Affective States: On the Politics and Histories of Sentiments

Term: Fall 2009

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6720

This course starts from two premises: (1) that sentiments articulate the personal and the political in historically specific ways; and (2) that sentiments are historically located social phenomena with specific genealogies. We draw on a range of literature in anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, and literary criticism to explore the changing ways in which thought and feeling, rationality and passion, reason and sentiment have been understood. The focus is on sentiment as an index of relations of power and as a tracer of them. Seminar themes include attention to social inequality and sentiment, state formation and affect, the politics of compassion, imperial sympathy, structures of feeling, and sentiment as a marker of political and social location. Course requirements include weekly commentary on the readings, a short review essay and a research paper. Readings include: Albert Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, William Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling, Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman, and selections from Adam Smith, David Hume, Didier Fassin, Amelie Rorty, William James, Raymond Williams, and others.

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