality of
lived experience. How do socially- and culturally-constructed rules of emotion
dene identities, determine communities, and which bodies are permitted the
privilege to express which emotions?
By taking into account the gendered and feminist histories that form the bedrock
of emotion and affectsplacewithin Western culture and discourses, work on
affect might be able to deliver much-needed interventions into binarizedscholarly
discourses that still shun emotion and affect. With due recognition to these feminist
and gendered histories, scholars can acknowledge the pioneering intellectual and
political histories that made the affective turnpossible.
MZ: Turning to your current research, how do you position your approach
nowadays in relation to the developments in studying emotions in education in
recent years?
MB: Sarah Ahmeds(2004) work resonates closely with my own commitment to
the feminist politics of emotions. As Gregg and Seigworth pose in a question to
Grossberg (2010):
26 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
There is a strong body of feminist work on emotion and affect and, within affect theory
itself, there are denite disciplinary differences within and across philosophy, psychology,
critical race studies, and feminist standpoint theoryjust to name a few. Were thinking
especially of the way that women have historically been associated with emotion and
hysteria as part of a wider effort to distinguish particular groups as incapable of rational
thought and hence scholarly practice. Isnt part of the continued difculty then in theorizing
affect and emotion partly due to how the historical trajectory of both terms has been used to
dismiss and trivialize others in the past, and even still today? (p. 316)
It is precisely these ideological aspects of emotions lived experience and role in
dening social hierarchies of power (intersecting not just with gender but also with
race, class, and other identifying/marginalizing categories) that continue to require
scholarly attention and intervention.
MZ: And in terms of the key challenges you see for research into emotions and
education in the next 20 years?
I see three key challenges:
1. To engage humanities and cultural studies scholarship with work in the neu-
rosciences and in affect theory, to engage non-linear complex dynamic theory to
address emotion and affect. While Massumis(2002) examples of autonomic
responses as signicantly constitutive of affect provides a jumping-off point,
DeLandas(2013) analyses of the manifold and multiplicities and Barads
(2012)agential realismand determination to queer the binary,offer nuanced
analyses that promise even more persuasive accounts as these are put into
conversation with affect theories.
2. In relation to education, to develop pedagogies that can engage emotions and
affect as part of the necessary work of critical pedagogiespedagogies that
ensure more than what I have termed drive-by difference(Boler 2007) and
that invite students to reexively re-evaluate closely-held assumptions, values
and beliefs within a socio-historical frame. We urgently need new pedagogies
suited to MOOCs and exponential expansion of online learning (Boler 2015).
3. Finally, we will be challenged to work against prescriptive formulations of
character education that seek to impose universalized, reductive, and/or dehis-
toricized ideas of what counts as correctand properor suitable emotions. In a
closely related vein, the rise of neuroscience as explanatory models for emotion
are already working hand-in-hand with prescriptive educational policies and
pedagogies; neuroscience can too easily be drawn upon in reductive ways to
bolster universalized assumptions about emotions. This underscores the impor-
tance of taking up the agential realism and new materialism of DeLanda and
Barad as discussed above, approaches informed by and resonant with the work of
scholars like Braidotti and Haraway. These radical directions support our
ongoing efforts to move beyond violent Western dualisms that threaten, still, to
marginalize a feminist politics of emotions. This encourages cross-disciplinary
conversation between those interested in radical educational practices of free-
dom, and the science and policy-oriented arenas that increasingly seek to dene
static emotional norms.
2 Interview with Megan Boler 27
These last two challenges require ongoing education and interventions into domi-
nant cultural values and systems, such as gendered expectations and roles discussed
earlier in our interview. To enactmuch less to developsuch pedagogies goes
beyond what is emphasized in nearly all teacher education programs. And frankly,
the strongest contemporary scholarship in education that engages emotions and
pedagogies with nessed socio-political analyses is the body of work you have been
contributing since we rst met, so many years ago!
MZ: And nally, what impact would you like your work to have on epistemo-
logical and/or methodological understandings of and research on emotion in
MB: To begin with Gregg and Seigworths(2010) powerful quote:
There is no single, generalizable theory of affect: not yet, and (thankfully) there never will
be. If anything, it is more tempting to imagine that there can only ever be innitely multiple
iterations of affect and theories of affect: theories as diverse and singularly delineated as
their own highly particular encounters with bodies, affects, worlds. (Isnt theoryany
theory with or without a capital Tsupposed to work this way? Operating with a certain
modest methodological vitality rather than impressing itself upon a wiggling world like a
snap-on grid of shape-setting interpretability?)(pp. 34)
I have already been inspired by the myriad scholars who have taken up Feeling
Power: Emotions and Education (1999) amongst my other essays in this arena, to
build upon and pioneer innovative directions of inquiry regarding emotions and
education. In terms of how my scholarship may illuminate epistemological con-
cerns: How can we expand our understandings of emotion and affect without
replicating misleading binary divisions between emotion and reason? We can, at
minimum, hone our scepticism regarding disciplinary approaches that presume
binaristic paradigms. These theoretical challenges map fairly directly onto
methodological challenges: How do we investigate various phenomenon related to
emotion and affect without reproducing the dualisms so endemic to language, to
Western thought, metaphysics, epistemologies? Given the radical and extensive
scholarship now available in nearly every discipline that challenges head-on mis-
leading presumptions of binary oppositions as somehow given (whether by nature,
God, or even social norms), there is little excuse for engaging overly-reductionistic
conceptualizations of emotion and affect.
Trained as I was under the mentorship of scholars such as Hayden White, Donna
Haraway, Helene Moglen, and Jim Clifford in the History of Consciousness
graduate programmethodology itself must be approached with healthy scepticism,
rst and foremost with attention to the performance and presentation of any
knowledge, claim about its scalability and generalizability. If we can successfully
balance this skepticism while developing novel approaches to researching emotion
and affect in its sometimes ineffable complexity, then I see hope for the future of
inter- and multidisciplinary research into emotions and education that can avoid
reproducing such pitfalls as one size ts allcharacter education, or easy invo-
cations of empathy as a teachable skill that serves as the panacea for all social ills.
To date, my early work in emotion and education has helped to catalyze reexive
theoretical forays and praxis I hoped for but dared not imagine: a generation of
28 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
scholars who take seriously the ways in which social hierarchies of power deter-
mine who can express which emotions in what forms; who is excluded or included
by virtue of emotional norms and behaviors; and how emotions can be granted their
full and salient place within educational contexts. Emotion and affect in teaching
and learning have a profound role in epistemological and ethical reexivity,
requiring a critical praxis necessary to create inclusive spaces for all voices in the
never-nished work of freedom.
I look forward to greater cross-disciplinary conversation between elds such as
educational theory, and those disciplines presently engaged in the popularized
interest in affect (such as comparative literature, continental philosophy, cultural
studies, and feminist and queer theory). The general lack of engagement with
educational studies returns us to my central point: a feminist politics of emotion is
historically rooted in the pioneering work of those committed to liberatory praxis of
feminist, critical and radical pedagogies. And just as emotions have been ignored
due to their (female) gendered association, so too is educational theory often
overlooked, in no small part because of its gendered associations, which tend to
position educational theories outside the respected purview of much scholarship.
MZ: Thank you very much Megan for this thought-provoking interview!
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Author Biographies
Megan Boler is Professor of media and education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,
University of Toronto. Her books include Feeling Power: Emotions and Education (Routledge
1999); Democratic Dialogue in Education (Peter Lang 2004); Digital Media and Democracy:
Tactics in Hard Times (MIT Press, 2008); and DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media
(eds. Ratto and Boler, MIT Press, 2014). Her current funded research Social Media in the Hands
of Young Citizensis a mixed-methods study of women participantsexperience in the Occupy
Wall Street movement, including interviews with women in seven North American cities.
Michalinos Zembylas is Associate Professor of Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies at the
Open University of Cyprus. He is also Visiting Professor and Research Fellow at the Institute for
Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State, South Africa. He has written
extensively on emotion and affect in relation to social justice pedagogies, intercultural and peace
education, human rights education and citizenship education. His latest book is titled Emotion and
Traumatic Conict: Re-claiming Healing in Education (Oxford, 2015).
30 M. Boler and M. Zembylas
... Theoretical examinations of emotion and affect are diverse and conflictual, including on whether this domain should be considered a new focus or 'turn' in interdisciplinary scholarly work (Ahmed, 2004(Ahmed, /2015Boler & Zembylas, 2016;Clough, 2007). In introducing an affect theory reader, Gregory Seigworth and Melissa Gregg (2010) trace out both longer standing and newer approaches to affect, providing a framework of eight overlapping orientations. ...
... Finally, like the policy mobilities literature, this and related orientations to affect are overtly political and critical. They recognize the importance of (i) examining the specifics, rather than generalities, of how power works affectively, and (ii) not only positively invoking the capacities of affect, as in some other approaches to affect (Anderson, 2014;Boler & Zembylas, 2016;Grossberg, 2014). Taking various conditions of social and economic insecurity under contemporary capitalism as their focus, the analyses of Anderson, Stewart, Berlant, for example, take a similar problematic to the critical economic geography orientations of policy mobilities scholars such as McCann, Peck, and colleagues. ...
... Starting from the 1980s, within the fields of sociology, anthropology, gender studies, and cultural studies, emotions have been understood as socially and collectively constructed rather than as private experiences. The main premises of socially oriented views on emotion are that emotional expressions are dependent on learned rules (which are socially and culturally constituted), and that the interpersonal components of emotion should be acknowledged (Barbalet, 2001;Boler & Zembylas, 2016;Zembylas, 2007). Thus, emotions are not just phenomena that exist in the mind; rather, they are entities that shape and structure social interaction and its consequences (Hareli et al., 2008). ...
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The concept of agency has recently emerged as a fruitful construct in understanding organizational practices and development. However, agency has tended so far to be seen as a rational and goal-oriented phenomenon, with little attention paid to the role of emotions within it. There is thus a need for theoretical discussion on both agency and emotions in organizations, and also on how the two phenomena are related. This paper aims to introduce an elaborated conceptualization of emotional agency at work, based on recent theories on professional agency and emotions in organizational contexts. We suggest that emotional agency can be understood as the competence to perceive, understand, and take into account one’s own emotions and those of others, and further to influence emotions within organizational practices, actions, and interactions. Our paper provides an integrative definition of emotional agency at work (EAW), usable in future research. It also elaborates how emotional agency may function within organizations and their development practices.
... Affective pedagogies (Boler & Zembylas, 2016;Hickey-Moody, 2013;Wolfe, 2017Wolfe, , 2019, not just subject knowledge, are crucial in understanding equity and inclusion at school. Affective pedagogies are eventful, where pedagogy involves experiences of making relational knowledge (Wolfe, 2021) that affects how students feel that they can come to belong in school, within subject fields and beyond. ...
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The capacity to aspire for young people is significant, as they cannot choose to be what they cannot experience or imagine becoming. Student exchange programmes that expand experiences of STEM may increase opportunities, interests, and participation for rural young people in the STEM subject field. This paper creates a cartography with data created from self-reported Year 10 students’ affective responses to experiences undergone during a three-week rural exchange (RE) programme. Students reported increased feelings of belonging to both school and STEM subjects during and after participating in the RE programme. The data created with students during this study provided a deep insight into the positive affective impact of the experiences undergone. Students’ increased aspirations and motivation to continue in STEM fields were reported as sustained on return to their home rural school.
... Specifically, emotions can manifest in the shaping of socio-spatial boundaries of inclusion/exclusion that constitute normativity and deviance in schools (see Beneke, 2021;Siuty, 2019), maintaining processes of racialization (Srivastava, 2006) and disablement (Goodley et al., 2018) over time. As Boler and Zembylas (2016) noted, socially constructed rules of emotions-including taken-for-granted emotional norms in schools and schools of education-operate to define identities and regulate communities. Thus, the extent to which white, nondisabled TCs confirm or resist allegiances to "normalcy" through their emotional practices have material consequences for multiply-marginalized children. ...
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Context Geographies of exclusion (e.g., segregated special education classrooms, school district zoning) are constituted through intersecting oppressive ideologies (e.g., ableism, racism, classism) that co-naturalize notions of “normalcy” and deviance and yield harmful consequences for disabled children of Color. Geographies of exclusion dynamically contribute to and constitute teacher candidates’ feelings about themselves and their social worlds. White teacher candidates’ investment in dominant racial ideologies is well-documented, and recent scholarship has interrogated the role of white emotionality in these processes. However, the extent to which white teacher candidates emotionally ascribe to oppressive constructions of ability have been underexamined. Focus of Study We sought to uncover how white teacher candidates (TCs) used emotional practices to position themselves in relation to ability within geographies of exclusion as they narrated their educational journeys. Such an examination is necessary to upend ongoing constructions of racial-ability hierarchies in and through teacher education. Using disability critical race theory and emotional geographies, our study was guided by the following question: How do white, nondisabled TCs engage in emotional practices in relation to geographies of exclusion? Research Design This critical narrative study took place in two teacher education programs in the Pacific Northwest with 42 white, nondisabled teacher candidates. We drew on qualitative mapping as a method for participants to tell stories about themselves and their relationships to places and people over time. All participants generated narratives through written reflections after creating their maps, clarifying aspects of their maps and providing details not captured in their visual representations. Data sources included 42 written narratives and 36 qualitative maps. We analyzed emotional dimensions of TCs’ written narratives and qualitative maps through multiple rounds of both deductive and inductive coding. Conclusions/Recommendations Our analysis revealed ways white TCs weaponized emotionality to uphold racial-ability hierarchies through emotional geographies of gratitude, ambivalence, and claims to care. By sentimentalizing multiply-marginalized children’s suffering, TCs preserved a façade of being committed to educational justice. We conclude with suggestions for educational researchers, emphasizing that research with white teachers cannot ignore emotional practices that perpetuate harm for multiply-marginalized children. Instead, researchers must surface these engagements head-on, using DisCrit as a driver in teacher education research toward intersectional justice.
... However, during the last few decades, sociological and sociocultural understandings of emotion have become increasingly prominent. These approaches tend to emphasize emotions as socioculturally and collectively constructed interpersonal entities that are dependent on learned rules, and as socially produced categories and concepts (Barbalet, 2001;Russell, 2003;Boler and Zembylas, 2016). Thus, emotions are not seen primarily as phenomena existing in the mind but rather as entities that shape social interaction and its consequences (Hareli et al., 2008). ...
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Despite intensive research on agency in education and work environments, the topic remains underexplored through the lens of emotions. This study conducted the development and validation of a quantitative measure to explore emotional agency in working life. Empirical data (N = 240) were collected via a web-based survey within the professional domains of healthcare and real estate services. The participants’ age, educational level, and gender corresponded to the domain-specific and general employee distribution in Finland. The questionnaire items were based on a theoretical construct of emotional agency at work. Exploratory factor analysis indicated that emotional agency includes two dimensions: Emotional Competence at Work and Influencing Emotions at Work. Exploratory structural equation modeling showed these dimensions to be equivalent across the studied professional domains. Furthermore, the convergent and discriminant validity of the measure was confirmed in relation to the emotional climate at work and work engagement. The study enriches the current theory of agency and emotions at work by exploring their connection. It also proposes a novel measure of emotional agency at work (the E-Ag measure), offered as a useful tool for researching and developing working life and organizational behavior.
This chapter takes a different trajectory from the book thus far. It shifts from ontological questions of the constitution of educational leading as practice, how it shapes, enables and constrains, to epistemological questions of how we come to know in a practice such as leading. In so doing, it addresses a major silence in practice approaches, namely the crucial role that emotions play in the unfolding, evolution and transformation of educational practice. The chapter brings practice architectures theory into dialogue with theorising on emotions and affect in the social sciences, feminist scholarship in gender and organising, and the concept of emotional labour. It extends and deepens recent theorising of emotions and affect in practice theory, including practice architectures theory and site ontologies. As such, it addresses the vexed question of how and why emotions matter for practice, pedagogy and praxis in educating and leading.
By exploring the material-discursive production of gender norms, this book takes a feminist posthuman new materialist standpoint that questions how schoolgirls materialize as pre-determined with educational space and place. An argument is developed on how gender and race inequity is produced through erasure of what has not yet been imagined and by a failure to recognize student potential that is not yet determinate. The volume presents a mapping of student re/accounts of everyday experiences undergone in Australian secondary schools as first and foremost affective accounts. Student negotiations with prescriptive processes of subject participation and subject selection are explored to illustrate how inequities are systematically brought into existence and include an examination of the making of STEM subject fields as entitled male space. Engaging theoretically with concepts from performative feminist new materialism and affect theory, the text maps filmic semblances created as part of an onto-epistemological project, and features chapters that call for alternative educational encounters which affirmatively acknowledge difference and promote non-binary thinking. This text will benefit researchers, academics, and educators with an interest in gender and sexuality education, teacher education, STEM education, gender inequality, intersectionality, and the sociology of education. Those interested in gender studies, affect theory and feminist theory, as well as educational policy and politics more broadly will also benefit from this book.
This article inquires into what sort of socioemotional education and conviviality are produced when pleasurable literary reading is encouraged in neoliberal cultures. We critically explore the celebration of reading for socioemotional education as it is produced in official government documents distributed to schools in Chile. Assisted by Sara Ahmed’s conceptualisation of the cultural politics of emotions and Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic theory, we highlight how literary reading is promoted as a tool to manage difference and resolve conflict. We relate the hopes set on reading to a celebratory cult of happiness in which structural injustices are erased.
The article describes the notion of teacher’s emotional labor, which is an important and often neglected subject in didactics and pedeutology. The thesis is that the manner in which a teacher's emotional labor is being conceptualized affects test method and interpretation. The article presents three different manners in which emotional labor may be conceptualized: (1) emotional labor as process of emotion regulation (psychological approach); (2) emotional labor as a work requirement (sociological approach); (3) emotional labor as a transformation and development tool/as a byproductive labor (critical approach). Each approach is assigned to a different methodological perspective which may be used by educational researchers: (1) quantitative research; (2) qualitative research; (3) “new'' qualitative studies.
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This mixed-method research explores how students (ages 12–15) describe dispositional qualities for belonging and fitting in one junior high school. Inductive coding of open-ended responses about perceptions of belonging in school shows candor about the emotional performances and management of emotions for belonging at school. Recommendations for being authentic, nice, and friendly emerged as relevant for belonging. Findings suggest that students perform niceness and friendliness to conform to emotion norms while seeking to retain authenticity. Smiling in particular was referenced as a way to perform niceness and friendliness. Chi-square and binomial logistic regression analyses add context to how advice categories were distributed across status groups at the school. Students who speak a language other than English at home, or with minority religious affiliation were more likely to report a need for authenticity. Female as compared with male students were more likely to suggest each of the three dispositions for belonging in the school. The emotional work of students is noteworthy wherein there are potential sanctions for those not considered nice, or nice enough, and this work augments existing research on school belonging to add the often-missing student voices to enhance the corpus of research about belonging in adolescence.
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Emotions, and truths, are in crisis. in 2005, halfway through the stunning legacy of the bush-cheney-rumsfeld trifecta, stephen colbert kicked off the debut of The Colbert Report and his parodic critique of mendacious politicians and news outlets like Fox by popularizing the notion of “truthiness.” Welcome to the brave new world where felt truths replace facts! The concept of truthiness spread like wildfire, capturing the global zeitgeist. The public crisis of faith in traditionally trusted sources of authority reflects a profound skepticism experienced by many around the world besides discerning dissidents: all we are certain of is that truths proffered by governments, the media, and corporations are constructions (Boler, “Daily Show”; Boler with Turpin). But when we add to this mix the interests of corporate capitalism and science in designing citizens, can we even trust truthiness, what “I feel… to be true”? Or, as Samantha asks in the film Her , “Am I feeling these feelings? Are they mine? Or are they programmed?”
AFFECT/AFFECTION. Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattai). L’affect (Spinoza’s affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act. L’affection (Spinoza’s affection) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body … (Massumi, Plateaus xvi) Although feeling and affect are routinely used interchangeably, it is important not to confuse affect with feelings and emotions. As Brian Massumi’s definition of affect in his introduction to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus makes clear, affect is not a personal feeling. Feelings are personal and biographical, emotions are social, and affects are prepersonal. In the remainder of this essay, I will attempt to unpack the previous sentence and provide some examples that will illustrate why the distinction I’ve made between feelings, emotions, and affects is more than pedantry. A feeling is a sensation that has been checked against previous experiences and labelled. It is personal and biographical because every person has a distinct set of previous sensations from which to draw when interpreting and labelling their feelings. An infant does not experience feelings because she/he lacks both language and biography. Yet, almost every parent will state unequivocally that their child has feelings and expresses them regularly (what the parent is actually bearing witness to is affect, about which, more shortly). An emotion is the projection/display of a feeling. Unlike feelings, the display of emotion can be either genuine or feigned. The distinction between feelings and emotions was highlighted by an experiment conducted by Paul Ekman who videotaped American and Japanese subjects as they watched films depicting facial surgery. When they watched alone, both groups displayed similar expressions. When they watched in groups, the expressions were different. We broadcast emotion to the world; sometimes that broadcast is an expression of our internal state and other times it is contrived in order to fulfill social expectations. Infants display emotions although they do not have the biography nor language skills to experience feelings. The emotions of the infant are direct expressions of affect. An affect is a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed and unstructured potential. Of the three central terms in this essay – feeling, emotion, and affect – affect is the most abstract because affect cannot be fully realised in language, and because affect is always prior to and/or outside of consciousness (Massumi, Parables). Affect is the body’s way of preparing itself for action in a given circumstance by adding a quantitative dimension of intensity to the quality of an experience. The body has a grammar of its own that cannot be fully captured in language because it “doesn’t just absorb pulses or discrete stimulations; it infolds contexts…” (Massumi, Parables 30). Before this gets too abstract, let’s return to the example of the infant. An infant has no language skills with which to cognitively process sensations, nor a history of previous experiences from which to draw in assessing the continuous flow of sensations coursing through his or her body. Therefore, the infant has to rely upon intensities (a term that Massumi equates with affect). “Affects are comprised of correlated sets of responses involving the facial muscles, the viscera, the respiratory system, the skeleton, autonomic blood flow changes, and vocalisations that act together to produce an analogue of the particular gradient or intensity of stimulation impinging on the organism” (Demos 19). The key here is that for the infant affect is innate. Through facial expression, respiration, posture, color, and vocalisations infants are able to express the intensity of the stimulations that impinge upon them. Thus, parents are correct when they say their children express emotion. On the other hand, they are incorrect when they attribute feelings to the little tots. Their offspring have neither the biography nor the language to feel. The transition from childhood to adulthood is one in which we partially learn how to bring the display of emotion under conscious control. Affects, however, remain non-conscious and unformed and “are aroused easily by factors over which the individual has little control . . .” (Tompkins 54). For the infant affect is emotion, for the adult affect is what makes feelings feel. It is what determines the intensity (quantity) of a feeling (quality), as well as the background intensity of our everyday lives (the half-sensed, ongoing hum of quantity/quality that we experience when we are not really attuned to any experience at all). One of the simplest ways to understand how affect continues to operate meaningfully in the lives of adults even after they have gained some conscious control over their emotions is to look at an individual whose affect system has gone haywire. Neurologist, Oliver Sacks, described his experience with such a person. She was an elderly patient who had suffered a hip fracture. The fracture resulted in the immobilisation of her leg for an extended period of time. At the time Sacks began working with her, the woman hadn’t regained feeling in her leg in three years. She was not able to consciously move her leg and she felt that it was “missing.” However, when she heard music she would involuntarily tap her foot to the beat. “This suggested the possibility of music therapy – ordinary physiotherapy had been of no use. Using support (a walker, etc.), we were able gradually to get her to dance, and we finally achieved a virtually complete recovery of the leg, even though it had been defunct for three years” (Sacks 170-1). The woman in the previous story couldn’t move her leg via the usual conscious mechanisms because the leg had become disconnected from her a-conscious awareness of her body, or “proprioception.” Proprioception is the “continuous but unconscious sensory flow from the movable parts of our body (muscles, tendons, joints), by which their position and tone and motion are continually monitored and adjusted, but in a way which is hidden from us because it is automatic and unconscious” (Sacks 43). Affect adds intensity, or a sense of urgency to proprioception which is why music – the recollection of which is partially stored in the body – could move this woman’s leg when will alone could not. What is remarkable about the story of the woman whose leg danced all on its own is not so much that affect trumped will in this particular case, but that this is just one example of the way in which affect always precedes will and consciousness (Massumi, Parables 29). At any moment hundreds, perhaps thousands of stimuli impinge upon the human body and the body responds by infolding them all at once and registering them as an intensity. Affect is this intensity. In the infant it is pure expression; in the adult it is pure potential (a measure of the body’s readiness to act in a given circumstance). Silvan Tompkins explains that affect has the power to influence consciousness by amplifying our awareness of our biological state: The affect mechanism is like the pain mechanism in this respect. If we cut our hand, saw it bleeding, but had no innate pain receptors, we would know we had done something which needed repair, but there would be no urgency to it. Like our automobile which needs a tune-up, we might well let it go until next week when we had more time. But the pain mechanism, like the affect mechanism, so amplifies our awareness of the injury which activates it that we are forced to be concerned, and concerned immediately (Tomkins 88). Without affect feelings do not “feel” because they have no intensity, and without feelings rational decision-making becomes problematic (Damasio 204-22). In short, affect plays an important role in determining the relationship between our bodies, our environment, and others, and the subjective experience that we feel/think as affect dissolves into experience. What does all of this mean for individuals who are interested in media and cultural studies? It means that describing “media effects” in terms of the communication of ideology sometimes results in the post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy. This has to do with the second term in Massumi’s definitions of affect/affection. L’affection is the process whereby affect is transmitted between bodies. “The transmission of affect means that we are not self-contained in terms of our energies. There is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment’” (Brennan 6). Because affect is unformed and unstructured (unlike feelings and emotions) it can be transmitted between bodies. The importance of affect rests upon the fact that in many cases the message consciously received may be of less import to the receiver of that message than his or her non-conscious affective resonance with the source of the message. Music provides perhaps the clearest example of how the intensity of the impingement of sensations on the body can “mean” more to people than meaning itself. As Jeremy Gilbert put it, “Music has physical effects which can be identified, described and discussed but which are not the same thing as it having meanings, and any attempt to understand how music works in culture must . . . be able to say something about those effects without trying to collapse them into meanings.” In a lot of cases, the pleasure that individuals derive from music has less to do with the communication of meaning, and far more to do with the way that a particular piece of music “moves” them. While it would be wrong to say that meanings do not matter, it would be just as foolish to ignore the role of biology as we try to grasp the cultural effects of music. Of course, music is not the only form of expression that has the potential to transmit affect. Every form of communication where facial expressions, respiration, tone of voice, and posture are perceptible can transmit affect, and that list includes nearly every form of mediated communication other than the one you are currently experiencing. Let me clarify that the transmission of affect does not mean that one person’s feelings become another’s. The transmission of affect is about the way that bodies affect one another. When your body infolds a context and another body (real or virtual) is expressing intensity in that context, one intensity is infolded into another. By resonating with the intensity of the contexts it infolds, the body attempts to ensure that it is prepared to respond appropriately to a given circumstance. Given the ubiquity of affect, it is important to take note that the power of many forms of media lies not so much in their ideological effects, but in their ability to create affective resonances independent of content or meaning. The power of affect lies in the fact that it is unformed and unstructured (abstract). It is affect’s “abstractivity” that makes it transmittable in ways that feelings and emotions are not, and it is because affect is transmittable that it is potentially such a powerful social force. This is why it is important not to confuse affect with feelings and emotions, and why I agree with Brian Massumi that Lawrence Grossberg’s term “affective investments” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If, as Massumi proposes, affect is “unformed and unstructured,” and it is always prior to and/or outside of conscious awareness, how is one to “invest” in it (Parables 260)? Investment presumes forethought and a site for deposit, and affect precedes thought and is as stable as electricity. This isn’t to say that there aren’t practices where certain enhancing forms of affect are more prevalent, only that the people who engage in those practices are not investing in affect, but rather in the hope of being moved. Of course, one of the lessons of cultural studies is that investing in hope has moved people before. References Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell U. P., 2004. Damasio, Antonio. Descartes’ Error. 1994. New York: Quill, 2000. Demos, Virginia E. “An Affect Revolution: Silvan Tompkin’s Affect Theory.” Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S. Tompkins. Ed. Virginia E. Demos. New York: Press Syndicate of the U. of Cambridge, 1995: 17-26. Ekman, Paul. “Universal and Cultural Differences in Facial Expression of Emotion.” Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Ed. J. R. Cole. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1972: 207-83. Gilbert, Jeremy. “Signifying Nothing: ‘Culture’, ‘Discourse’ and the Sociality of Affect. Culture Machine 2004.>. Massumi, Brian. “Notes on the Translation and Acknowledgements.” In Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987. ———. Parables for the Virtual. Durham: Duke UP, 2002. Sacks, Oliver. A Leg to Stand On. New York: Touchstone, 1984. Tompkins, Silvan. Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S. Tompkins. Ed. Virginia E. Demos. New York: Press Syndicate of the U of Cambridge, 1995. Citation reference for this article MLA Style Shouse, Eric. "Feeling, Emotion, Affect." M/C Journal 8.6 (2005). echo date('d M. Y'); ?> <>. APA Style Shouse, E. (Dec. 2005) "Feeling, Emotion, Affect," M/C Journal, 8(6). Retrieved echo date('d M. Y'); ?> from <>.
The Posthuman offers both an introduction and major contribution to contemporary debates on the posthuman. Digital 'second life', genetically modified food, advanced prosthetics, robotics and reproductive technologies are familiar facets of our globally linked and technologically mediated societies. This has blurred the traditional distinction between the human and its others, exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human. The Posthuman starts by exploring the extent to which a post-humanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Rather than perceiving this situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities. Braidotti then analyzes the escalating effects of post-anthropocentric thought, which encompass not only other species, but also the sustainability of our planet as a whole. Because contemporary market economies profit from the control and commodification of all that lives, they result in hybridization, erasing categorical distinctions between the human and other species, seeds, plants, animals and bacteria. These dislocations induced by globalized cultures and economies enable a critique of anthropocentrism, but how reliable are they as indicators of a sustainable future? The Posthuman concludes by considering the implications of these shifts for the institutional practice of the humanities. Braidotti outlines new forms of cosmopolitan neo-humanism that emerge from the spectrum of post-colonial and race studies, as well as gender analysis and environmentalism. The challenge of the posthuman condition consists in seizing the opportunities for new social bonding and community building, while pursuing sustainability and empowerment
List of contributors Preface 1. Introduction: emotion, discourse, and the politics of everyday life Lila Abu-Lughod and Catherine A. Lutz 2. Shifting politics in Bedouin love poetry Lila Abu-Lughod 3. Moral discourse and the rhetoric of emotions Geoffrey M. White 4. Engendered emotion: gender, power, and the rhetoric of emotional control in American discourse Catherine A. Lutz 5. Topographies of the self: praise and emotion in Hindu India Arjun Appadurai 6. Shared and solidarity sentiments: the discourse of friendship, play, and anger in Bhatgaon Donald Brenneis 7. Registering affect: heteroglossia in the linguistic expression of emotion Judith T. Irvine 8. Language in the discourse of the emotions Daniel V. Rosenberg 9. Untouchability and the fear of death in a Tamil song Margaret Trawick Index.
"In private life, we try to induce or suppress love, envy, and anger through deep acting or "emotion work," just as we manage our outer expressions of feeling through surface acting. In trying to bridge a gap between what we feel and what we "ought" to feel, we take guidance from "feeling rules" about what is owing to others in a given situation. Based on our private mutual understandings of feeling rules, we make a "gift exchange" of acts of emotion management. We bow to each other not simply from the waist, but from the heart. But what occurs when emotion work, feeling rules, and the gift of exchange are introduced into the public world of work? In search of the answer, Arlie Russell Hochschild closely examines two groups of public-contact workers: flight attendants and bill collectors. The flight attendant's job is to deliver a service and create further demand for it, to enhance the status of the customer and be "nicer than natural." The bill collector's job is to collect on the service, and if necessary, to deflate the status of the customer by being "nastier than natural." Between these extremes, roughly one-third of American men and one-half of American women hold jobs that call for substantial emotional labor. In many of these jobs, they are trained to accept feeling rules and techniques of emotion management that serve the company's commercial purpose. Just as we have seldom recognized or understood emotional labor, we have not appreciated its cost to those who do it for a living. Like a physical laborer who becomes estranged from what he or she makes, an emotional laborer, such as a flight attendant, can become estranged not only from her own expressions of feeling (her smile is not "her" smile), but also from what she actually feels (her managed friendliness). This estrangement, though a valuable defense against stress, is also an important occupational hazard, because it is through our feelings that we are connected with those around us. On the basis of this book, Hochschild was featured in Key Sociological Thinkers, edited by Rob Stones. This book was also the winner of the Charles Cooley Award in 1983, awarded by the American Sociological Association and received an honorable mention for the C. Wright Mills Award. © 1983, 2003, 2012 by The Regents of the University of California.