From ESA – Strategies & Activities
RN Reports – RN11 Sociology of Emotions
Jonathan G. Heaney, RN11 Coordinator 2017-2019
An Emotions Lens on the World
The sociology of emotions has grown since the 1970’s to become a vital and dynamic field within the discipline of Sociology. With strong roots in the classical tradition, it has taken an increasingly central place within contemporary Sociology and makes important contributions to general sociological theorising, as well as to specific sub-fields such as the sociology of culture, politics, organisations, social movements, intimate and family life, the body, the economy, digital sociology, social change, migration, and more. The ESA Sociology of Emotions Research Network (RN11) brings together researchers from across and beyond Europe, deploying a range of methodologies to explain and understand a – perhaps the – fundamental feature of our shared social lives: our emotions.
The RN11 was formed in May 2004, but originated as a Research Stream (RS4 – Sociology of Love and Hate: Emotions) at the 6th ESA conference in Murcia (Spain) in September 2003. Jack Barbalet, Helena Flam, and Charlotte Bloch served as the first Executive Board (2004-5), and Helena Flam would go on to serve as Coordinator of the Network on three occasions, from 2007-9, 2009-11, and 2011-12. Details on the history of the Network are available on our website.
Since then, it has expanded significantly in terms of membership and activities. Currently, the formal membership of the network stands at over 84 members, representing 25 countries in total. This includes members from across Europe, including Britain, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Turkey, Hungry, Latvia, Russia, and many from beyond Europe, including the United States, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. However, the informal membership of those subscribed to our email list stands at over 300 members, who, in addition to regular updates from list members, also receive our biannual Newsletter, which is currently curated by Monika Verbalyte.
Since its formation, the Network has been a key global source of and resource for emotion sociology. It has been an active participant at every biennial ESA Conference since 2003, and has organised eight midterm conferences in a variety of locations, including Augsburg, Karlstad, Budapest, Graz, Berlin, Rhodes, and Stockholm. The most recent 8th Midterm Conference was organised as a joint conference with the newly-reformed British Sociological Association’s Emotion Study Group, and took place in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. This has been our largest Midterm to date with over 100 abstract submissions, resulting in 70 delegates in total over the three days of the event, 65 paper presentations, and keynotes from Professor Ian Burkitt (Bradford) who spoke on the reflexive and emotional self, and Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen (Cardiff), who presented on the emotional politics of Donald Trump. One key feature of this and, indeed, all of our Midterms since Rhodes, was the one-day PhD Workshop, which took place before the main conference. This year, a dozen PhD candidates from across Europe (and one from the US) had the opportunity to discuss their work collectively, and receive feedback from two established emotion sociologists, Stina Bergman-Blix (Uppsala, and former Coordinator of RN11), and Mary Holmes (Edinburgh, and Convenor of the BSA Emotions Study Group). Encouraging PhD students and early career researchers has been a hallmark of the Network since its inception, and we aim to create a warm, welcoming, and friendly environment that is also rigorous and professional, for all our members.
While conferences and critical discussion have been key activities for the Network, over the years it has also developed a very prolific publication profile. Leaving aside individual outputs, the creative collaborations associated with the network have included a series of edited editions and journal special issues, edited by and featuring RN11 members, on topics as diverse as emotions and social movements (2005), theorising emotions (2009), emotions and organisations (2010), emotions and friendship (2011), emotions in finance (2012), the internet and emotions (2013), emotions in politics (2013), power and emotion (2014), collective emotions (2014), and methods for researching emotions in sociology (2015). More recently, Network members have been instrumental in launching a new book series on emotions with Routledge (Routledge Studies in the Sociology of Emotions, edited by Mary Holmes and Julie Brownlie), a brand new journal with Bristol University Press called Emotions & Society (with members Mary Holmes and Åsa Wettergren acting as editors-in-chief, and Jochen Kleres and Nathan Manning acting as co-editors). The first issue is available for free here.
All of this attests to the thriving, exciting, and productive community that is RN11 – and our work continues. The current board, including myself, Jonathan G. Heaney (Queen’s University Belfast), along with Co-coordinators Monika Verbalyte (Freie Universität Berlin/Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg), and Alberto Martin Perez (Universitat de Barcelona) are busy marking preparations for the 14th ESA Conference in Manchester in 2019. Our involvement has already been confirmed for two Semi-Plenary Sessions for the conference, including one on boundaries, collaborating with RN20 and RN32, and another on social mobilisations, organised jointly with RN25. We also hope to collaborate with RN13 for a joint session on families, intimate relations, and emotions, in addition to our general sessions and activities. As a network, and given the centrality of our research focus, we are very much open to collaboration with other ESA Networks that are also seeking to explain and understand the emotional dimensions of social life in various ways, and to make connections with other groups and organisations that share our broad interest in the structure, dynamics, and constitution of emotional life.
RN11 on the ESA website.