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Theorizing emotions in world politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2014

Emma Hutchison*
The University of Queensland, Australia
Roland Bleiker*
The University of Queensland, Australia


Emotions play an increasingly important role in international relations research. This essay briefly surveys the development of the respective debates and then offers a path forward. The key challenge, we argue, is to theorize the processes through which individual emotions become collective and political. We further suggest that this is done best by exploring insights from two seemingly incompatible scholarly tendencies: macro theoretical approaches that develop generalizable propositions about political emotions and, in contrast, micro approaches that investigate how specific emotions function in specific circumstances. Applying this framework we then identify four realms that are central to appreciating the political significance of emotions: (1) the importance of definitions; (2) the role of the body; (3) questions of representation; and (4) the intertwining of emotions and power. Taken together, these building blocks reveal how emotions permeate world politics in complex and interwoven ways and also, once taken seriously, challenge many entrenched assumptions of international relations scholarship.

Forum: Emotions and World Politics
© Cambridge University Press 2014 

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