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Anth 207: Emotion

Lecture for Psychological Anthropology at Macquarie University, revised 2015.

Greg Downey

on 19 October 2015

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Transcript of Anth 207: Emotion

Michelle Rosaldo
Renato Rosaldo
Ilongot of Luzon, Philippines
1967-1969, Michelle & Renato conducting field work.
Ilongot had only given up headhunting in early 20th c.
65 of 70 men over the age of 20 had taken a head.
Michelle wondered why peaceful people could do this.
The Ilongot said they did it because their hearts were heavy – grief, anger, stress...
Returned to Ilongot in 1974 to investigate.
(anger, heat, energy, envy; opposed to passivity, dullness, or fear — so also passion & creative energy) and...
(knowledge which allows one to control
Headhunting – part of man's lifecycle, as was leaving the group to travel & raid.
problem: headhunting prohibited.
could Christianity take away the pain of liget without some outlet?
Headhunting quieted the spirit, granting beya.
Modified young men's emotional existence, giving them the right to wear hornbill earrings, take a wife, and become a full man.
although they had changed their emotional lives, a recording of a
celebration left them despondent.
In 1981, they returned to Luzon & Michelle fell from a cliff & passed away.
Renato wrote 'Grief & a headhunter's rage' where he talked about how he better understood in visceral fashion what Ilongot men had told him.
Anth 207
psychological anthropology
Greg Downey
Variation in emotion across cultures
Map of 'most emotional' countries.
did you laugh or smile a lot in the previous day?
The Philippines was 'most emotional'
Singapore was 'least emotional'
12 countries in the Americas in top 15.
other than Singapore, Nepal & Madagascar, all lowest scoring countries former Soviet.
Key themes:
universality & cultural particularity
emotions are dynamic, unfolding
emotions & feelings
emotions embedded in social world
Paul Ekman
Six basic emotions with universal facial expressions.
happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise
Emotions for which there are no words in English.
infographic by Pei-Ying Lin
key points
emotional tenor of life can vary
'basic' emotions not 'basic' although contrasts are cross-cultural and hold up
apparent similarity can mask difference
Universals or 'basic emotions'
idea of universal emotions is at least as old as Darwin
Darwin pointed out similarity in expressions with dogs
Research confirms that some basic neuro-physiological reactions are stereotypical & can be released automatically
Emotions are like automatic, pre-programmed reflexes.
What your body does, how it responds, changes in automatic functions, the signals you are sending
Your awareness of your own body, what is happening to you, your interpretation of these events.
awareness triggering (or stifling) emotional response.
bodily processes emerging into awareness
Culture & personality school
Some anthropologists in mid-20th century tried to argue that the emotional tenor was so distinct as to constitute a culture-wide shared personality.
Ruth Benedict
Some doubts:
'basic emotions' so hyperbolic that they don't represent most emotion & interaction.
research required 'forced choices' in order to prove universality.
cross-cultural (and intercultural) evidence that basic emotions not self evident.
Antonio Damasio
bodily processes emerging into awareness
Somatic experience
Affective phenomenology
Environmental determinants
Appraisal of significance
Normative social appraisal
Social management
Self management
Communication & symbolisation
Componential model
social interactionism
Erving Goffman
presentation of self
'self' is a kind of possession that you protect but also seek recognition for.
one way: being emotionally appropriate (shame, dignity, respect...)
signal functions
emotion rules
emotion work
'gift economy' of emotion
alienation (estrangement)
Hochschild argues that service economy privileges emotion work.
Disproportionately female.
Can lead to particular forms of alienation.
Emotion has 'exchange value' (can be sold).
Managed heart
Componential model suggests emotion work is common.
Embeds social interactionist forces in a larger scheme.
Also embraces biological & psychological dimensions.

bodily processes emerging into awareness
Somatic experience
Affective phenomenology
Environmental determinants
Appraisal of significance
Social management
Self management
Communication & symbolisation

'Anger' and lung lang (Tibetan)
Adding 'hermeneutics'
Interpretation is a method anthropologists use.
But interpretation is also what people are doing.

Componential model
quite similar: tension, shaking, heat
Normative social appraisal
anger = morally neutral; lung lang = morally wrong.
similar: but Americans felt anger lingering.
some difference, minor & contextual
Americans thought anger revealed truth about determinant.
Tibetans: anger can be overcome; Americans thought anger necessary, danger to deny.
Americans had elaborate ways to express; Tibetans to suppress.
Tibetans might publicly disapprove of anger
How we interpret events, even our own bodily events has crucial consequences.
Over time (that is, in the moment), biological, psychological, social and cultural quickly become entangled.
Over time (that is, in one's life), that intertwining has consequences at every level.
Key points
Emotion as part of political, economic & moral universe.
As Goffman suggested, proper emotional management is crucial for personhood.
Societies care about moral consequences of emotion.
Shweder, Haidt, Horton & Joseph lay out three types of moral-emotional universes:
Ethic of autonomy
Ethic of community
Ethic of divinity
Sure, we are basically alike emotionally...
but we are also basically different.
That commonality deployed to different ends is what sometimes makes others so confusing: they do something that looks familiar, but with a very different dynamic of understanding, judging, managing, communicating...
Even very deep, shared structures can be mobilised in fundamentally different ways.
Evidence that Westerners (esp. Americans) demonstrate more dramatic facial expressions.
Japanese subjects, e.g., study a whole scene when asked to judge an individual's mood.
Even basic facial expressions interpreted contextually; e.g., smile at strangers, when nervous, etc.
Proponents of universal emotions suggest that these are just 'display rules' and that core emotion is universal.
But is 'display' superficial, or does it affect experience and development?
Helen Fisher on love
Three types of love:
Romantic love
Sexual attraction
Attachment (long-term)
But is this really all types of love?
Is it coherent to keep multiplying?
immigrants can agree on a smile, but other of 'basic' emotions don't come out in data.
different muscles used to single, different scanning pattern & possibly different 'basic' emotions (shame, pride, guilt?)
cross-group reading also difficult
based on Shweder et al.
Greg Downey 2013, 2015
Made available for re-use under a Creative Commons (CC BY SA) license.
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