Kari Norgaard — Living in Denial

In this excellent talk, recorded in 2013, Kari Norgaard offers a wonderful and concise overview of her well known book on the sociology of climate change Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (2011). What is most interesting, from my perspective, is the way that she deploys conceptions of both emotion (specifically: guilt, fear of the future, and helplessness) with questions of power and power relations (especially Lukes’ notion of 3D power) in her analysis to explain how knowledge of climate change is negotiated, and denied, in everyday life. Drawing on ethnographic data from fieldwork in Norway, Norgaard shows how this power-emotion nexus is fundamentally social, and constitutive of the social organization of climate denial. Both the book and this short (36m) lecture are well work checking out.

Via Youtube:

In her lecture, professor Kari Norgaard uses interviews and ethnographic data from a community in western Norway during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001 to describe how knowledge of climate change is experienced in everyday life. Stories in local and national newspapers linked the warm winter explicitly to global warming. Yet residents did not write letters to the editor, pressure politicians, or cut down on the use of fossil fuels. Norgaard describes the disturbing emotions of guilt, helplessness and fear of the future that arose when people were confronted with the idea of climate change — and then builds a model of socially organized denial to describe how people normalized these disturbing emotions through the deployment of conversation norms and discourses that served as “tools of social order.” Using literature from sociology of emotions, environmental sociology and sociology of culture, she describes “the social organization of climate denial” through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy.

The lectures shared here were given on October 5th 2013 in the following order:

Guðni Elísson: “Earth101”

Stefan Rahmstorf: “The Climate Crisis”

Michael Mann: “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

Kari Norgaard: “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life”

Peter Sinclair: “Communicating Climate Science in the Disinformation Era”

Recorded by Phil Coates and edited by Ryan Chapman.

Call for Papers – ESA Emotions Network Midterm Conference 2014**DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 6TH 2014**

Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004 4 mm square section mild steel bar 225 x 218 x 170 cm Photograph by Stephen White, London
Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004
4 mm square section mild steel bar
225 x 218 x 170 cm
Photograph by Stephen White, London


The ESA Emotions Network (RN11) will hold their 6th midterm conference between 25-27 September, 2014. The conference will take place on the island of Rhodes, Greece, in the University of the Aegean. This year, in addition to the usual streams, the conference will feature two special workshops on emotions – one for PhD students (featuring Prof. Helena Flam and Prof. Helmut Kuzmics), and one on the use of literary analysis for sociology of emotions research (again, featuring Prof. Helmut Kuzmics and Dr. Stephanie Bird). The proposed sessions, towards which you might pitch your abstracts, include: Theorizing Emotions; Emotions and: Morality; Globalization; Religion; Civic Action; Power; Literature; Law; Finance; Visuals; Migration-Sensations-Spaces; Post-Atrocity Emotions; and Researching Emotions Empirically. The full call for papers is here: CfP RN 11 Midterm Rhodes final(pdf).

Abstracts not exceeding 300 words should be sent by the 31st of March 2014 to Jochen Kleres (jkleresATposteo.de). Please use “RN 11 midterm submission”in the subject line of your email. Also, please send your abstract indicating whether it is for a specific session listed above. Notifications about the abstracts selected for presentation at the midterm conference will be made by mid-May 2014. Conference fees, more precise conference times, and links to accommodation will be announced then.

I hope to make it this year myself and I urge those working on affect or emotions to submit an abstract. I have been to other conferences with this group and always found them both intellectually stimulating and, perhaps more importantly, filled with interesting, warm and (not least) fun social scientists from all over the world. But hurry up! The deadline is Monday!


Special Issue: Emotions & Power

RPOWcover 1..2

Just a quick note to announce that a special issue of the Journal of Political Power, edited by myself and Prof. Helena Flam, is now available online. The theme of the special issue is emotions and power, and the issue contains some new and exciting social science research addressing these two concepts from a variety of perspectives. We have chosen eight papers that address both concepts, emotion and power in a variety of settings, including education, work organizations, social movements, politics, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, rhetoric and in comparisons in the conceptualization of some core concepts between ‘the West’ and ‘the East’. The diversity of subjects and approaches in evidence in the papers testifies both to the ubiquity of power and emotions in all areas of social life in general, and the importance and illumination gained from exploring these concepts together. The list of contributions, with links, is below. There are a handful of free access eprints to my introduction still available, but the rest of the articles are behind a paywall for now. If anyone wants me to email one or other of the papers just PM or leave a comment.

Heaney, J.G. (2013) ‘Emotions and power: a bifocal prescription to cure theoretical myopia’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 355–362.

Flam, H. (2013) ‘The transnational movement for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation as an emotional (rule) regime?’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 363–383.

Simpson, A.V., Clegg, S.R., Freeder, D. (2013) ‘Compassion, power and organization’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 385–404.

Barbalet, J., Qi, X. (2013) ‘The paradox of power: conceptions of power and the relations of reason and emotion in European and Chinese culture’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 405–418.

Wettergren, Å., Jansson, A. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and space in the discourse of “People of the Real World”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 419–439.

Baker, S.A., Rowe, D. (2013) ‘The power of popular publicity: new social media and the affective dynamics of the sport racism scandal’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 441–460.

Martin, J. (2013) ‘A feeling for democracy? Rhetoric, power and the emotions’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 461–476.

Zembylas, M. (2013) ‘Memorial ceremonies in schools: analyzing the entanglement of emotions and power’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 477–493.

Procter, L. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and schooling: the socialisation of “angry boys”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 495–510.

CfP: European Sociological Association 11th Conference-Turin, Italy, 28 – 31 August 2013


This year’s European Sociological Association (ESA) bi-annual conference will be held in Turin (Torino), Italy, on the 28 – 31 August 2013.  The general theme is on ‘Crisis, Critique and Change’, and the pdf containing calls for all the networks and streams is here (though, annoyingly, without hyperlinks in the contents section to each of the different streams…sigh).  I hope to attend, and have a few potential papers that I am thinking of presenting.  Hopefully I will be able to drum up some money from somewhere.

Abstracts must be submitted online by the 1st of February-so hurry up!

The network that I am most associated with is RN11, the sociology of emotions network.  These are a a great bunch of international scholars-warm, welcoming, interesting, insightful-so I urge you, if you have research that engages with emotions and emotionality, to consider submitting to these sessions.  The specific RN11 call is below.  Hope to see you there!


RN11 – Sociology of emotions

Jochen Kleres jkleres@gmx.de University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
Stina Bergman Blix Stina.BergmanBlix@sociology.su.se Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Sylvia Terpe sylvia.terpe@googlemail.com Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, Germany

The continuously growing field of the sociology of emotions has demonstrated that emotions are of fundamental significance to all aspects of social life. As a theoretical endeavor, the sociology of emotions aims at becoming superfluous as a separate field of scholarly interest by integrating into mainstream sociology. For this reason, we welcome papers that investigate the role of emotions in all aspects of society and social life. While all high-quality papers with a central focus on emotions will be considered, we also suggest a number of possible special topics listed below. This includes also contributions from neighboring disciplines that have significant relevance to sociology.


Key theoretical frameworks for the sociological analysis of emotions have stood the test of time during more than thirty years since they launched the sociology of emotions. Nevertheless, the potential for sociological theorizing of emotions is far from exhausted. For instance, the classics of sociology, far from mute on emotions, provide a valuable source of inspiration. Theoretical frameworks such as that of Norbert Elias may also engender innovative theorizing. While sociological interest in emotions is swiftly growing, emotions are still not recognized by mainstream social theorizing as a fundamental aspect of social life. We want to encourage contributions that try to develop innovative theories of emotions as well as theories that demonstrate how emotions can be integrated into social theorizing more generally.

Despite a history of several decades, the sociology of emotions has by and large not explored and theorized specific emotions. We welcome papers which develop theories of specific emotions that are highly relevant to social theorizing in general as well as useful for empirical research.

Morality, moral orientations and moral values have a long tradition in sociological research and theorizing. But how is their relation with emotions to be conceptualized? Are there particular ‘moral emotions’, and if so what constitutes a ‘moral emotion’? How are moral orientations and moral actions affected by emotions? Do emotions qualify as a substitute for lacking moral values? We welcome theoretical contributions as well as empirical studies dedicated to these questions.

Recent periods of economic turmoil in the world have the potential of shaking entrenched beliefs in the sober objective rationality of the economic sphere and its actors. Arguably, not only the recurring economic crises but also everyday finance business demonstrate that emotions are a key to all economic action and finance in particular.

Just like finance, the law is often conceived as a realm of objectivity and rationality. Burgeoning research shows that emotions are a pervasive feature of law and the court system. Papers that pinpoint, for instance, the role of emotion management by judges, emotions in court interaction, emotions and notions of justice, etc. are welcome.

There is still a dearth of methodological reflection for empirical emotion research. We welcome papers that present approaches to studying emotions empirically. Specific issues could include, but are not limited to: how can researchers deal with their own emotions within the analysis? How can one delineate an emotional culture empirically? How can one approach emotions within a transnational analysis? How can different approaches to empirical research inform a focus on emotions? How would they have to be developed?

In the past two-three decades resurgence in idealism, calling on societies split by violent conflicts to pursue truth, justice and reconciliation (often cast as a preconditions for making a transition to democracy), has re-asserted itself. Both trans-nationally and in each of the societies whose members had taken part in atrocities, there are attempts to formulate rules for post-atrocity times which spell out which emotions are prescribed and which are proscribed. Contributions are welcome highlighting in a critical way these emotional regimes and the vested interests behind them. How are emotions and emotional practices used and negotiated in order to come to terms with what has happened, to castigate perpetrators or to heal and forgive? This might also relate to explorations into the emotional dimensions of trauma.

Continued after the jump!

Continue reading “CfP: European Sociological Association 11th Conference-Turin, Italy, 28 – 31 August 2013”

Adam Curtis-On Hugs, Television and Socio-emotional Change


Film and documentary maker Adam Curtis, perhaps best known for his theoretically-informed BBC documentaries such as The Century of the Self (2002-available here), The Power of Nightmares (2004-here) and The Trap — What Happened to our Dream of Freedom  (2007-here), all of which I recommend to students, has a recent blogpost that I found particularly interesting.  Ostensibly about hugs, what the post and the numerous clips from the BBC’s TV archives (where Curtis appears to live) depict are changes in emotional regimes and feeling rules through time.  As usual, his approach is critical.  He writes that, while he wants to ‘tell a brief history of the rise of the Hug on TV and also show some of the strange, odd heroic figures who held out against it’, he also wishes to ask:

(W)hether the TV hug has become oppressive and limiting….That not only has it become a rigid convention – as rigid as anything in Victorian times – but because it teaches that we should concentrate on our own inner feelings, it also stops us from looking outside ourselves and thinking imaginatively about the society and the world around us.  I want to suggest that the Hug has become a part of the modern problem of not being able to imagine any alternative to the world of today. The Hug is no longer liberating, it is restraining.

It is the clips themselves that are most interesting, depicting, as they do, a fundamentally different ‘structure of feeling’, in Raymond Williams’ terms.  Williams defines structures of feeling as ‘social experiences in solution, as distinct from other social semantic formations which have been precipitated and are more evidently and more immediately available…. Yet this specific solution is never mere flux. It is a structured formation’.  He continues, with echoes of A.N.Whitehead to suggest that:

The term is difficult, but ‘feeling’ is chosen to emphasize a distinction from more formal concepts of ‘world-view’ or ‘ideology’…. We are concerned with meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt, and the relations between these and formal or systematic beliefs are in practice variable…. An alternative definition would be structures of experience…. We are talking about characteristic elements of impulse, restraint, and tone; specifically affective elements of consciousness and relationships: not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought: practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and interrelating continuity (Williams, Marxism & Literature, pp.132-3).

While Williams, at the time, was almost apologetic about using the term ‘feeling’ and at pains to justify it’s use, today, post the (so-called)’affective/emotional turn’, we can perhaps be more confidant in speaking of these matters.  For me, what the clips suggest or display is an emotional world and an emotional ‘being-in-the-world’ (or what might be called an emotional habitus) that is at once familiar, yet fundamentally different from the ones most of us live in and have today.

Take, for example, the first clip on Anna Neagle, who caused a scandal in 1958 by weeping, openly and continuously, in an early This is Your Life.  Both the programme makers and the public in general appear to have been scandalised by the public display of emotions and the lack of emotional control.  Even more poignant and unusual is the tale of Ministry of Defence clerk, Francis Beveridge, who’s generalized and articulate melancholia, is fascinating and strangely affecting.

The post is long, mainly due to the clips, but I recommend that you try to watch at least some of them.  One reflection on reading and viewing them again was that clips such as these, the archives of old documentaries in particular, might be useful tools for the contemporary sociologist of emotion in researching past emotional cultures and regimes, but also for teaching students about these (and other) core sociological concepts.  These appear to be under-utilized, yet clearly useful resources.




EDIT: Link to blog fixed! Also here.