Seminar: How we feel now? Emotional change since the 1930s

Society and economy

During this seminar Mary Holmes, University of Edinburgh, will present her paper "How we feel now? Emotional change since the 1930s".

10 May 2023
13:15 - 15:00
Room F417, entrance via Skanstorget 18, Gothenburg & online.

Mary Holmes, Professor, University of Edinburgh
Good to know
Contact the organizers to participate online.

About the seminar:
In recent years the supposed calmness and emotional robustness of the second world war generation have been compared to the allegedly over-anxious and emotionally fragile ‘snowflakes’ of the millennial generation. However, theories about generations have limitations for understanding changes in how people interpret and express their emotions. In this talk, I instead propose understanding social processes as the driver of emotional change in the UK. I use personal writings from the Mass-Observation Archive to illustrate that keeping calm or being anxious are not the product of generational identities. Instead, in comparing observers’ accounts of their reactions to the outbreak of war in 1939 with responses to the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, we can see changes in emotional reflexivity. This is the beginning of a larger project, but initial findings suggest that the British come to socially value and try to enact the ability to emotionally respond to their social circumstances. Rather than calm elders and anxious youngsters, crises prompt greater emotional reflexivity for all that includes varied, complex feelings. This emotional reflexivity is done relationally. Observers increasingly identify emotions as reasons for acting and crises interrupt individualisation processes, by revealing structural inequalities but also fueling efforts to redress them. Emotional reflexivity is thus a mechanism for social change, not just a response to it.

Researcher bio: Mary Holmes is Professor of Emotions and Society in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. She is also, along with Åsa Wettergren, a founding co-chief editor of the journal Emotions and Society.