Emotion In Anthropology

2235 Words 9 Pages
Emotion is one of the most difficult aspects of the human condition to explain in its totality, yet its existence is thought to be one of the most fundamental parts of being human. The study of emotion has taken many forms, shifting the focus from facial expression, to language, to cultural history and beyond, varying not from discipline to discipline, but also from person to person. Strictly speaking, though the vague idea of emotion as a conscious experience of feelings resulting from situations and producing actions is generally agreed upon, the true essence of what emotions are and how to account for them scientifically remains uncertain. Trying to capture emotion is often alluded to being like the blind men and the elephant – with each …show more content…
What kind of methodology is more suitable? Returning to the scientific agenda of placing what is demonstrable over what we assume to be inherently innate in us all, anthropology would come under scrutiny if it is to accept a level of subjectivity in its study. Can one make a truly scientific study of something which has been established as the very antithesis of science? What would the 'best ' account of emotion look like? Looking at a textbook application of psychological anthropology to the study of emotions can illuminate a number of points and steps towards answering this question. Although not an ethnography in itself, Lindholm 's (2007) chapter on the concept of love in Western societies can serve as a look into how anthropologists may explain an emotion in a succinct but encompassing way – the kind of information deemed most useful. By treating it as ethnography, it also puts Western culture on the same level of analysis as other cultures which rids potential ethnocentrism as well as provides the opportunity to scrutinise the practice of anthropology thoroughly with our own knowledge of our culture. In this chapter, Lindholm (2007) outlines lucidly love in relation to religious ideas of chastity, the particularity of 'romantic ' love, reproduction and social structure. Whereas a central argument is not present, the discourse …show more content…
Put simply, anthropologists must embrace a seemingly ‘subjective’ methodology in order to produce accurate accounts of emotion. In doing so anthropology goes beyond the restrictions of current trends in social science which has become increasingly orientated towards cognition (Beatty 2013), a field which itself is also laden with hidden ethnocentric assumptions about how the ‘Other’ may think (Bloch 1998). A narrative approach may be the most appropriate as all stories evoke emotions and all emotions have stories to tell (Beatty 2014). Seizing emotions as they happen on the field is not the type of hard evidence that cognitive science promises to provide to the study of emotion, yet as it has been demonstrated throughout this essay, emotion is a concept that surpasses a single definition or expression. The narrative approach to emotion can also be seen as an incorporation of both positions taken towards emotion, as it simultaneously recognises that emotion (both their experience and expression) has a unifying aspect, yet the content and direction of its production are weaved by the threads of culture. The question of whether emotions should be understood as human universals or ‘cultural constructions’ is ultimately

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