AID — Agora for Interdisciplinary Debate

Monday 12.9.2016, 16-18 Unioninkatu 37, lecture hall
“The Affective Turn: One or Many? Conceptual and Methodological Implications”
A session in the series “AID — Agora for Interdisciplinary Debate”, coordinated by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (TINT), University of Helsinki
Discussed by:
Lauri Nummenmaa, cognitive neuroscience, psychology; University of Turku
Susanna Paasonen, media studies; University of Turku
Christian von Scheve, sociology; Freie Universität Berlin

Moderated by Mikko Salmela, TINT, University of Helsinki

Description of the topic:
In the past decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the study of emotions and affects in humanities as well as in behavioral and social sciences. It has become customary to refer to this increase as an “affective” or “emotional” turn in these disciplines. However, the affective/emotional turn is not a conceptually, theoretically, and methodologically unified or coherent phenomenon. Instead, there are several partially overlapping and simultaneous, yet also partially independent “turns” in different disciplines and even within disciplines.

The variety of affective/emotional turns has resulted in a situation in which different disciplines and discourses employ the same concepts for different phenomena. The notion of “affect” is a case in point. On the one hand, “affect” is an umbrella term for phenomenal states with certain valence and intensity such as feelings, emotions, and moods that differ from each other in other respects such as their intentionality, duration, and specificity of action tendencies in mainstream philosophy, psychology, and sociology. On the other hand, “affect” in some discourses in cultural, media, and gender studies refers to visceral feelings, whereas in other discourses it denotes an autonomous force that passes and circulates between bodies, both human and non-human, influencing their capacity to act and to be acted upon in various ways. Yet in both main branches of affect theory, “affect” is a non-conscious, non-representational, pre-linguistic, continuous, bodily mode of being, in opposition to “emotion” that is understood as representational, conscious, linguistic, discrete, and episodic. This conceptual distinction has affinities for instance with the distinction between “core affect” and “emotion” in contemporary psychological constructionism even if adherents of those approaches seem largely unaware or ignorant of those affinities. Likewise, affect theorists draw inspiration from the work of Silvan Tomkins (1911-91) who is also an important background figure in psychological theories of basic emotions. Yet there is hardly any interaction between these branches of research. This AID-seminar seeks to probe into conceptual and methodological convergences and divergences between different approaches in contemporary affect and emotion research, with the purpose of establishing and reinforcing dialogue and collaboration between different approaches.

Ahmed, Sara (2014). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. 2nd edition. Edinburg; Edinburg University Press (available in UH network, EBSCO Academic Collection).

Brennan, Teresa (2004). The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (An Ebrary e-book, accessible in UH network).

Ekman Paul & Cordaro Daniel (2011). What is Meant by Calling Emotions Basic. Emotion Review 3(4), A Special section on Basic Emotions. (Accessible in UH network)
– See also other contributions in the same volume by James Russell, Erika Rosenberg & Marc D. Lewis; Carroll Izard; Robert Levenson; Jaak Panksepp & Douglas Watt; Jessica Tracy & Daniel Randles; Nico Frijda & W. Gerrod Parrott, Marc D. Lewis & Zhong-xu Liu; Keith Oatley & Philip Johnson-Laird; Ira Roseman; and Andrea Scarantino & Paul Griffiths.

Gregg, Melissa & Seigworth, Gregory J. (Eds) (2010). The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke University Press.

Leys, Ruth (2011). The Turn to Affect: A Critique. Critical Inquiry 37, 434-472. (Accessible in UH network)

Scherer, Klaus R (2005). What Are Emotions? And How Can They Be Measured? Social Science Information 44, 695-729. (Accessible in UH network)
– Comments by Nico Frijda, Keith Oatley, W. Gerrod Parrott, Rainer Reisenzein (psychology); Batja Mesquita (cultural psychology); Ian Gotlib (clinical psychology), Peggy Thoits (sociology), Joseph LeDoux (neuroscience); George Loewenstein (economics); Ronald De Sousa and Paul Griffiths (philosophy), Social Science Information 46 (2007), 381-443. (Accessible in UH network)

de Sousa, Ronald (2013): Emotion. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Wetherell, Margaret (2012). Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding. London: Sage. (An Ebrary e-book, accessible in UH network)