Rebecca E. Olson, University of Queensland & Jordan McKenzie, University of Wollongong:
The TASA Sociology of Emotions and Affect Thematic Group joined with The University of Wollongong’s Contemporary Emotions Research Network and The ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions to host the First International Conference on Contemporary and Historical Approaches to Emotions. After an overwhelming reply to our call for papers, the conference was held over three days, 5–7 December 2016, overlooking the buzz of tourists and cruise ships on level 18 of the Gateway Building at Circular Quay, Sydney. The conference was attended by over 100 scholars from around the globe with interests in emotions. These scholars represented a range of intersecting disciplines: sociology, history, policy, psychology, education and culture studies.
Highlights of the conference include keynote presentations from Professor Kathryn Lively (Sociology, Dartmouth), Professor Robert Walker (Social Policy, Oxford) and Associate Professor Åsa Wettergren (Sociology, University of Gothenburg). In her presentation, Professor Lively addressed the relationship of emotion to gender within sociology of emotions theories, from the sociocultural to the social psychological. She proposed Affect Control Theory as a useful tool in understanding gender and emotions, and a possible bridge between different theoretical traditions within the sociology of emotions and across neighbouring disciplines. Professor Walker presented shame as a key tool within policies aimed at addressing poverty around the world. He presented research on policies from eight countries, demonstrating the impact of shame on agency and social capital and raising questions about the merits of using shame within anti-poverty policies. Drawing on Žižek’s concept of cynical reason, Associate Professor Wettergren examined the deluded premise on which modern democracies and justice systems are based: the notion that rationality and emotion are exclusive and opposing phenomena. Using examples from her own research into emotions with the Swedish court system, she argued that emotions flow through structure and agency, with micro-interactions sustaining structures – even when these structures are based on illusory premises.
The conference also featured outstanding postgraduate presentations, indicating the strong future of emotions research in Australia. Papers delivered by Alexandra Coleman, Josh Pallas, Alexia Cameron and Declan Humphreys demonstrated the breadth of PhD research on emotions across fields such as cultural studies, law, sociology and philosophy. Overall, the standard of PhD presentations was very high, with the topics of emotion and affect bringing together researchers using a vast range of methodologies and theoretical frameworks. Yet it was not hard to find common ground between researchers, even in cases where specific research interests seemed miles apart.
Building on the interdisciplinary theme of the conference, talks are currently underway with Routledge to draft a two-volume edited collection on the intersections across the sociology of emotions and neighbouring disciplines.
The 2016 TASA SEA Workshop marked the last event run by outgoing Thematic Group Co-Conveners, Dr Jordan McKenzie (University of Wollongong) and Dr Rebecca E. Olson (University of Queensland). We would like to thank our conference collaborators – the Contemporary Emotions Research Network and The ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions – for helping to make such a large event possible, and also the presenters for their outstanding submissions to the program. Our last task as co-convenors is to leave the thematic group in capable hands. As such, we would like to welcome Associate Professor Deb King (Flinders) and Ms Michelle Peterie (Sydney University) as the new co-conveners.