Notes on: Scheer, M.  (2012) 'Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and is that what makes them have a history)?.  A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion.  History and Theory 51: 193-220.

Dave Harris

[Useful for showing the links between the high aesthetic informing academic work and the emotions that are likely to be embodied in pedagogic practice.  We know from Distinction that challenging the popular aesthetic can lead to hostility and panic, and we know from the earlier work [listed on my social theory page] that elite students in particular expressed a more restrained but equally negative reaction to professorial style in the form of a resigned acceptance of exclusion, echolalia, prophylactic relativism and the rest.  Bourdieu suggests a link to the particular kinds of social classes that he identified in France, but Scheer says this is not to be read as sociological determinism, since the social forces at work can produce contradictory, even individual results.  These include understanding adverse reactions as practice proceeds.  The habitus then becomes a series of strategic practices, not a consistent theoretically or reflectively underpinned fully rule-governed position.  We need to pin down some definitions of emotions and show that they have a history.  The usual approaches are reviewed including those that see emotions as located either mentally or bodily.  Bourdieu on practice, its connection with the habitus, and practical or strategic logic ends with an argument that emotions are in fact located in the habitus, including at the level of bodily hexis, are practiced pragmatically but not always consciously, and can be modified by subsequent social experiences.  Bourdieu also helps us to see how the spontaneous and automatic nature attributed to emotions can actually arise from the habitus].

'Emotions also follow this practical logic embedded in social relations.  Like all practices, they are simultaneously spontaneous and conventional'(205).

'The habitus is the precondition for subjectification, for example, by determining the level of inhibition to shedding tears that is part and parcel of gender performance' (206).

'The habits of the mindful body are executed outside of consciousness and rely on social scripts from historically situated fields' (207).  This leads to a denial of the mind/body split as well as the current attempt to valorize emotions as something spontaneous and authentic.  There are hints of Foucault and the connections between the outside and the inside in
the fold [See Deleuze's commentary here]

[Quoting from Masculine Domination] 'Symbolic force is a form of power that is exerted on bodies, directly and as if by magic, without any physical constraint; but this magic works only on the basis of the dispositions deposited, like springs, at the deepest level of the body.  If it can act like the release of a spring, that is, with a very weak expenditure of energy, this is because it does no more than trigger the dispositions that the work of inculcation and embodiment has deposited in those who are thereby primed for it.  In other words, it finds its condition of possibility, and is economic equivalent...  in the immense preliminary labour that is needed to bring about a durable transformation of bodies and to produce the permanent dispositions that it triggers and awakens.  These acts "often take the form of bodily emotions - shame, humiliation, timidity, anxiety, guilt - or passions and sentiments - love, admiration, respect.  These emotions are all the more powerful when they are betrayed in visible manifestations such as blushing, stuttering, clumsiness, trembling, anger or impotent rage, so many ways of submitting, even despite one's self" (208).  For example in some societies, women are excluded from public space and "their terror of the public space leads them to exclude themselves from it…  and thus develop a "social imposed agoraphobia"'(208).

'Bourdieu's approach allows for the recognition of the politics of emotion, which in the end is an intervention that increases the domain of agency by denaturalizing bodily impulses' [Bourdieu are aimed to emancipate people by making them aware of the underlying emotions] (208).

There are different kinds of emotional practices:

'Emotional management' (209) which involves learning an emotional repertoire and maintaining it, very often together with other people, artefacts or technologies like photos and music [managing the media 'is an important emotional practice '(210)].  An approach based on practice would emphasize the use of rituals to achieve and modulate emotions for personal as well as social purposes.  Although emotional practices are carried out alone, the social setting is important, and individuals learn to expect reactions according to the rank or similarity of the other: such apprehensions are 'not necessarily - or even usually - achieved conceptually, but mimetically through the habitus' (211) [with some good examples on drugs and dance]

'The use of emotives', which refers to the bodily aspects of emotions like tone of voice facial expression and even heart rate.  These are affected by the social relationship of the two speakers, and lie 'somewhere between deliberate control and unconscious habit' (212).  The social context and usage turn speech and gestures into emotives, since meaning depends on how these are performed.  Once made public they can also be re-experienced and reinterpreted, and sometimes are understood differently after a period of time.  Again this will be different in different historical periods: these days, 'discourses of therapy' including those in the media affect this process.

Communicative, where 'clear, socially agreed-upon signs' facilitate the process, although shared meanings are never guaranteed (214).  For example, the notion of sincerity involves quite complex practices 'whose cultural variations have frequently been commented on'(215).  Much depends on bodily performances like tone of voice or facial expression or movements, and these are culturally transmitted in a kind of skilled performance.  There is no point in trying to 'reconstruct emotional "truth"' (215).  Historical variations should be noted.

Regulation.  Expectations 'are implicated in learned habits of feeling and stored in the habitus' (216).  They reflect notions of emotional style and sensibility.  They are instilled through socialization as well as explicit instruction, for example when boys are told not to cry.  'Education of the sentiments' and aesthetic appreciation also serve to regulate the feelings, helping people to recognize the 'higher' or 'most true' ones and to associate them with the material.  These higher emotions are also embodied and require a particular 'bodily disposition, for example in the silent, reverent postures and minimal movements that support interiorization'.  Regulation is better understood in terms of emotional communities rather than emotional regimes.  To allow for flexibility, we might talk about particular emotional styles 'a term less binding and more conscious than "habitus"' (217).  Dominant styles are challenged by counter cultures, who often are assumed to be excessively emotional, but this 'makes sense only in relation to a standard, which also changes through time and is bound to a dominant social group'[clear implications for discussions of new kinds of emotions in education] [Nevertheless, Scheer says the clear differences between emotions and reason are not historical, but permanent].

In historical analysis, it is common to focus on objects and artefacts including images, since emotions in social behaviours are not just private and personal.  However, the representation of emotion changes, producing subversions, conflicts, and changing genres.  We need to look for emotional language, including references to bodily states such as fainting, tears, or discomforts.  Empathy is not a reliable method because habituses and subjectivities differ, and so do specific embodiments: 'the specific feeling of honor made available to bourgeois or practitioners of duelling in 18th and 19th century Europe, for example, is lost when the duel falls out of use' (219).

Nor are modern neurological techniques very helpful: 'if indeed fMRI scans show the neutral correlates of emotion, then they must be red as images of a "used" brain, one moulded by the practices of a specific culture' (220).

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