Adam Drazin


Why is it that emotion and sensation are supposed to elide and move in the same direction? Are the sensory capacities of the body similar on the inside as on the outside?

I arrived at the workshop very sceptical that the term “emotion” is in any way useful for thinking with; I suspect that many other participants were the same. I am an anthropologist, and find that talking of emotions often gives people a common lamguage, but that it is simply impossible to know whether people feel in the same way. The word emotion is used increasingly to evoke a sense of an interior space of self, in which radically different, positive and negative, elide. From my point of view, phenomena such as happiness and sadness may be in point of fact very different types of phenomenon, and vcertainly do different things, and yet they are commonly talked about as emotions. Hence emotions sometimes serves as a bucket term for a very wide range of feelings, in a world where feelings are ubiquitous, and emotion may be handy to describe those feelings which in ourselves or others we understand there is more to be explained.

From where does the expectation come that what we call emotion may link with certain kinds of material, tactility, or sensation? It sounds silly to assert that a table makes me feel a certain way, but what of the roughness or colour of the table? When we talk of materials and emotions, it is perhaps that the sensory qualities of an object give it the appearance of depth or profundity.

The workshop made me bvery aware of the way in which emotions are a project, something which imply both aspirations, and a contingency of what resources we have available. The mutuality of emotions and sensoriness for me can concern the ways in which we locate ourselves. These kinds of concerns, in anthropology, are commonly addressed through modes of work such as phenomenological anthropology. What the workshop presented to me was the importance in such work of identifying focii and backgrounds for the understanding of emotions and of materials as cultural phenomena. In the cultural spaces we inhabit, some phenomena push forward while others are backgrounded.

In order to look at these phenomena better, more contxtual work would help us see the projects involve. We need not so much to ask ‘why be emotional?’, as ‘where, when and how’ we adopt emotion as a project?


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