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CGWS Seminar Series' 2008/09: Emotional Labour

Date: 30 October 2008 Time: 4:30-6:00 pm

Emotional Labour

GWS Seminar Series 2008-09

This seminar series aims at examining the developments and implications of the 'affective turn' in social and cultural studies. The provenance of the concept of emotional labour in the sociology of work (Hochschild 1983), its development in organisation studies and the proliferation of its use elsewhere, offer grounds for revisiting the potential and limits of the concept. This series aims to explore the ways in which the 'emotional labour' speaks not only to the various forms of 'management of feeling' individuals negotiate on a daily basis - at work, at home, in public spaces - but also to the social and ethical implications of these practices. What 'work' do emotions do in shaping social identities? How are the subjectivities of professionals, practitioners, workers, volunteers, and users/patients in the 'care services' sector (public, non-governmental and private), characterised by 'emotional labour'? How is affect used as a form of dis/connection in the therapeutic cultures of the workplace? To what extent is emotional work the condition motivating NGO's in their projects?

But emotional labour is not restricted to clearly bounded locales. Several authors have shown how states appropriate idioms of affect (e.g. intimacy, national love, pride, therapeutic ethos, etc.) own purposes of commanding loyalty and allegiance (Berezin 2002, Berlant 1997, 2000; Fortier 2008; Herzfeld 1997; Nolan 1998). Others have explore the sets of normative claims and aims of governing practices in colonial settings and the relationship between intimate relations and the development of liberal ideals (Povinelli 2006; Stoler 2000, 2002). The present international context raises further questions about the ways in which 'emotions' provide the grounds for a critical and theoretically informed response to a political present increasingly organised around the axis of democracy/terror. In what ways might emotions offer the grounds for the formation of solidarities and constituencies of belonging 'locally' and/or transnationally, in which feeling is identified as a legitimate and central axis? What might the limitations of such solidarities be, especially in a context in which it is increasingly difficult to articulate clear political identities in the current conjunction of global/national political agendas?

Another significant area of exploration concerns what Eval Illouz (2007) has called 'the making of emotional capitalism'. To what extent does the culture of capitalism foster a culture of emotions? What are the effects of late capitalism on people's emotional experiences and crucially, as Renata Salecl (2004) asks, how does capitalism rely on people's feelings (of inadequacy, of anxiety, of guilt, or perhaps of success)? Does the commercialisation of emotions characterise the condition of the desiring subject of the 21st century? In addition, how is the language of economics used in defining intimate relations? At another level, can the economic language be brought to bear in a critical understanding of how 'economies of feeling' work in different contexts, such as in the ways that social classifications (racialised, gendered, sexualised, class-based) are produced through the different 'values' accorded to different feelings? For example, how are different feelings differentially located within the 'national values' against which the 'value' of citizens is assessed (c.f. Fortier 2008)? In this regard, how are the political or economic, and the aesthetic, mediated through feelings? What does literature, art or other cultural practices and productions tell us about the ramifications of feelings beyond the domain of the aesthetic proper? If emotions are 'knotted or condensed "interpretations of predicaments"' (Ngai 2005: 3), what do they render visible and how?

This last question dovetails into considerations of the political and ethical implications of the affective turn within social and cultural research (c.f. Tyler 2008). In other words, the series aims at expanding the phrase to include considerations of the material, embodied, political and moral underpinnings of the 'emotional turn' in social and cultural studies. What new analytical avenues are potentially opened up or closed down by the mobilisation or deployment of 'emotions' in theoretical debates? Is the analytical traction of 'emotions', 'affect', 'feelings', geographically, temporally, and politically limited and limiting? Can emotions help grasp the complexities of historical and contemporary subjectivities as produced and lived at the intersection of numerous modalities of difference?

These are some of the questions that come under the theme of this seminar series. Guest speakers are invited consider these or other issues that might be added to the theme and might further contribute to a critical consideration of 'how emotions work' (Katz 1999) in the social, economic, political, and academic worlds.

The series will hear invited speakers from various disciplinary backgrounds.

Details will follow in due course. For information, contact Anne-Marie Fortier or Jane Collins


Michaelmas 2008


Emotional Labour series

1) Thursday 30 October, IAS-Room 1

Divya Tolia-Kelly (Geography, Durham University)

Visualising Alienation: writing, feeling and seeing cultural geographies of race and racism

2) Thursday 4 December, Bowland North Seminar Room 20

Maggie O'Neil (Criminology and Social Policy, Loughborough University - co-sponsored with ASS)

'Trans-national refugees and human rights: ethno-mimesis as performative praxis'

Non-thematic seminars

i) Wednesday 12 November 2008, Bowland North Seminar Room 2

Khatidja Chantler (School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, U. of Manchester - co-sponsored with ASS)

'Forced Marriage: Culture, Gender and State Violence'

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, Sociology

Keywords: Emotions, Gender


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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