The spaces of anger(s) past. Understanding the global history of a multifarious emotion (antiquity to the present)
Anger has long been understood as a basic, universal emotion. While this view remains pervasive in certain scholarly disciplines, a large group of emotion scholars has formed a radically different understanding. Since the 1970s, a growing number of anthropologists and historians (amongst others) has focused on the social and cultural construction and function of emotions. It was in this context that anger – albeit slowly and haphazardly – became the subject of serious scholarly research. During the 1980s, Peter and Carol Stearns pointed towards shifting norms and values with regard to the expression of anger. A decade later, Barbara Rosenwein focused on the social uses of anger in the medieval period. Since then, an increasing number of scholars has taken up the task of studying anger in a historical way (E.g.: Harris 2001; Stauffer 2007; Enenkel & Traninger eds 2015; Jensen 2017). Throughout these combined works, anger appears as a multifarious emotion, leaving us to wonder whether it is even possible to speak of one phenomenon (Rosenwein 1998). With so many different forms of anger – from the anger of the current ‘Zornpolitik’ to the moral anger lauded by medieval theologians – should we instead be thinking about a history of angers, plural (Dixon 2016)?
Building upon this line of thinking, we want to gain a more detailed understanding of how these different (types of) anger(s) took shape throughout history. More specifically, building upon the work of Benno Gammerl and Susan Broomhall this conference aims to explore the role of space and place in the social and cultural production or functioning of anger. Space has, as we all know, never been a mere backdrop for historical events. It both produces and is produced by the social and cultural phenomena that were grounded in it. Indeed, if there is anything all the angers of the past have had in common – from ancient times to the present day and from Paris to Beijing – it is the fact that they all took place in specific spaces. Even though it has become common practice to view emotions as embodied, historical attention for the relationship between space and emotion has, however, remained relatively sparse.