This special issue on ‘Feeling Communities’ aims to show how the systematic inclusion of emotions can enhance our understanding of groups and communities. The articles in this special issue in their majority focus on Muslim actors. This choice is fortuitous, owing to the vagaries of academic networks and the availability (or not) of authors working on emotions. It is certainly not intended to imply that Indian Muslims were more emotional than other groups. The focus on compassion and the emotions linked to it, which connects all the articles. The articles argue that communities are fundamentally imbued with feelings. Emotions allow for a new linking of social and individual factors in the mobilization of communities. Personal experiences and individual emotions matter and cannot be subsumed under social categories. Emotion studies can only be conceived of as an interdisciplinary area—this is what makes it so challenging, but also so fascinating.
Feeling communities: Introduction
First Published January 1, 2017
The Indian Economic and Social History Review
Scholarly literature for long only mentioned emotions in passing, although they were ubiquitous in the sources. This article argues that including them systematically can enhance our understanding of groups and communities, if emotions are historicised, and if the unproductive ways to read them as the opposite of interest and rationality are overcome. This allows to investigate emotions in a way which sees the relationship between the experience of emotions, their expression and the practices to which they lead not as a temporal sequence leading from an interior arousal of emotions to their exterior manifestation (or not). Instead, it investigates the interaction continuously moving in both directions—from emotions felt to emotions expressed, but also from the expression and performance as well as the interpretation of emotions back to how a certain emotion is actually felt. The first section shows where a systematic emotion history might either provide a new take on questions that have already been asked or raise new questions. The second section offers an overview of the ways in which collective emotions have been conceptualised and elaborates how this can be linked to the creation of emotional communities. The third section addresses the relationship between face-to-face communities and mediated communities.