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The Politics of Emotion: Challenging Emotional Regimes in Europe across the Iron Curtain from the 1960s to the 1980s

Final Report Summary - POLEMOTIONS (The Politics of Emotion: Challenging Emotional Regimes in Europe across the Iron Curtain from the 1960s to the 1980s.)

This project has investigated oppositional and countercultural (youth-)movements in Europe from the 1960s to the 1980s, in particular new leftist and post-Marxist groups, new social movements such as squatting, leftwing gay activism and feminism, and the ‘alternative milieu’ in the broadest sense. More specifically, the project has examined the ‘politics of emotions’ of these movements and their wider societal and political impact. Focusing on emotional politics, the project has developed a new paradigm for conceptualizing the transformations of politics of protest across the Iron Curtain since the 1960s. Its findings suggest that social movements were spaces for experimenting and trying out new forms of emotional subjectivity.

The project has resulted in several outcomes. First, I have completed the manuscript for a monograph, Intimacy and Intensity: The Politics of Emotions in the Alternative Left in West Germany, which is currently under review for the series New Studies in European History at Cambridge University Press. I have also published further articles and book chapters on the German case in journals such as Contemporary European History, The Journal for the History of Sexuality and Emotion, Space and Society. The Marie Curie Career Integration Grant has been extremely helpful in supporting archival research in Berlin necessary for the completion of the project.

Second, the grant has funded the international conference ‘New Subjectivities, New Emotions, New Politics: Countercultures and Protest Movements across the Iron Curtain’, which took place in Frankfurt/Oder in June 2015. The results of the conference will be published in a volume provisionally entitled Politics of Authentic Subjectivity: Countercultures and Radical Movements across the Iron Curtain (1968-1989). This volume makes a case for the development of surprisingly similar forms of politics focused on creating an ‘authentic’ personality across the Iron Curtain. The book proposes an original interpretation of why especially members of the younger generation rebelled against two seemingly very different socio-political systems, democratic capitalism in the West and state communism in the East, on similar grounds: a desire for an authentic life, for authentic feelings and authentic bodies. The project thus seeks to link protest movements of the 1970s in East and West to the peaceful revolutions of 1989. The book manuscript will be submitted to the series Protest, Culture and Society with Berghahn Books.

As part of the project, I have also been engaged in public outreach activities. I have organized and held several workshops for secondary school students in Berlin that made use of historical student magazines to discuss the relation of personal issues, such as feelings and sexuality, with politics during the 1970s. Students highly appreciated these workshops as they provided them with opportunities to critically reflect on how issues such as gender ideals, emotions and sexuality are embedded in power relations.

My career development has significantly benefited from the grant. I have been able to complete a second monograph, to organize two workshops, and to produce an important edited volume. Having been able to complete these projects, I am confident that I will be promoted to Associate Professor next year, after a probationary period at the University of Warwick is completed.