We have much to be emotional about right now. In writing moment, a pandemic is upon us, with attendant political and economic crises. Among the emotions this has evoked, fear is indisputably the most palpable and discussed. But there is also frustration and anger, for example, at slow or insufficient government actions. And those who have already lost loved ones will of course feel sadness and grief. These are indeed dark times, casting a deep shadow over, or perhaps shadowed by, our inner lives.
In Germany, right-wing terror is on the rise. In the past years, events such as the 2016 mass shooting in a Munich shopping mall, the knife attack on politician Henriette Reker in 2015, the murder of Walter Lübcke and the attack of a synagogue in Halle in 2019, and the most recent terror attack in Hanau in February 2020 have left the country reeling. In light of these events, a wide range of liberal to conservative politicians and observers have issued public statements that condemn sentiments of hatred that are thought of as motivating these violent crimes. ‘Hate is a poison that… is responsible for far too many crimes,’ said chancellor Angela Merkel after the Hanau shooting. Others have explicitly accused the far-right populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) of fueling hate that would lead to an increase in right-wing violence. The AfD should be considered ‘the political arm of hate,’ said Green party member Cem Özdemir in a recent interview, while AfD politicians have been vehemently protesting the accusations and denying any connections between their politics, the dissemination of hate and the rise in terror attacks in Germany.
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.