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Total WarAn Emotional History$
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Lucy Noakes, Claire Langhamer, and Claudia Siebrecht

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266663

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266663.001.0001

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‘Astray in a Dark Forest’? The Emotional Politics of Reconstruction Britain

‘Astray in a Dark Forest’? The Emotional Politics of Reconstruction Britain

(p.137) 8 ‘Astray in a Dark Forest’? The Emotional Politics of Reconstruction Britain
Total War

Claire Langhamer

British Academy

Based on material generated by the British social investigative organisation Mass Observation between 1944 and 1946 this chapter maps some of the political work that emotion did in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. It adapts cultural theorist Sara Ahmed’s question ‘What do emotions do?’ to a precise historical moment. It approaches emotion through the lens of social, as well as cultural, history by asking an additional question: ‘What did people do with emotion?’ It examines how the interlinked categories of feeling and experience were invoked by individual Mass Observers as ways of knowing a rapidly changing world and as grounds for participating in a dynamic public sphere. The chapter argues that a distinctive form of ‘emotional citizenship’ emerged out of the war; one which deployed feeling as a form of epistemology and experience as an evidential base.

Keywords:   Britain, Mass Observation, feeling, reconstruction, emotion

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