Teaching Racism, Classism and Patriarchy with Emotions

Image: Redd Angelo on Unsplash

Sunday 26th August, 2018

Lisa Kalayji

What are you teaching this year? If you were inspired by Lisa Kalayji’s suggestions then why not write your own? We’d love to receive reading lists on any sociological topic, following a similar format to Lisa’s.

Please contact community@thesociologicalreview.com if you are interested.

The autumn teaching term is coming up, so over the next couple of months I’ll be posting resources and recommendations from my teaching. As those in the field of emotions already know, and those of you in other sociological subfields are likely beginning to notice, emotions are taking up an increasingly (and appropriately) central place in social theory. More and more scholarship is cropping up which places emotion at the centre of its analysis, much of it produced by scholars who do not specialise in emotions, but have realised that social relations are emotionally constituted. More on that later, but for the time being, I want to give sociology teachers who might not be familiar with the sociology of emotions some ways to incorporate them into your existing curricula. Here are some things that my students will be reading about the emotions of racism, classism, and patriarchy this year:

W.E.B. Du Bois (1903) ‘Of the Faith of the Fathers’, Chapter 10 in The Souls of Black Folk [any edition]

This is where Du Bois lays out the concept of ‘double consciousness’, which is arguably the most essential concept for making sense of the lived emotional experience of social exclusion. It also forms the basis for some key feminist epistemological theory, provides an indispensable conceptual component to the sociology of culture, and vividly illuminates the historical specificity of emotions. I would also recommend it for teaching on the sociology of violence.

Rosalind Gill & Shani Orgad (2015) ‘The Confidence Cult(ure).’, Australian Feminist Studies, 30(86): 324-344.

This paper is concerned with the specifically gendered imperative for women and girls to be confident, and the use of that imperative as a technology of (re)producing neoliberal culture by shifting responsibility for structural inequalities onto individuals. It’s nuanced and sophisticated, and opens up space around subjectivity, ambivalence, politics, culture, and the body. In addition to having obvious applications for teaching on neoliberalism and feminism, it would be fruitful for teaching on cultural studies (especially historical conjuncture), the sociology of the body, and discourse analysis.

Vik Loveday (2016) ‘Embodying Deficiency Through “Affective Practice”: Shame, Relationality, and the Lived Experience of Social Class and Gender in Higher Education.’ Sociology, 50(6): 1140-1155.

This paper uses Bourdieuian field theory to elaborate the way that ‘affective practices’ are a site of embodying shame and reproducing the cultural inscription of shamefulness on working-class subjects. Affect theories deal much more adequately with the relationship between embodied feeling and social context than emotion theories do (theories of emotion often skew cognitive, and don’t seem to quite know what to do with the body), so this would be a good resource for any sociology teaching on subjectivity. (NB: The emotions of social class are overwhelmingly theorised through Bourdieu, which makes productive critical ground for thinking this paper in conversation with Du Bois.)

All social relations, including power relations, are emotionally constituted (not to be mistaken for ‘reducible to emotions/subjectivity’), so these would be good resources to flag to your students and incorporate into your lectures regardless of from what angle you’re teaching about systems of social power. My lecture on this topic is running in late October and is getting a complete re-write from last year’s version, so I’ll post the lecture material closer to that time.

A few other favourite new-ish releases in these areas:

Ahmed, S. (2017) Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press.

Back, L. (2014) ‘Tracks of My Tears: Smokey Robinson and the Art of Loving.’ Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7/8): 337-341.

Froyum, C. (2013) ‘”For the betterment of kids who look like me”: Professional emotional labour as a racial project.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(6): 1070-1089.

Garcia-Rojas, C. (2016) ‘(Un)Disciplined futures: Women of color feminism as a disruptve to white affect studies.’ Journal of Lesbian Studies, 21(3): 254-271.

Nash, J.C. (2014) ‘Laughing Maters: Race-Humor on the Pornographic Screen.’ in The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (p. 107-127). Duke University Press. [CW: Sexually explicit imagery and incest themes.]

Scambler, G. (2018) ‘Heaping blame on shame: “Weaponising stigma” for neoliberal times.’ The Sociological Review, 66(4): 766-782.

Schmalzbauer, L. (2015) ‘Temporary and transnational: gender and emotion in the lives of Mexican guest worker fathers.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(2): 211-226.

Thurnell-Read, T. (2017) ‘”Did you ever hear of police being called to a beer festival?” Discourses of merriment, moderation and “civilized” drinking amongst real ale enthusiasts.’ The Sociological Review, 65(1): 83-99.

Tyler, I. (2013) Revolting Subjects: Social Abjecton and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain. Zed Books.

This was originally published on Lisa Kalayji’s blog and is reproduced here with permission

Lisa Kalayji is a feminist sociologist of emotion and affect, and has recently had her sociology PhD viva at the University of Edinburgh. She does historical sociological research concerning the counter-hegemonic emotion cultures of social movements, as well as theoretical work on affect in sociology and cultural studies.

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