Ethnography of Emotions

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 1 Aug 1995 08:22:13 JST

>>Eric Arnould asks about "the ethnography of emotions"?

Dear Eric,

My own brain seizes up when I think "ethnography of emotions." Then,
however, it occurs to me that much of what used to be called first culture-
and-personality and then psychological anthropology deals with this topic.
This nudge calls up all sorts of stuff: The work of Benedict, de Vos, Plath,
on Japan. All that Mediterreanist stuff about honor and shame. Mead, then
Richard Shweder, etc. on the South Pacific. For leads to more recent stuff
I'd have a look at _Ethos_ the journal of the society for Psychological
Anthropology. How, too, can I forget Mel Spiro on the Burmans, Gannath
Obyskere and Bruce Kapferer on Sri Lanka. (Studies of religion and ritual are
another fruitful line. Also, stuff in medical anthropology, e.g., Arthur
Kleinman on Chinese medicine....)

Critically speaking, I'd note that most of what I remember focuses on one
or two emotions that are seen as characteristic of whatever people, rite,
situation, etc. is being described. Where the brain seizes up is the gapping
hole where there might have been an attempt to catalog emotions or to
study the full range of terms used to characterize emotion in a given
language or culture (something along the lines of the oft-proclaimed, but
never realized ambition of ethnographers of speaking to classify all possible
speech situations).

>>Anybody else have better ideas?

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)