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History of Emotions

Do emotions have a history? And do they make history? These are the questions that the new Research Center “History of Emotions” seeks to answer. To explore the emotional orders of the past, historians work closely with psychologists and education specialists. In addition, they draw on the expertise of anthropologists, sociologists, musicologists and scholars working on literature and art. Our research rests on the assumption that emotions – feelings and their expressions – are shaped by culture and learnt/acquired in social contexts. What somebody can and may feel (and show) in a given situation, towards certain people or things, depends on social norms and rules. It is thus historically variable and open to change.

A central objective of the Research Center is to trace and analyse the changing norms and rules of feeling. We therefore look at different societies and see how they develop and organise their emotional regimes, codes, and lexicons. Research concentrates on the modern period (18th to 20th centuries).
Geographically, it includes both western and eastern societies (Europe, North America and South Asia).

Special attention is paid to institutions that have a strong impact on human behaviour and its emotional underpinnings, such as the family, law, religion, the military, the state.
Equally important to the Center´s research programme is the historical significance of emotions. Emotions are said to motivate human action and thus influence social, political, economic developments.

In this capacity, they are and have been a privileged object of manipulation and instrumentalisation. Who appealed to what kind of emotions for what reasons? To what degree did emotions play a part in/contribute to the formation and dissolution of social groups, communities and movements? These and other questions open doors to a new field of research, one which aims to thoroughly historicise a crucial element of human development.

New Publication

Civilizing Emotions (M. Pernau et al.) | Cover
© Oxford

Pernau, M., Jordheim, H., Bashkin, O., Bailey, C., Benesch, O., Ifversen, J., Kia, M., Majumdar, R., Messner, A. C., Park, M., Saada, E., Singh, M., & Wigen, E. (2015). Civilizing Emotions. Concepts in Nineteenth Century Asia and Europe. Oxford University Press, U. K. ISBN 978-0-19-874553-2

Webportal

Webportal "History of Emotions--Insights into Research" | ePublishing
© MPIB

Short essays with the use of concrete sources as examples demonstrate the sources and methods as well as the questions and perspectives through which the history of emotions can be explored and its range and knowledge potential can be specified.

Link to the Website

Contact

Director:
Ute Frevert
Ute Frevert Porträt
sekfrevert [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de

Team

Teamfoto | Center for the History of Emotions
© MPIB

Interview

with Ute Frevert December 2014

News

IMPRS

IMPRS-MEMS Logo

The IMPRS Moral Economies explores the values, emotions, and habits that have inspired new social formations and their moral underpinnings in Europe, North America, and South Asia since the eighteenth century.

CFP Graduate Conference 2016

Programme here.

At A Glance

Leaflet of the Center
(update May 2015)