3 thoughts on “Mastering the Emotions – a Post-Conference Reflection

  1. Dear conference organisers

    While I am pleased that your blogger found my paper ‘invigorating’, I am somewhat perplexed that he called it ‘invective’. What an affect-laden signifier, and at a conference on emotion, no less!

    Invective is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary Online as ‘criticism that is very forceful, unkind and often rude’ and in the Free Dictionary Online as

    1. Denunciatory or abusive language; vituperation.
    2. Denunciatory or abusive expression or discourse.

    Is that what my blogger heard when I spoke? I prefer to call my work radically unprejudiced description which allows, for example, the proponents of a right to passionate homicide to speak for themselves and for the homicidal men who lay claim to that right in the courts, giving them all a voice, quoting them at length, and then producing the historical and contemporary evidence establishing the empirically verifiable sexed asymmetry of the operation of this hotly defended right in over 300 years of case law.

    I was intrigued too that ‘political’ was placed in inverted commas, as in the description of my paper as one of the ‘overtly political’ ones. What makes some papers ‘political’, even ‘overtly political’, and others not, and why the scare quotes? What do they imply? Isn’t it interesting that trenchant critiques of hegemonies and dominant social orders, say, the gender order in which we live, are always already marked as ‘political’? Invective all the way down!

    • Dear Adrian,

      I’m sorry, I’ve only just noticed this comment, not being able to navigate wordpress particularly efficiently.
      In response to your first point, I should probably be more careful about the words that I use; ‘invective’ was meant only as ‘forceful critique’ and ‘denunciation’ (OED Online) which I mean as a compliment. Patriarchy needs to be denounced (in the sense of ‘publicly declared to be wrong’) – as I think we agree – and it was the force of your presentation that struck me. In fact I was so keen on your presentation and topic that I returned to see you speak again at QM!

      I’m not sure I understand quite what you mean by ‘unprejudiced’, however. Surely describing oneself as Foucauldian (as I think you did on a number of occassions) precludes the idea of any kind of uncomplicated lack of prejudgement? Similarly with ’empirical demonstration’; it has been possible for people to use the disinterested, detached language of science (or indeed the law) to oppress and exploit other almost without comparison in history. Empiricism is a dangerous prop. As you showed so clearly, it is the assumptions that undergird such (supposedly ‘value neutral’) statements that need to be exposed.

      Additionally, I was using ‘overtly political’ to mean a paper that directly and self-consciously engaged with contemporary political concerns. Every inervention into any debate carries consequences, but I was again complimenting (attempting at least) the self-conscious engagement with the injustices that blight the legal arrangements you were talking about.

      The use of scare quotes is something of a linguistic tic of mine, but when I ues them I am attempting to highlight a contested keyword that has complex and often unacknowledged meanings that I am attempting to flag. Hence I would use ‘man’ and ‘woman’ because I do not believe that the binaries that produce differences in this way are in any way eternal or self-evident. They do have evident effects, however, as you showed so clearly. Similarly ‘political’ is put in scare quotes because I am aware of the rather conventional and conservative associations of the word, but I am trying to show that all interventions are political and we would do well to acknowledge and deal with that.

      I am only sorry that my assessment of your paper came across as so negative, when it was meant to be overwhelmingly positive.


  2. Pingback: An ‘Emotional’ Conference | The History of Emotions Blog

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