Angry protestors battling the forces of order; workers celebrating during strikes and factory occupations; colourfully dressed hippies happily dancing; crowds cheering as the Berlin Wall fell; songs of protest that call for solidarity and hope; protestors that demand ‘better’ feelings, like ‘free love’ or ‘less fear’ – protests, revolts and revolutions are, it seems, moments of intense emotions. What social scientists have been arguing for a while now, historians now begin to deal with: if we want to understand political and social upheavals and their histories, we need to include feelings and emotions into our analysis.

The latest Contemporary European History themed issue Emotions in Protest Movements does this. The articles of address a variety of protest movements in Europe during the twentieth century, reaching from the mutinies in the French army in 1917, to Spanish anarchists under the Franco regime, French animal rights activists, the protest songs of Greek immigrants in West Germany, Soviet Hippies and alternative leftists in the Federal Republic. The articles not only offer fresh perspectives on these movements and events, but also a wide variety of methodological approaches to the study of emotions in history. They draw on neuroscience as well as on concepts like emotional regimes, emotional communities, emotional styles and emotional practices, demonstrating how these concepts can be usefully employed in historical research.

Of particular interest is the role of the body for the emotional politics of protest. Authors for example question how the consumption of alcohol can stir certain emotions and suppress others; how activists appeal to the senses to stimulate feelings; or how people practice ‘alternative’ feelings and a ‘counter-hegemonic’ emotional style by dressing up or engaging in violence to overcome fear. Readers will thus find the articles not only illuminating with regard to their specific subject, but also thought stimulating on a methodological level.

The theme issue is completed by an introduction that elaborates on the different methodological approaches and the politics inherent in these approaches themselves, and a conclusion that calls for including objects, the built environment as well as bodies into the mix of ‘actants’ (Bruno Latour) that we need to study in order to understand feelings in their specific historical context.

For a limited period (until 31st January 2015) you can access the introduction and 2 articles from this issue here for free.

Joachim Haeberlen

University of Warwick, UK

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