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.
In May 2019, tensions between Iran and the United States dramatically escalated following the imposition of US sanctions. Across the Persian Gulf a number of tankers were attacked, whilst others were seized, including a British oil tanker detained for “violating international maritime rules”. Amidst this escalation of tensions, international news outlets carried stories suggesting that Iran told its proxies to prepare for war. Referring to Iran’s long-standing relationships with groups across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine, these stories played on the idea of a complex web of often – although not exclusively – sectarian networks that cut across sovereign borders and help Tehran to achieve its geopolitical aims. Yet the reality of relations between Iran and local groups is far more complex, determined by a range of factors. This Editor’s Choice focuses on issue 9:4: Transnational religious networks and the geopolitics of the Muslim World, which is our annual Richardson Institute special issue.
If there is one region in South Asia that has stubbornly refused to recognise the hegemony of the Indian state since its emergence in 1947 it has been Kashmir. The region has been involved in a nationalist struggle against the Indian state at least from 1953; the struggle has taken both violent and non-violent forms. Every time the Indian state declares a victory in Kashmir, the sentiment of freedom in Kashmir manages to make the Indian state and its functionaries face the uncomfortable reality.