Phillipa Bellemore, Macquarie University & Bircan Ciytak, University of Birmingham:

The title ‘Political Emotions’ suggested a conference that would explore emerging and uncharted emotional territories, and this was certainly the case. A friendly 10am start on the first day allowed everyone to orientate themselves and from the friendly introductions and discussions with other participants before the day commenced, we knew this was going to be an affirming and informative conference. A multi-disciplinary mix of participants added eclectic perspectives with scholars from history, sociology, human geography, education and anthropology attending. Researchers from Scotland, Germany, England, Italy and China as well as different states in Australia presented and participated in lively discussions.

Concurrent sessions and panels throughout the conference showcased work of early career researchers, doctoral students, along with presentations by long-standing academics. Panel topics included emotional politicians, imagining an emotional politics, emotional educations, (Post) Colonial emotions and media emotions. One panel looked at encounter, emotions and hopeful ways of living together. Presentations by Melanie Baak, Melike Petersen and Phillipa Bellemore reflected a quiet response to diversity and raised the possibilities that emerged from engaging with emotions through cross-cultural encounters. At another panel, Claire Gray reflected on the welfare policy under New Zealand’s sixth Labour government and highlighted media responses to welfare recipients, particularly disgust. Bircan Ciytak gave a paper on the weariness associated with unjust assumptions about identity for third generation Turkish heritage migrants in Germany, their experiences and its impact on belonging and identity. This linked well with Gray’s reflections on ‘outsiders’ as ‘disgusting’ through emphasizing the emotional impacts of this positioning.

A question and answer panel including Alison Phipps, Deb King and Michelle Peterie on managing emotions as researchers and activists was skillfully facilitated by Katie Barclay, as we explored how as academics and researchers but also activists, we handle being involved in challenging areas such as climate change activism, refugees support, and policy-making around people seeking asylum and on conditional welfare programs. So often positivist research tropes silence our recognition of emotions involved in our research and the impact they have on us. Michelle Peterie discussed the emotional toll of empirical research and the discomfort of publicly acknowledging this while conscious of our privilege and that the lives of the people she researched were so hard. Deb and Alison Phipps urged us to find joy in our lives through taking care of ourselves, finding what helps us flourish whether it be exercise, knitting, singing, the restorative act of being around like-minded people or joining movements such as Extinction Rebellion.

A similar self-reflexivity was evident in presentations by Marco Santangelo and Jonathon Burrow, who spoke on emotions of resource allocation in Singapore and China. Their panel engendered debate on the risk that researchers bring a Western lens when engaging in research in other countries and the importance of considering the perspectives of people living in those communities. Relationality between subject and researcher, and the emotional praxis of change-making, was a central theme across papers.

Professor Alison Phipps from University of Glasgow delivered a lively public lecture and keynote presentation on ‘Decolonising Multilingualism: What Happens to Emotions When English Takes a Step Back?’ Alison’s presentation, which included poetry and compelling visual images, invited us to consider the impact of colonisation on language and our own assumptions about race and language. A moving presentation, emotion was both figured as a performative component of her presentation, and as central to the dynamics of decolonial engagements across culture. Alison has written a short monograph, ‘Decolonising Multilingualism: Struggles to Decreate’, as her manifesto.

Professor Alison Phipps: Keynote (photo supplied by Hannah Soong)

We left this conference feeling nourished, hopeful and inspired, with new connections and many ideas seeded for future reading and writing. The Political Emotion Conference 2019 was a powerful conference showcasing diverse perspectives on politics and emotions. Thank you Katie Barclay, Nathan Manning, Deb King and Michelle Peterie from The Australian Sociological Association’s Sociology of Emotions and Affect Thematic Group (TASA SEA) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), for your hard work in organizing and facilitating a gentle and hopeful conference.

To view the program for the Political Emotions Conference 2019 go to:

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