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The Politics of Emotion: Challenging Emotional Regimes in Europe across the Iron Curtain from 1960s to the 1980s

This research project will reinvestigate oppositional and countercultural (youth-)movements in Europe from the 1960s to the 1980s, in particular new leftist and post-Marxist groups, new social movements such as squatting, leftwing gay activism and feminism, and the ‘alternative milieu’ in the broadest sense. More specifically, the project examines the ‘politics of emotions’ of these movements and their wider societal and political impact. It analyzes how activists developed a critique of modern, urban capitalism that focused on the emotions capitalist society allegedly produced and prevented. In a way, they thus analyzed what one might call with William Reddy the emotional regime of capitalism. However, by the very act of formulating this critique, they also participated in the creation of this emotional regime. At the same time, their critique allowed them to develop new emotional practices that would break with the emotional regime they abhorred. The research project analyzes both the theoretical critique and the emotional practices of the New Left. It thereby links a history of emotions, the body and the political.

Focusing on emotional politics, the project will develop a new paradigm regarding how to conceptualize the transformations of European societies across the Iron Curtain since the 1960s by arguing that new emotional cultures emerged in these decades, to which the alternative left greatly contributed. The project will propose an original interpretation of why especially members of the younger generation rebelled against two seemingly very different socio-political systems, democratic capitalism in the West and state-communism in the East, on similar grounds: a desire for (different) feelings. The project thus seeks to link protest movements of the 1970s in East and West to the peaceful revolutions of 1989. The project is transnational in its scope and will cover case studies in both Western and Eastern Europe across the Iron Curtain.

This research project will be conducted from 01/04/14 to 31/03/17 under the leadership of Dr Joachim Häberlen, and is funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).


Call for Papers for the conference 'New Subjectivities, New Emotions, New Politics: Oppositional Politics and Counter Cultures Across the Iron Curtain During the Long 1970s', Frankfurt/Oder, 12/13 June 2015.

Conference Program