Title

Losing our cool? Following Williams and Grossberg on emotions

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

11-2004

Journal Title

Cultural Studies

Volume

18

Issue

6

DOI

10.1080/0950238042000306909

Abstract

Despite constituting a significant area of everyday experience, emotions have rarely been the focus of detailed investigation within cultural studies. This paper makes a case for viewing emotions as social/cultural/political, as well as individual, phenomena and reviews the contributions of cultural theorists to analyses of emotions. To this end, it critically examines Raymond Williams' concept ‘structure of feeling’, which reintroduces the subjective into the social, and Larry Grossberg's concept ‘economy of affect’, which seeks to explain how, through affective investments, ideologies are internalized and naturalized. Whilst both theorists provide important conceptual tools, each conceptualization has specific limitations and neither theorist offers detailed analyses of the interrelations, in practice, between individual and social aspects of emotion. The authors seek to build on and extend the insights of Williams and Grossberg and locate emotions in and across specific historical, cultural and political contexts within relations of hegemony and resistance. The authors begin to theorize how emotions are constituted and operate interactively at the level of both individual personal experience and wider social formations/power relations. This paper establishes the groundwork for working towards a genealogy of specific structures of feeling and specific emotional subjects. It is argued that theorizing relations between emotion and power is crucial to this project. The paper discusses ways of theorizing ‘emotion and power’, and outlines the authors’ approach, which, it is suggested, could be further explored in relation to concrete examples.

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