Dilemmas of Conceptualizing Affect and Emotion
When, why, and how do our conceptions shape our methods? When reflecting upon methodology, when and why do we reflect on our conceptualizations and definitions? This essay maps the interdisciplinary challenges and dilemmas inherent in trying to develop methodological approaches to research topics that resist study – such as the critical and interdisciplinary study of emotion and affect in the context of mediated politics of the post-truth era. The challenges are addressed by way of a narration of the author’s evolving methodological dilemmas in researching emotion and affect. This difficult wrestling that constitutes the interdisciplinary journey of three decades, and myriad iterations of the “problem” of understanding emotion, requires calling together what we think with how we think. In short, the methodological challenges – both within given disciplines and certainly as a gap in terms of a cross-disciplinary methodology – cannot be discussed without referencing the fact that there are few agreed-upon conceptions of emotion (and later, affect). This chapter will thus address the conceptual dilemma posed by emotion and affect as part and parcel of the methodological dilemma. It begins by briefly showing the extent of variation in conceptualizing and defining emotion and affect, and then traces the methodological dilemmas faced over three decades of the author’s engagement with discourses of emotion, dilemmas which result from the absence, paucity, and/or disagreement in definitions of emotion. The chapter concludes with a call for “critical interdisciplinary methodology” that simultaneously seeks to provide a robust, cross-disciplinary mixed methodology for the study of emotions, while also recognizing the necessarily contingent nature of our claims and the situatedness of our knowledge production.