Encounters and engagements with the world, both immediate and distant, on an everyday basis involve emotional responses. These responses to various situations, events and representations are not entirely private, individual and internal. They are a result of the internalization of cultural codes and discourses that inform, even determine the appropriateness or inappropriateness of emotional responses. Emotions, this book suggests, are responses to cultural practices which have their own politics, meaning- making and representational strategies. States of Sentiment is a study of these codes, narratives and images circulating in particular socio-cultural contexts that seek to create, elicit and provoke these responses in us, or what we can think of as the cultural politics of emotion.
We see a terrorist as a threat, a cyclone as worrying, a rags-to-riches story as a feel-good moment. We mourn the sudden death of Michael Jackson. We rejoice in the victory of a triumphant Tendulkar and we react with horror and shock to 9/11. All of these are emotional responses to specific representational strategies that present these people and events in particular ways. These strategies thus construct our emotional relations to the events and people. Exactly how sentiments of care, passion, desire, pleasure, fear, sympathy or pity are discursively commodified in the mass media, films, reportage and the other public culture forms today is the subject of this book. In a way, it demonstrates the ‘affective turn’ in public culture today.
Organized around four ‘sentiments’ of well-being, suffering, aversion and hope, this book draws upon multimodal representations of emotions-reality TV, hate speech, self-help literature, media coverage of 9/11 and 26/11, autobiographies, websites and films. Blending theoretical insights with elements of innovative inquiry, it shows how emotions are packaged and how these emotions then determine social relations itself.
Constructing emotion as a new site for the work of cultural studies, this book will be of enduring interest to students and scholars in cultural studies, trauma studies, literature, media and communications and sociology.
Pramod K. Nayar teaches at the department of English, University of Hyderabad.
In one of her recent works, Donna Haraway argued that the sense of ‘species’ is actually a sense of companionship, mutuality and reciprocity (drawing throughout her book upon the etymology of ‘species’ as ‘specere’ which also means to see, and is the root of the word ‘respecere’ or ‘respect’ but also ‘response’ and therefore ‘responsibility’). Proceeding from the simple act of touching a dog, Haraway constructs a massive-if quirky and enjoyable-edifice. She points with the simplicity that sometimes characterizes brilliance, to the way affective relations construct worlds, situate people in them, and build communities of animals and humans. ‘World making’ as she calls it, works through affect. In other words, emotions have political consequences because they construct worlds and determine who occupies which portion of those worlds, and the ‘contact zones’ (Haraway appropriating Mary Louise Pratt’s concept) where species meet. The emotion I feel towards X or Y, therefore, constructs the social world X or Y will share with me-the nature, texture and shape of that world. Emotions might be private, but they are also in and of the world.
Reading a completely different context, Roberto Esposito, whose work first appeared in English in 2006, and whose book appeared in the same year as Haraway’s When Species Meet, notes, all Rwandan mothers of the war, when asked about their own experiences, declared their love for their children born from hate [they were the result of rape].
Esposito argues: ‘[this] suggests that the force of life prevails once again over that of death’ (2008: 7). Here affect-love and hate-construct relationships within a traumatic context, even as the context itself is tweaked by the mothers in order to attain a measure of self-control and agency. ‘Life’ is this act of agency in the time of terror, and is engineered through affect. A militarized condition-genocide, rape, death-also, in Esposito’s reading, has its emotional politics. Later, analyzing the biopolitics of Nazi concentration camps and Nazi Germany in general, Esposito notes the exact opposite of what Haraway has been proposing. He suggests that ‘commonality’ is destroyed in favour of ‘immunity’, immunity which does away with the responsibility of sharing and responding (what Esposito describes as ‘a right to have something of one’s own’ and the ‘full predominance of oneself in relation to others, 72). In both these cases, Esposito focuses on biopolitics: both Nazi Germany’s ‘immunization paradigm’, as well as the condition of the Rwandan women were consequences of emotions directed at particular bodies and lives. A person reduced to ‘bare life’ (as Giorgio Agamben’s work has argued through several books now, 1998; 2005)-a person without civil or legal rights, whose killing will not attract a penalty-is not, however, treated with indifference; rather s/he is the object of much hatred and powerful emotions.
Communities are formed and maintained through emotional bonds (demonstrated with such elan by Rajat Kanta Ray in Felt Community, and differently by Leela Gandhi in Affective Communities). There are contexts in which particular emotions must be expressed because they are deemed appropriate (mourning, for instance, or sympathy). If the task of Cultural Studies and Cultural Theory is to explore the everyday, and if aspects of everyday constantly escape scrutiny (as Ben Highmore has argued 2002: 1-2), then this book sets out to examine a commonplace of the commonplace: emotions. While shopping, medicalisation, celebrity culture, and, more recently, waiting for buses and road travel have come in for attention (the last in the work of Joe Moran, 2005), emotions and their role in how we deal with everyday life has seldom been explored. As Moran suggests, we need a critical strategy that first acknowledges states like boredom in everyday life (ibid: 22), since waiting at bus stops or in queues, or being stuck in traffic is a commonplace emotional condition of metropolitan life today. Like Cultural Studies, this book is interested in the political aspects, and consequences, of emotions. The everyday, Cultural Studies has shown, is political as well. Our everyday conversations, newspaper reading and TV viewing, position people, places and events in particular relationships to/with us: a terrorist as threat, a cyclone as worrying, a rags-to-riches story as a feel-good moment. Looking at the picture of a slain woman being carried on a bamboo pole-like an animal, readers said-in the northeast evoked outrage from The Hindu’s readers (June 2010). Reports of surgical miracles cheer us and the more recent judgment on the Bhopal Gas tragedy case, June 2010, shocks us.
Sanjay Srivastava’s excellent study of sexuality in modern India (2006), likewise, situates the construction of everyday states of the erotic, desire, fantasy and sexual anxiety within the progress of an Indian modernity starting with the early decades of the twentieth century, while situating it in structures of political economy. He thus shows how the authority of Western modernity is contested through the revival of traditions in sexology, where traditions work as ‘sites of discourses of intimacy …[contesting]…increasing bureaucratization and corporatization of intimacy’ (25). Srivastava’s work is concerned, like Highmore’s or Moran’s with everyday phenomena, cultural practices, social constructions as they impact supposedly individual desires, feelings and attitudes.
Kathleen Woodward has argued that US Presidential elections, from George Bush Sr, through Clinton and Bush Jr, has appropriated the discourse of compassion. Woodward argues that, while on the one hand, we witness a flattening of emotional responses to intensities; on the other we also see emerging, the ‘man of sentiment’ (2004: 60).
David Simpson’s work on post-9/11: The Culture of Commemoration, has shown how ‘rituals of memorialisation exist to assimilate these higher, intense and particular griefs into received vocabularies and higher, broader realms than the merely personal (2006: 2, emphasis added). This larger picture, Simpson argues, is at once metaphysical and national-political-which means, in effect, grief and mourning are more than individual and we as people mourn because there is a vocabularly, a semantics and a genre of mourning already in circulation. Mourning is therefore a social ritual, a collective condition of memorialisation and emotional expression that supposedly ties all Americans together in their shared grief for 9/11.
In each of these critics we see an emphasis on the centrality of emotions to politics, world making, civil society and everyday cultures of the media and representational universes of TV, political speeches, leisure, propaganda, movies or the law. It is within this contemporary tradition of teasing out the politics of emotions that this book, in a far more modest fashion, situates itself. Emotions, this study assumes, following its more illustrious predecessors, are not entirely private, individual and internal. ‘Moral sentiments’ such as compassion, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has shown (1996) are social in their effects-they determine our judgements and therefore ethical decisions and relations.
Then we also see books and films being banned because they hurt the sentiments of some community or other-I write this in July 2010 in the immediate aftermath of the incident of the professor in Kerala having his hand chopped off for a question that supposedly hurt the sentiments of some people. One of course never hears of inane books and films being banned for hurting the intellect! Clearly sentiments drive our social being, our collective imaginations and politics, even things like social policy, academic syllabi, political alignments and activism.
Our encounters and engagements with the world, both immediate and distant, on an everyday basis involve emotional responses such as these. However, Cultural Studies has also shown us how any response is manipulated, manufactured and engineered to position people and events in certain ways. Thus ‘folk devils’, punksters, terrorists are constructed in ways so as to elicit particular kinds of response. Cultural Studies treats these modes of construction as worthy of study because these constructions have social, material and political consequences, marginalizing some, privileging other identities.
Situated within Cultural Studies of a slightly different kind, this book aligns itself with the kind of work emerging in the writings of Donna Haraway (When Species Meet), Sara Ahmed (The Cultural Politics of Emotion), David Harvey (Spaces of Hope), Lisa Cartwright (Moral Spectatorship), Eva Illouz (Saving the Modern Soul), David Simpson (9/11) but prefigured in the writings of Raymond Williams, E. P. Thompson, Stan Cohen, and in studies of catastrophe discourse, moral panics, among others.
In order to explore the politics of emotions in everyday life, it draws upon multimodal representations of emotions-from self-help books to Reality TV to news coverage to films. It examines how identities, individual and collective, personal and the larger social, are constructed through a careful organization of emotions. To locate a few recent take-off points that situate this book’s agenda: the hatred directed at Warren Anderson that we saw practically every day (through June 2010) on blogs, letters to the editor in newspapers and visuals of protest marches is the organization of emotion for a political and social cause, the cheerful letters at the end of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the anger expressed at the now-frequent scams-this kind of emotional politics is the subject of States of Sentiment.
Indian social science still remains an old-fashioned exercise, content in the iconicity of the Srinivas and Beteille, happy with the struggles of Marx and Dumont or the debates of Ambedkar and Gandhi. There is a power to these writings and even a passion. A majoritarian focus on classic issues like land, caste, kinship, the village and the tribe has however created a lesser world of that which is new and critical for an understanding of our global world. Questions of speed, obsolescence, terror, the construction of the new forms of violence or the assemblage of new transformation of prejudice has not found its classic storytellers, scholars who can link the old and the new, demonstrating affinity and chronicling difference.
Consider for example the world of media. The old regime represented by the newspaper has its historians. The world of advertising has its folklorists in the work of William Mazarellaand Santosh Desai. The latter, in particular, has captured thelink between liberalism and desire with a touch of irony. Desai's Mother Pious Lady has explored the link between the ethnography of boredom and the world of the sixties brilliantly. The world of cinema has been even more fortunate in finding an Ashis Nandy, a Patricia Uberoi or even the occasional visitations of Veena Das. The diaspora in particular has found in Bollywood the perfect site for its long distance sociology. These works focused on the newspaper and the movie as classical objects. Even while semiotic, the still defined a Newtonian world. Bollywood was still a place; the HINDU was still an actual location. Shah Rukh, Nargis, Amitabh all received their biographies.
As globalisation emerged, as desire broke it socialist shackles, as the anxieties of the new appeared, social science lost its footing. There were occasional studies of gender or communalism, but their insights were more politically correct than imaginative. An understanding of the new forms of prejudice, the anatomy of terror, the relation between sexuality and stereotype needed more than fragments. It needed more than a mechanical sense of the post-modern where deconstruction was reduced to a predictable LEGO set of categories. Disgust, aversion, terror, prejudice, fear, anxiety, desire as constructed in the media needed a new sense of the social. One needed to create both a philosophy and a political economy of the media to grasp the world. One required both the literacy of the semiotic and the phenomenological, of classic anthropology and cultural studies. One had to internalise Clifford Geertz's sense of the performativeness of the Balinese cockfight, Victor Turners Ritual Process and yet be at home in the world of Stuart Hall and Michel Foucault. One needed the literacy of a different academic scholarship without suffering its gravitas. Studies of media needed an ease about digital technology, a facility with social networks and yet one could not lose one's moorings in the oral tradition, where gossip and rumour still worked their alchemy. One had to welcome cultural studies in the manner in which we earlier saluted Indology. Cultural studies created and added a new dimension to social science.
The respect we gave to Louis Dumont or a Fritz Staal had to be extended to a new generation of scholars from John Hutnyk to Sarah Ahmed. The latter spoke a different dialect and exuded a new sense of skepticism and irony. Their hermeneutics of suspicions were different from an Ashis Nandy as it was focused on a different set of objects. But it was as welcome. It was a world where Goldsmith's Centre for Cultural Studies had more resonance than Oxford or SOAS. The humour was more puckish and the radicalism spoke a different language of subversion.
Pramod Nayar is one of the few Indians who have contributed to the interdisciplinarity of cultural studies around these new frameworks of global media. He needs to be celebrated because he provides an understanding of the new which has the markings of a classic. States of Sentiment belongs to the same shelf as Desai's Mother Pious Lady, Ziauddin Sardar's The Consumption of Kuala Lumpur, Patricia Uberoi's Freedom and Destiny or John Hutnyk's Rumor of Calcutta and offers a world beyond them.
Books may not be generally treated as events but they are and they need to be elaborated, scrutinised, gossiped about and compared. Academic work like music, dance or cuisine smacks of a culture and its innovation and needs to savoured. Listing a book's flaws is easy but acknowledging its genealogy, its creativity and enjoying it insights is more fruitful. States of Sentiment is something new and will be something durable. One needs to understand why, without ruining the plot or the chain of surprising insights it offers.
States of Sentiment claims it is about the cultural politics of emotion. It seeks to extend the framework of cultural studies to a new site, emotion. It is an attempt to see how media organises emotion and then examines the consumption of emotion and its consequences.
It begins with a parade of quotes, almost masquerading like graffiti. One reads of Lynndie England parading a naked Iraqi soldier, of Qutubuddin Ansari pleading for life during the Gujarat Riots of 2002. It is a bestiary of images and after each, with almost Linnean precision, the author states the emotion, listing out a thesaurus of emotions including grief, disgust, horror, fury, guilt, shame, pride and pleasure. Yet States of Sentiment is not a book about psychology. It is a study of public culture. There is a grammarian's preoccupation with the logic of emotion, elaborating the contents, the representations, the narratives and images through which cultures encode emotion. It is a study of how culture shapes subjective experience. Emotion in that sense not only communicates, it links up people creating a network of relationships we can dub as the 'circuit of emotion'. The book then seeks to show that emotions are rational, operate according to logic and have a trajectory, a career, which is outwardly directed.
The genealogy of the book is clear. Its ancestors are Owen Lynch 1990 anthology on the anthropology of emotions and Norbert Elias's perennial classic on civilisation as an externalisation of emotion. Both studies show how emotions in a Durkheimian sense are social facts. Polite speech or table manners are merely cultural codes of emotion. The media organises, directs and manipulates it. Given the visibility of emotions like patriotism, national identity, language becomes important. It predetermines the emotion as activity by switching and controlling the flow of emotion in a particular direction. One can then study the circulation of emotions and Nayar shows how emotions are packaged. A melodrama like a soap opera, a greeting card, a document about suffering, or even a cultural complex like Disney land creates its own circuits of emotion.
Discourse is central to such an analysis and Nayar looks in particular at the consumption of representations. Whether it is the Holocaust or Oprah Winfrey's TV show, Nayar reads them with the double mind of local gossip hungry for rumour and of a theoretical analyst exposing the structures behind the circuits. It is a study of media constructed sociality, of how meaning and identity are carefully orchestrated around emotions. Emotions get their sociological due without being dismissed as irrational. In fact the beauty of the study lies in showing the messy merging of emotions and intellect in the everyday life of the mind. In that sense, the book explores the rational consequences of irrationality.
The book is organised around four sentiments: well-being, suffering, aversion and hope. Each chapter becomes a miniature monograph around the complexities of each world. Each is written with humour, irony, empathy and yet a ritualised distance that allows for an objectivity. Newspapers, e-mail, social networks, newspaper headlines, photographs, handbooks of success, pornography, and comic books are all grist for this academic mill where Nayar plays the cultural botanist of the modem mind. The four essays reveal Indian media studies at its engaging cosmopolitan best. It is an arrogant formulation of a global problem written with the modesty and meticulous carefulness of an academic. Yet it is no ivory tower work but a cameo ethnography of multiple worlds exploring the cultural performances of four emotions. All a preface can do is to entice you to enjoy each chapter.
The first essay is a Goffmanesque chapter on 'well-being'. It examines how the culture of success and the makeover works. Each self becomes a laboratory of social engineering, a study of the makings of what Nayar calls the capability complex. It shows how well-being is culturally scripted around templates present in a culture.
Every self is a do it your self. Yet Nayar explores how this transformational self perpetually in search of improvement is a democratic self. The difference between you and success is a personality book away. Every self then becomes a managerial self, which one builds around new styles, new fashions, new diets and new exercises. Life is a perpetual motion machine of perpetual improvements. Now Fair and Lovely is not just a technology, it is a state of being which you celebrate because every other eye is a testimony to yourself. Nayar playfully calls this, the new Carteseanism where mind-body, soul-matter merge in hyphenated alchemy. The culture of the self is a new civics which shows how an individual in choosing to improve his self, improves the world. This chapter examines the fables created by new storytellers like Shiv Khera and Robin Sharma.
The lightness of the first chapter on the 'smile cultures' of the well-being leads to the 'scar cultures' of suffering. Nayar traces how particular cultures get preoccupied with particular emotions. The chapter on scar cultures is a study of how the moral imagination of suffering as constructed in the media is mediated and packaged. It is a study of how the TV screen becomes a second skin, but a cosmetically grafted one where tele-traumas around Palestine, Bhopal, Iraq and Bosnia package particular emotions as a mass condition. While the chapter down plays authenticity, it shows the positive role of media in constructing humanitarian response. The author shows how 'suffering demands a particular style of narration for us to respond to it'. He calls such rhetoric, 'the trauma aesthetic'. It creates a relational but split self between the reality of secure lives confronting the 'reality of unsafe and threatened bodies'. Yet the compassion of Nayar lies in showing how even couch potatoes can provide ethical responses to a spectacle.
The third chapter tackles 'cultures of aversion' and examines the politics of fear as it is directed at people, events and objects. It scrutinises Valentine's Day, the construction of woman in Islamic culture and is more semiotic in understanding of how chains of being are created through sleights of the mind. Signs and symbols become tricksters in creating arbitrary chains of signification which have real consequences. The book shows how moral policing works, how women become threatening objects, a veritable cargo of fantasies. The grand imagination behind the chapter is the logic of 9/11 showing how the rhetoric of evil needs the redundancy of repetition. Media uses or misuses history to create the scapegoat. Whether it is Indira Gandhi's appeal to the 'foreign hand' or the threat of loose women on Valentine's Day; both are but examples of how strangers, foreigners, 'others' as a species get constructed as objects or representations of evil. George Bush and Bal Thackeray become part of the same neighbourhood of social processes. The essay is ruthless in showing how fantasies of fear need a substrate constructed out of realism to create the logic of scapegoats. There is nothing like a dose of realistic economics to help project the fascist fantasy of our time. Kitsch and the Grotesque then operate to create the power of what the author calls toxic discourses.
The final chapter is an appeal to the logic of 'hope cultures' as therapeutic alternatives to aversion and suffering but even hope is a canned experience. Hope is the act of imagining other possibilities. Yet even hope is a cultural practice. Democracy in one sense is a menu card of hope. Hope is a way to the future oriented action. Nayar begins with an examination of Ernst Bloch's magisterial The Principle of Hope.
Every world contains other worlds not yet realised in itself. Hope has a trajectory charted by many from Gandhi and Luther King to every revolution and social movement. It is about the geography of alternative possibilities. Every constitution in that sense is a vision of the future. Such hope is both holistic and collective. It ranges from dreams of revolution to the fantasies of the perfectible body.
The final chapter is a 'study of hope cultures from utopias to consumerism, from Disneyland to the mall. Each constitutes not just a utopian space but a museum of possibilities. A collection of brands represents globalised hope. New social movements like 'Green Peace' or 'Doctors Without Borders' are also attempts to visualise other worlds. Nayar is best here in extending Bloch to an understanding of the informational commons we dub cyberspace. This chapter examines Wikipedia, the democratic possibilities of digital media. It is almost an individualised signature of the author as he looks at infotopia of Wikis, blogs, archives, of the citizendium. It is both informative and thoughtful leading dinosaurs like me through a different world examining commentators from Judith Butler to John Thompson and Manuel Castells. It hints at the possibility of distributed knowledge democratising democracy in new ways. Its examination of the modification of bodies and its implications are revelatory. In this chapter, the author moves from the imagination as existing outlines to the imaginary as a horizon of still unthought-of possibilities.
What does one see unifying these four efforts? One sees a new ethnography of media. One witnesses an invitation to new theoretical domains immersed in the possibilities of language and the visually graphic. One senses an ethical view without the moralism of an ideological world view. But above all one senses a domain of the new social built around media, a cultural studies of emotion as a new domain of study.
It is an invitation to a new multi-disciplinary social science crafted with humour, a sense of paradox, ready to be vulnerable as it plays out new ideas and new speculations about the world of ideas. One hopes States of Sentiment has a big audience who read it not through canned eyes of standard book reviews but as a harbinger of more hopeful but skeptical sociology. This book is only an aperitif to a richer creation, a sensorium of words, visuals and events that celebrates a still emerging world to which the author plays guide, skeptic, trustee, storyteller and critic.
Qutubuddin Ansari pleading for mercy during the Gujarat riots of 2002 flashes across all the major newspapers in India, and some abroad. Emotional dominants: horror, guilt and shame.
'It always works', says the girl after she has managed to drive away the guy she has (ostensibly) spent the night with in the Fastrack ad. Emotional dominants: pleasure, 'cool' relations.
'Sar utha ke jiyo' (Live with your head held high) runs the tag line for HDFC retirement plans, showing an elderly couple being completely independent. Emotional dominants: pride, confidence.
Lynndie England holding the leash to which a naked Iraqi soldier is tethered in the visual from Abu Ghraib. Emotional dominants: horror, revulsion, disgust.
A policeman leads an old man away through a Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) across a space strewn with personal effects after 26/11. Emotional dominants: horror, fury. One year later, the cover of the magazine Outlook (30 November 2009) with women crying and the headline 'Never Again?' Emotional dominants: sadness, anger and anxiety.
African Americans-and several ethnic groups from around the world-cheer for the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama. Emotional dominants: pride, pleasure.
Dozens of popular and academic/ scholarly texts produced in the USA after 9/11 such as Hal Lindsey's The Everlasting Hatred: The Roots of Jihad (2002), Philip Smucker's Al-Qaeda's Great Escape (2005), Mark Hitchcock's The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel (2002) and Andrew Bostom's (ed.) The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005), Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We) (2004), Efraim Karsh's Islamic Imperialism: A History (2006) and Ali Jalali and Lester Grau's Afghan Guerilla warfare (reprinted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 from the 1995 edition) cater to the interest in the culture and psyche of mujahideen or showcase Islam as a 'naturally’ violent religion with imperialist tendencies at its 'core'. Emotional dominants: fear, hate.
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh-the state where I live and work-Dr Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy, dies in a helicopter crash in early September 2009. Hundreds of people-news coverage reports anywhere between 200 and 650-across the state die of shock, or commit suicide, on hearing the news. Emotional dominants: grief and mourning.
Intellectuals, academics, theorists, social commentators- geographer David Harvey, social theorist Ashis. Nandy, Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, cultural theorist Donna Haraway, socio-biologist E. O. Wilson-praise and promote Green- peace, join transnational organisations, band together into groups such as Scholars Without Borders or Doctors Without Borders, articulate new ideas of justice, emphasise interconnectedness and species dependency, and see in enlightened collectivism the possibilities of social change. Emotional dominants: hope, utopianism.
Princess Dian, Vietnam, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, 9/11, Bhopal, Hiroshima-Nagasaki, Neil. Armstrong on the moon-these continue to evoke strong emotional responses in media coverage and readers/listeners/viewers.
A final personal instance. Upon joining my current place of work, a couple of colleagues and I would sit on the parapet wall outside our offices and drink our coffees, chatting and laughing with, admittedly boisterous, students. In time we were told politely, firmly and increasingly despairingly by senior faculty that this emotionally chaotic state of teacher-student interaction was 'unbecoming'. Here the official emotional dominant was of sedate, ponderous, stiff-upper-lip behaviour from the part of the teachers and the expected boisterousness (or sheepish attempts to 'invisibilise' themselves when they were not being obsequious on the part of the students. The emotional styles of ‘frivolous’ students and 'serious' teachers could not, it seems, be merged, and the postcolonial must always look funereal because s/he must always recall past oppressions.
These are images that have flashed across our screens, filled the pages of our morning newspapers, been the subject of our listserv debates, tweets, the topic of many television debates, letters to editor columns, specialised columns, popular films, social commentary, intellectual debates and, as in the last instance, personal experience of social interactions.
Public culture and its narratives, from pop to elite debates, film to fiction, increasingly work at the level of emotions and affect. Martha Nussbaum uses the term 'narrative emotions' to refer to sentiments aroused by literature that highlights suffering (1996). Using examples as diverse as Sophocles and Richard Wright, Nussbaum calls for a multicultural education that introduces readers to texts of others' sufferings so that the accompanying sentiment can revitalise the readers' role in public life.
Affects have very real material consequences: our hatred for a neighbouring nation or pity for the distant suffering of children generates support, aid and intervention. The demand for the separate state of Telangana, raging since October 2009, has frequently cited 'sentiment' (nicknamed the 'T-Sentiment') Thus emotions in public culture are crucial aspects of not just our immediate sociality of neighbourhood and community linkages or friendships but also our distant political allegiances and acts. 'Emotion cultures' is the shorthand term for the sentimentalisation of everyday discourses in the media, reportage, popular culture where images and representations (documentary or fictional) rely upon 'emotional dominants' to produce specific affects in us.
States of Sentiment is not an exploration of the psychological foundations or authenticity of emotions. Rather, it is interested in the contexts, representations, narratives and images circulating in a particular socio-cultural context that seek to create, elicit, provoke particular emotions in us. Cultures encode, often in formulaic fashion, happiness, intimacy, hope, aversion and guilt in particular ways. Luo Lu and Robin Gilmour emphasise the role of culture in individual states of sentiment:
Or: what happiness is or means varies from culture to culture. A holiday is a formula for 'family time' and happiness in most cultures around the world. The cheerful older people in the house represented in the various Barjatya films, the HDFC advert, or DishTV (this one with Shah Rukh Khan, no less, singing a refrain from Om Shanti Om) serve as the formula for the sentiment of compassion and care, where the younger generation cares for the older 0 e: That is, there are conceptions and notions of happiness or shame that circulate in any society or culture. These conceptions influence how individuals feel happiness or guilt. Thus, if the Indian notion of happiness is rooted in an 'engaged Self (see chapter en Well-being) where the individual fulfills her/ his responsibility towards others then, for an Indian individual to be 'happy' implies that the person has fitted the cultural script of a relational or engaged Self. This cultural script offers the 'formula', the horizon of expectation from and within which the individual perceives her/his state. That is, the individual absorbs a sense of fulfillment-as-happiness from her/his surroundings, and is happy or not depending on whether s/he recognises the 'fit' between her/his state and the formula. Likewise, in the American context, being independent becomes a marker of happiness, and an individual who has grown up on this formula will be happy or unhappy depending on whether s/he feels herself independent or not. As Lu and Gilmour put it:
So, the individual judges one's self-achievements, success- based on the criteria circulating in the cultural texts of the time. How these formula evolve and circulate as discourses that are always already around us for us to develop ideas about happiness, guilt or shame, is the subject of Cultural Emotion Studies (CES). In other words, discourses that are the cultural contexts of subjective states are the domains of analysis in States of Sentiment. Emotions mayor may not be genuinely felt by the audience/ individual, but there are discourses that determine influence and limit emotions as well-and this is the subject of the study. This does run the risk of converting humans into passive creatures whose emotional responses are simply reactions to external stimuli-but that is not the assumption or aim of the present book. It merely seeks to locate the discourses that assume we are creatures who will respond in certain emotional ways to certain Images and narratives.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend