chapter  9
18 Pages

Emotions, Emotives and Political Negotiations: Transforming Relationships in the Bohemian–Bavarian Border Area

WithMaruška Svašek

Since the turn of the century an increasing number of scholars working in the fields of anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, geography and political science have argued it necessary to include a focus on emotions when analysing identity formation and mobility in specific socio-political and spatial settings. Joyce Davidson, Liz Bondi and Mick Smith (2005: 3), for example, presented the perspective of ‘emotional geography’, defining it as a perspective that attempts to understand emotion – experientially and conceptually – in terms of its ‘socio-spatial mediation and articulation, rather than as entirely interiorised subjective mental states’. Twenty years earlier, anthropologists such as Lutz and White (1986: 420) had also sought to counter the notion that emotions were nothing more than personal inner feelings. They argued that ‘emotions are, in many societies, a critical link in cultural interpretations of action’, and defined emotions as culturally specific discourses that inform perceptions of self and society, and shape relations of power. While the role of emotions in many situations is subtle and elusive, in many others

it is dominant and obvious. Consider, for instance the role played by emotions in state acts of mourning, and their emotional impact on the individuals participating. Can an anthropology of emotions help us better define the similarities and differences between the emotionally charged displays of heartbroken generals in North Korea, weeping with despair at the death of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, and the mournful appearance and cathartic words of Tony Blair at the funeral of Princess Diana? While different cultural expectations attached to displays of emotions can vary wildly from one cultural context to the next, comparable factors often surface when analysing their impact on identity formation, and on power relations between groups. It is equally important to consider how the identities of political actors themselves might be influenced by their own emotional role play, in addition to more cynically adjudging their deftness at using emotions to their own objective political advantage.