Over the past decade, the history of emotions has been a rapidly growing scholarly field. The studies have focused on a wide range of topics: the emotion concepts and expressions, the politics of emotions, emotional regimes and styles, collective and corporeal emotions, public versus private emotions, emotional communities, the cultural-historical variation in emotions, as well as the relevance of gender, ethnicity, class, and nationality in understanding past emotions. Furthermore, emotions have had an important place in many older traditions of historical inquiry – e.g. in biographies and psychohistory – even though these studies have not been labeled to be history of emotions per se. Historicizing past feelings has been, from the start, an interdisciplinary effort. Ethnology, linguistics, sociology and cultural studies have greatly influenced the history of emotions.
The two-day symposium Historicity of Emotions: Feelings in Their Political and Cultural Context at HCAS is designed to explore emotions between the nature–nurture divide, that is, analyze how emotions can be physiologically felt and at the same time expressed and interpreted in accordance with culturally constructed practices. We ask what the “historicity” of emotions actually means; i.e. what are the different relations between temporal and emotional changes and/or continuities? What can history contribute to the wider research on emotions? And just as importantly, how do researchers in other disciplines conceptualize the role of temporal change / continuity in studying affects and emotions and what is there to learn from these methodologies? Or is the historicity of emotions neglected outside the historical scholarship – and to what influence?