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Feeling Modern: The History of Emotions in Urban South Asia 1

  • ELIZABETH CHATTERJEE (a1), SNEHA KRISHNAN (a2) and MEGAN EATON ROBB (a3)
Extract

The foundation of history's recent ‘emotional turn’ is that emotions matter in shaping individual and social motivations. Their importance is not just instrumental: against the explanatory grain of much scholarship since the nineteenth century, the history of emotions recognises that humans are not purely rational “economic subjects in trousers and skirts”— or, as it may be, dhotis and saris.

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Copyright
Footnotes
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1

We are grateful for the generous support from institutions across the University of Oxford - St John's College, The New College Ludwig Humanities Fund, All Souls College, the Oriental Institute, The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), and Wolfson College - without which this special journal issue, long in germination, would not have been possible. The support of TORCH, All Souls College, and Wolfson College enabled us to host a preliminary conference on Urban South Asia in Oxford in 2014; the results of this conference encouraged us to edit a special journal issue on the subject. St John's College, The New College Ludwig Humanities Fund, and the Oriental Institute supported a dedicated workshop for special issue contributors in Oxford in 2016; the discussions held at this workshop contributed substantially to the quality of the final collection of articles.

Footnotes
References
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2 Bourke, J., Fear: A Cultural History (London, 2005), p. 289 . On the emotions’ scholarly sidelining in the nineteenth century, see Miller, W. I., The Anatomy of Disgust (Cambridge, MA, 1997), p. xi ; he attributes it to “the breaking off of a specialised discipline of psychology and psychiatry from moral philosophy, literature, and history”.

3 Especially notable is the work of Margrit Pernau, Razak Khan and their collaborators from the India Focus Group of the Centre for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. See, for example, the special issue on ‘The Social Production of Space and Emotions in South Asia’, (ed.) R. Khan, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 58 (2015).

4 Plamper, J., The History of Emotions: An Introduction, translated by Tribe, K. (Oxford, 2015), p. 64 .

5 Febvre, L., “Sensibility and History: How to Reconstitute the Emotional Life of the Past”, in A New Kind of History: From the Writings of Febvre, (ed.) Burke, P. and translated by Folca, K. (London, 1973), p. 15 .

6 Anthropologists have in any case long challenged the notion of any sharp divide between individual and more subconscious modes of cognition, crystallising in recent interest in, for example, the anthropology of dreams; see G. Ingram, “Dreaming”, in Oxford Bibliographies: Anthropology (online, 2015), http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199766567/obo-9780199766567-0120.xml (accessed 24 February 2017).

7 Gay, P., “The Bite of Wit”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 135, 3 (1991), pp. 327–331, and Gay, P., Education of the Senses: The Bourgeois Experience, Victoria to Freud, vol. 1 (New York and London, 1984).

8 Lynch, O. M., “The Social Construction of Emotion in India”, in Divine Passions: The Social Construction of Emotion in India, (ed.) Lynch, O. M. (Berkeley, 1990). See also Pollock, S., “Introduction: An Intellectual History of Rasa ”, in A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics, (ed.) and translation Pollock, S. (New York, 2016), pp. 145 .

9 Beatty, A., “How Did It Feel for You? Emotion, Narrative, and the Limits of Ethnography”, American Anthropologist 112, 3 (2010), pp. 432433 .

10 Scheer, M., “Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and Is That What Makes Them Have a History?) A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion”, History and Theory 51 (2012), pp. 193220 .

11 Ibid , p. 194.

12 Stoller, P., The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology (Philadelphia, 1989), p. 5 .

13 Pollock, “Introduction”.

14 Ibid , pp. 8-9; Beatty, “How Did It Feel for You?”.

15 Fabian, J., Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object (New York, 2014).

16 “The idea that, in order to understand what the so-called civilised people may have been before they reached their higher enlightenment, we ought to study savage tribes, such as we find them still at the present day, is perfectly just. It is the lesson which geology has taught us, applied to the stratification of the human race.” Müller, M., “Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?”, in The Essential Max Müller: On Language, Mythology and Religion, (ed.) Stone, J. R. (New York, 2002), p. 199 .

17 Historians of childhood have argued that proper social being in the late nineteenth century was in part defined through emotional management, marked both by the capacity to feel pain intensely and to respond to it in a measured manner. As Robin Bernstein notes, the allegedly ‘hardened’ character of black children in America came to stand as proof of their less than fully human subjectivity. Bernstein, R., Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York, 2011); Steedman, C., Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930 (Cambridge, MA, 1995).

18 We develop this point below; see also Pernau, M. et al. (eds.), Civilizing Emotions: Concepts in Nineteenth Century Asia and Europe (Oxford, 2015).

19 At the extreme, Elaine Scarry famously argued that language was incapable of capturing the experience of physical pain; see The Body in Pain (New York & Oxford, 1985).

20 See especially Reddy, W. M., The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions (Cambridge and New York, 2001), which argues for the importance of language in ‘translating’ fleeting and disaggregated emotional states into utterance or action; Bourke, J., The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers (Oxford and New York, 2014).

21 Plamper, History of Emotions.

22 Pernau, “Mapping Emotions”, p. 635.

23 These four categories of analysis are set out in Scheer, “Are Emotions a Kind of Practice?”

24 Guy N. A. Attewell has traced the transmission of ‘hysteria’ in medical practice across India, Persia, Greece, and the Arabian Peninsula/North Africa, for example; see Refiguring Unani Tibb: Plural Healing in Late Colonial India (New Delhi, 2007), pp. 225-237.

25 Gupta, C., Sexuality, Obscenity, Community: Women, Muslims, and the Hindu Public in Colonial India (New Delhi, 2005). See also the evocative collection Sarai Reader 08: Fear (Delhi, 2010), http://sarai.net/sarai-reader-08-fear/ (accessed 24 February 2017).

26 Mazumdar, R., Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City (Minneapolis, 2007), pp. 140 ; R. Majumdar, ‘“Anger and After”: Mrinal Sen's Calcutta Trilogy as History’, unpublished manuscript.

27 Appadurai, A., Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis, 1996), p. 149 . On the pervasive ‘politics of outrage’—the “righteous anger” lying “at the juncture between the moral and the emotional realm”—in South Asia, see Blom, A. and Jaoul, N., “Introduction: the Moral and Affectual Dimension of Collective Action in South Asia”, SAMAJ: South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal 2 (2008), https://samaj.revues.org/1912 (accessed 24 February 2017), quotations at p. 7.

28 See, for example, the multidisciplinary chapters in Lynch (ed.), Divine Passions, and Orsini, F. (ed.), Love in South Asia: A Cultural History (Cambridge and New York, 2006).

29 On boredom, see Auerbach, J. A., “Imperial Boredom”, Common Knowledge 11, 2 (2005), pp. 283305 ; Jeffrey, C., “Timepass: Youth, Class, and Time Among Unemployed Young Men in India”, American Ethnologist 37, 3 (2010): pp. 465481 ; and Fuller, C., “Timepass and Boredom in Modern India”, Anthropology of This Century 1 (2011). On violence as fun, see Verkaaik, O., Migrants and Militants: Fun and Urban Violence in Pakistan (Princeton, 2004).

30 See Bénéï, V., Schooling Passions: Nation, History, and Language in Contemporary Western India (Stanford, 2008); Ramaswamy, S., Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970 (Berkeley, 1997); and Mitchell, L., Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue (Bloomington, 2009).

31 Ahmed, S., “Collective Feelings: Or, the Impressions Left by Others”, Theory, Culture & Society 21, 2 (2004), pp. 2542 ; Bénéï, Schooling Passions, p. 3.

32 Bénéï, Schooling Passions; Verkaaik, Migrants and Militants, p. 118.

33 Stearns, P. N. and Stearns, C. Z., “Emotionology: Clarifying the History of Emotions and Emotional Standards”, American Historical Review 90, 4 (1985), pp. 813836 .

34 Rosenwein, B. H., Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY, 2006).

35 Pernau, “Mapping Emotions”, p. 635.

36 Mahmood, S., Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, 2011).

37 See, for example, Pernau, M., “Male Anger and Female Malice: Emotions in India-Muslim Advice Literature”, History Compass 10, 2 (2012), p. 119 ; Pernau, M., Ashraf into Middle Classes: Muslims in Nineteenth-Century Delhi (New Delhi, 2013); and Khan (ed.) “Social Production of Space”.

38 Adas, M., Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Ithaca, NY, 1989).

39 Such traditions did not necessarily advise ascetic withdrawal from all emotionality. Figures within the nebulous bhakti movement drew a distinction between a neo-Platonic, self-annihilating ‘good’ love devoted towards spiritual ends (later intriguingly channelled into proto-nationalist deshbhakti) versus the ‘bad’ love associated with conjugality. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources often accordingly drew schematic hierarchies of the emotions. We are grateful to Tyler Williams for this point.

40 Guru, G. (ed.), Humiliation: Claims and Context (New Delhi, 2009). For a more general analysis, see Miller, W. I., Humiliation: And Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence (Ithaca, NY, 1993).

41 O'Hanlon, R., “Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 42, 1 (1999), p. 69 .

42 Wordsworth, W., “Advertisement for Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems ”, in Romanticism: An Anthology, (ed.) Wu, D. (3rd edition, Oxford, 2006), p. 331 .

43 Rosenwein, B. H., “Worrying about Emotions in History”, American Historical Review 107, 3 (2002), p. 827 ; Elias, N., The Civilizing Process, vol. 2 (Oxford and Cambridge, MA, 1994 [1939]).

44 Pernau et al (eds.), Civilizing Emotions.

45 Kent, E., Converting Women: Gender and Christianity in Colonial South India (New York, 2004).

46 Sreenivas, M., “Emotion, Identity, and the Female Subject: Tamil Women's Magazines in Colonial India, 1890-1940”, Journal of Women's Studies 14, 4 (2003), pp. 5982 .

47 Prakash, G., “Introduction”, in The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life, (eds.) Prakash, G. and Kruse, K. M. (Princeton, 2008), p. 1 .

48 Of course, studies of emotions and constructed, lived space should not be confined to the city. Indeed, recent work has stressed the need to look beyond large cities to the qasbah, the princely state, and migratory paths to give a fuller understanding of the link between emotions and space in the South Asian context; see Khan (ed.), “Social Production of Space”. Here, though, we seek to emphasise the special link between modernity, the city, and the remaking of emotional imaginaries.

49 Williams, R., The Country and the City (New York, 1973).

50 Khan, “Social Production”, p. 614.

51 Geertz, C., The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), quotation at p. 260 .

52 The instrumentalist argument on elite manipulation of popular emotions is especially associated with Paul Brass; on communal violence in India in particular, see Theft of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence (Princeton, 1997) and The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India (Seattle, 2003).

53 Sreenivas, ‘Emotion, Identity’, p. 62.

54 Ibid .

55 M. Pernau and H. Jordheim, “Introduction”, in Civilizing Emotions, (eds.) Pernau et al., p. 6.

56 Burton, A., “Introduction: The Unfinished Business of Colonial Modernities”, in Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities, (ed.) Burton, A. (London and New York, 1999), pp. 116 .

57 Boym, S., The Future of Nostalgia (New York, 2001), p. xiii .

58 Ibid , pp. xv-xvi.

59 Williams, Country and City; Walkowitz, J., City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago, 1992). This would later find an echo among twentieth-century Indian nationalists, most notably M. K. Gandhi's praise of the village; his writings explicitly acknowledged his debt to western Romantics. Other nationalists were more ambivalent, as Jawaharlal Nehru's hopes for the high-modernist new city of Chandigarh suggest.

60 Ebeling, S., Colonizing the Realm of Words: The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-Century South India (Buffalo, 2010); Venkatachalapathy, A. R., “Enna Prayocanam?’ Constructing the Canon in Colonial Tamilnadu”, Indian Economic and Social History Review 42, 4 (2005), pp. 535553 .

61 Mahmud, S., “Angāre and the Founding of the Progressive Writers’ Association”, Modern Asian Studies 30, 2 (1996), pp. 447448 ; Rahman, R., Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India (New Delhi, 2015).

62 Boym, Future of Nostalgia, p. xviii and passim.

63 On ‘vernacular modernity’ in postcolonial Bombay-Mumbai, for example, see Hansen, T. B., Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay (Princeton, 2001).

64 Burton, A. (ed.), Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History (Durham, NC, 2006).

65 Burton, A., Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home and History in Late Colonial India (Oxford and New York, 2003).

66 Appadurai, A., “Spectral Housing and Urban Cleansing: Notes on Millennial Mumbai”, Public Culture 12, 3 (2000), pp. 627651 .

67 Jackson, M., “Storytelling Events, Violence, and the Appearance of the Past”, Anthropological Quarterly 78, 2 (2005), pp. 355375 .

68 Stoler, A. L., ‘The Rot Remains’: From Ruins to Ruination”, in Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (ed.) Stoler, A.L. (Durham, NC and London, 2013).

69 Ibid , p. 16.

70 On the Delhi sultanate and Mughal monuments, for example, see Kumar, S., “Qutb and Modern Memory”, in his The Present in Delhi's Pasts (New Delhi, 2002), pp. 161 .

71 Hancock, M., The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai (Bloomington, 2008).

72 Appadurai, “Spectral Housing”.

73 Chandavarkar, R., History, Culture and the Indian City (Cambridge, 2009).

74 Kundera, M., The Unbearable Lightness of Being, translated by Heim, M. H. (New York, 1984), p. 251 .

75 Boym, Future of Nostalgia.

76 Thapar, R., “The History Debate and School Textbooks in India: A Personal Memoir”, History Workshop Journal 67, 1 (2009), pp. 8798 .

77 In their collection of essays on the Kumbh Mela, a festival that occurs once in twelve years, Rahul Mehrotra, Felipe Vera and Diana Eck argue that ‘ephemeral cities’ that are set up temporarily at times of crisis or to accommodate large crowds who gather for musical or religious gatherings are indeed an urban form. In this reading ‘urban’ is a category that is more capacious than ‘city’. See Mehrotra, R. and Vera, F. (eds.), Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity (Ostfildern, 2015).

78 Masilamani, M., The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers (Chennai, 2015).

79 Such endless times of waiting in sites of embattled life have been explored by anthropologists and historians of Latin America and Southern Africa; see, for instance, Livingston, J., Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana (Bloomington, 2005). On ordinary life rendered monstrous and pasts made ineffable by violence, see Das, V., Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2007).

1 We are grateful for the generous support from institutions across the University of Oxford - St John's College, The New College Ludwig Humanities Fund, All Souls College, the Oriental Institute, The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), and Wolfson College - without which this special journal issue, long in germination, would not have been possible. The support of TORCH, All Souls College, and Wolfson College enabled us to host a preliminary conference on Urban South Asia in Oxford in 2014; the results of this conference encouraged us to edit a special journal issue on the subject. St John's College, The New College Ludwig Humanities Fund, and the Oriental Institute supported a dedicated workshop for special issue contributors in Oxford in 2016; the discussions held at this workshop contributed substantially to the quality of the final collection of articles.

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