Dr Michelle Peterie, University of Queensland & A/Prof Deb King, Flinders University:

This two-day conference – jointly funded by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University – brought together an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars to explore an important sociological question. What is the relationship between emotions and politics?

Conference delegates from across the humanities and social sciences presented empirical and theoretical papers to illuminate the interplay between emotions and politics in all spheres of public and personal life.

Delegates heard that the significance of emotions to political relationships has never been more apparent. Presenters showed that emotions are key to interpreting rising nationalisms on numerous continents, draconian responses towards refugees and asylum seekers, punitive social policies targeting marginalised populations, and the backroom dealings of party politicians. They also explored connections between government policy and community emotions, highlighting the role of corporate forces, media representations and online algorithms in mediating these relationships.

It was also clear from the presentations that emotions are not just for high politics, and that ‘the personal’ and ‘the political’ are often one and the same. Indeed, presenters demonstrated that emotions are implicated in power relationships at all social levels, offering nuanced discussions of emotions in larger analyses surrounding (for example) class, gender, race, age and species. While these discussions often touched on legislative and social policy issues, many papers nonetheless focused on the emotional politics of everyday spaces such as classrooms, workplaces, volunteer settings, homes and online forums.

The conference also explored emotions as agents of change. This theme was implicit in many of the papers, but was explored most overtly in a panel on Political Emotions in Practice, which teased out the emotional dimensions of activism and the role of social research in advocacy efforts. Prof Alison Phipps’ keynote presentation and public lecture on ‘Decolonising Multilingualism: What Happens to Emotions When English Takes a Step Back’ similarly reflected on the researcher-researched relationship, and on the role of the arts in both personal transformation and broader political change. As such, delegates were encouraged to continue their explorations of the emotions-politics nexus through self-reflexivity and collegial discussion.

As conveners of this event, we would like to thank everyone who attended our Political Emotions Conference, particularly those who made long journeys from overseas or interstate. Thank you also to our exceptional co-conveners Dr Katie Barclay and Dr Nathan Manning from CHE, and to Prof Alison Phipps for her generous contribution to the conference as keynote presenter.

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