Category Archives: Emotion in Motion

Bringing the Body [Back] in: Where the Action Really is

By Erika Summers Effler

As I read across the diverse pieces in this essay dialogue, one thing struck me: where are the bodies?  I’ve framed this response as bringing the body “back” in.  I’ve included “back” because I like it as a rhetorical device–especially when it allows for alliteration.  But I”m bracketing “back” because, unlike other things that we are bringing back in–like emotions and grievances–I’m not sure we had the body in the mix to begin with.

Focusing on the relationship between the body and emotion allows us to get at that long-neglected aspect of social movement dynamics–the protest.  Whatever happened to protests?  Continue reading

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Some Prickly Thoughts on “Emotions in Motion”

By Jeff Goodwin

Scholars have been struggling for some time now to find or create the most effective language to talk about the causal importance of emotions in general and their role in politics and social movements in particular. Our rhetoric generally reflects a familiar and largely unconscious way of thinking about emotions, one which I will call the reification-and-attribution approach. Continue reading

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Youths, Spittle, and Reflections on “Emotion in Motion”

By Ron Eyerman

I followed a post-workout routine yesterday. I sat in an atrium café in a local downtown mall to eat a sandwich and look over notes from the morning’s writing. The café is on the ground floor beneath an open second tier walkway, where shoppers promenade by store windows. A group of young boys ran along the walkway shouting down at those, like myself, sitting below. Then two gobs of spittle cascaded down, aimed at me but hitting the cushion of the chair I was seated in. The boys ran off laughing gleefully. While I said nothing I was furious. I put down my pen and reflected on what just happened, why I was angry, but did nothing to show it. Most pointedly, I reflected about who those boys where and what might explain their behavior, I am after all a sociologist! Continue reading

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December Essay Dialogue: Emotions in Motion

Over the past decade, scholars have been revisiting the role of emotions in collective action, a topic long ignored in order to emphasize the rational nature of many social movement activities.  This essay dialogue seeks to stimulate discussion on whether this renewed focus on emotions supplements today’s dominant understanding of movements as rational, or if it undermines prevailing wisdom, forcing us to rethink some things we thought we knew.  Contributors have made some fascinating claims and insights, including how a “feeling-thinking” theory of action can contribute to cultural approaches to protest, how emotions can prevent social action, how emotions work in tandem with rational cognitive processes to shape behavior, how emotions can shape national discourse, and how careful methodology is needed for locating emotion in various aspects of social movements.  Many thanks to the distinguished scholars who have contributed to this first round of this dialogue:

Christopher Bail, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (essay)
Helena Flam, University of Leipzig (essay)
Eric Groenendyk, University of Memphis (essay)
James Jasper, Graduate Center of CUNY (essay)
Kari Norgaard, University of Oregon (essay)
Nancy Whittier, Smith College (essay)

We also thank the following individuals for their thoughtful response pieces for this dialogue:

Ron Eyerman, Yale University (essay)
Jeff Goodwin, New York University (essay)
Erika Summers Effler, University Notre Dame (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, and Dan Myers

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Feeling your Way

By James M. Jasper

I recently completed a manuscript about the role of what I call “feeling-thinking processes” in protest. These are the many tiny ways that we register the world around us through our bodies, ranging from sensory input to the dozens of neurotransmitters we constantly produce (dopamine, adrenaline, etc.), to muscle contractions (including facial expressions), on up through the verbal labels (emotions proper) that we sometimes apply to bundles of these feeling-thinking processes. Emotions such as love, trust, or happiness are conscious acknowledgement of many unconscious feeling-thinking processes. Continue reading

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Looking for Love (and Other Emotions) in All the Right Places: Thinking Broadly about Emotions in Social Movements

By Nancy Whittier

Is studying emotions in social movements a distinct agenda from studying movements’ interactions with institutions or the state?  Are some movements oriented toward emotional change and others toward policy change? Are movements such as the one against child sexual abuse, which I have studied, fundamentally different from those that stick to topics where emotions are less apparent, or those that focus narrowly on policy demands?  My own work, and that of others, suggests not.[i]   Continue reading

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The Emotions of Climate Apathy: Emotion Management and Movement Non-participation

By Kari Norgaard

Emotions can get us into the streets, but can they keep us silent, too? Social movement scholars have paid attention to emotions in recent years, but we still focus primarily on how emotions shape social action rather than how they may prevent it. In the case of public response to global warming, I find the latter to be particularly interesting. Global climate change is not only the single most significant environmental issue of our time, widespread and potentially catastrophic social impacts are predicted from sea level rise and changing patterns of precipitation and disease. As events from Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy to pine bark beetle infestations in Colorado and melting permafrost in Alaska reveal, changing climactic conditions will increasingly jeopardizes state economic resources, exacerbate social inequality, alter community structures, and generate new patterns of economic and social conflict. For nearly three decades, natural and physical scientists have provided increasingly clear and dire assessments of the alteration in the biophysical world. Yet despite these urgent warnings, human social and political response to ecological degradation remains wholly inadequate. Continue reading

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