Gramsci en-Provence; Emotions in Nottingham

This last week I’ve been in Aix-en-Provence speaking about Gramsci and hegemony and then, a few days later, to the University of Nottingham to talk about emotions, affects and rhetoric. The first was an invitation to present at a seminar in an Anglophone department running a series with speakers discussing the concept of hegemony. This was a good opportunity to set out my stall on Gramsci, his place within an Italian tradition of state-building and the implications of his idea of hegemony in an era of globalisation. My thesis: that Gramsci prompts us to ask interesting questions but we have greatly outgrown the state-building frame around which he formulates the question of ideological domination. Part of me concurs with the anarchist critique of Gramsci, which claims that his work is bound up with the idea of the state; but despite sensing the limitations of his approach to hegemony, I still think concept has some purchase (not least because there are still states, fractured and frayed as these are). I could see this argument as the basis of a short book.

The second paper was an early run-through of some work for a chapter of a book I am co-writing on interpretive approaches in political science. This is about affects and emotions, which are notoriously hard to pin down to analysis and understanding but which, despite this, seem persistently to disturb the categories, concepts and practices of politics. I argued, perhaps a little too blithely, that a rhetorical approach might be a useful way of gathering the multidimensionality of affects and understanding them as ‘practices’ (as Margaret Wetherell calls them) that both lay down patterns and yet are open to innovation. This was just a first draft: I need to get the paper written up for the PSA conference in 2014. The gentle criticisms of the audience were excellent and prompted me to think about how I proceed. Bless ’em.

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