In Swedish, there is a word for the shame we feel when we choose air travel over more ecological options. The Swedes call it ‘flygskam.’ They also coined the words ‘tågskryt’ (train pride) en ‘smygflyga’ (flying in secret). The question whether we should feel ashamed when making unecological choices is not restricted to Swedish media. But does this shame actually contribute to the greening of society?
In the previous post Mathew Flinders identified the ways in which collaborative research touches the emotions of academics and places different kinds of demands on them. In our joint article with Milton Brown, Paul Ward and Zanib Rasool (available here) we identified the emotional work of collaboration and the ways in which it touched us personally. Here I reflect on my own academic journey and explore how it helped to work both inside and outside academia.
Emotions seem increasingly to mark political movements and discourse. Anger, fear and sadness have, to varying degrees, been implicated in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the rise of Trump, on the one hand, and the persistence of Black Lives Matter and the impact of the Me Too movement, on the other. A philosophical tradition that stretches from Plato to Martha Nussbaum has urged us to keep negative emotions like anger and jealousy out of politics, and to instead nurture positive ones, like love and compassion. Yet, that must be confounding to minorities, the poor and other marginalized groups, whose political claims frequently originate in negative emotions and take the form of emotional expressions. Indeed, their marginalization and attendant suffering has been exacerbated by processes, such as medicalization, which prompt individuals to think of their anger, fear and other painful emotions as personal problems to be dealt with in the medical or some other ostensibly apolitical sphere. But not everyone believes negative emotions must be kept out of politics. Some feminists have long defended the political value of anger. And, more recently, such thinkers as Judith Butler and Deborah Gould have highlighted the politically empowering and constructive role that other negative emotions can play as well. Moreover, a series of methodological discussions on the importance of affect have brought the role of emotions in research into sharp focus. But whether these newer perspectives can survive the popular trend of blaming our contemporary political problems on passions like anger and fear remains to be seen.
The simple fact is that deep, embedded, collaborative research whereby researchers work hand-in-hand with community participants in order to reveal new perspectives and to curate new forms of knowledge is inevitably risky, messy and to some extent even defiant.