"The Hiccups of Social Life. Emotional Crisis and Variations in the Tone of Daily Sociality", Cambridge, 31st May-1st June

The Hiccups of Social Life
Emotional Crisis and Variations in the Tone of Daily Sociality

The workshop aims to deal with the “hiccups of social life”, by which we mean social interactions that lead to (sometimes severe) emotional crisis. These kinds of situation, which are not rare in Central Asia and Siberia, have recently begun to surface in the regional ethnography, challenging the image of the smooth tonality of social interactions structured by cultural conventions. However, historical documents show that we ought not consider this kind of emotional outpouring a direct consequence of the rapid and dramatic changes that have arisen in the region since the demise of the socialist state in 1991. Rather it seems that we touch here on one of the enduring ingredients of the emotional life of this part of the world. How can we address this within an anthropological framework? Are those erratic outbursts functioning as safety valves, spaces of emotional discharge caused by a frustration created by the daily enactment of a “rigorous affective regime”, as the majority of common explanations would have it? Do these variations of the intensity of social life relate to ritual?
Drawing on the results of recent ethnographic research by specialists of the region, we propose new ways of understanding such strong emotional responses. The workshop aims to articulate several analytical frameworks available in the field of the anthropology of emotions with very general anthropological understandings of sociality and interaction. The papers presented will aim to engage anthropological reflections that emerge from ethnographies of emotional crisis.

The Mond Building Seminar Room
Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF


14h30 – Introduction – Laurent Legrain (University of Cambridge & Wiener-Anspach foundation's fellow)

15h00 – 17h00 Panel 1: Crafting Tones through Spirit-Human Relationships and Omens
Chair: David Sneath (University of Cambridge)

“Omens in Mongolia : Fright and Fear”
Caroline Humphrey (University of Cambridge)

“Anger and Care in a Mongolian Shamanic Ritual”
Grégory Delaplace (Université Paris-Ouest La Défense)


9h30-12h30 Panel 2: Affective Engagment: Affect, Emotion & Personhood
Chair: Heonik Kwon (University of Cambridge)

“Emotional Outbursts as Tableaux Vivants: a Theory of the Resonant Body-Person”
Adam Chau (University of Cambridge)

10h25 – Tea break

“The Storehouse of Affect: on Emotional Insights and Saving Face in Southwest China”
Katherine Swancutt (University of Oxford)

“'Educational Hiccups' in Huld (Dungobi): the Pedagogical Merits of Parents' Unpredictable Outbursts of Anger”
Aude Michelet (London School of Economics)

14h00-16h00 Panel 3: Destruction, Alcohol and Roller-Coaster-Relationships
Chair: Liana Chua (Brunel University)

“'Self Destruction' among Evenki People in East Siberia”
Tatiana Safonova & Istvan Santha (University of Cambridge)

“Stairway to Heaven, Highway to Hell: Alcohol Consumption among Barga Mongols in Inner Mongolia”
Paula Haas (University of Bonn)

16h00 – Tea break

16h30 – Concluding remarks