Ruling Emotions: Affective and emotional strategies of power and authority among early modern European monarchies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores how the emerging scholarship of the history of emotions
might usefully inform the study of monarchy in the early modern period. Historical
analysis regarding power and rule in early modern Europe has fruitfully explored
and extended anthropological and sociological frameworks for analysing rituals,
material culture and space as cultural and gendered forms of power.1
More recent
work has begun to consider how emotions too define the nature of power in individual expressions and collective formations. After all, authority to rule over another
is a social and cultural practice that involves people as individuals and groups in
relationships of domination and subordination. Various scholars have offered consideration of the ways emotions channel and become in themselves forms of power.
Joanna Bourke, for example, reflects that ‘emotions align people with others within
social groups, subjecting them to power relations’, and Sara Ahmed has explored
community alignment and marginalization as the cultural politics of emotion, while
Judith Butler has proposed a notion of the ‘psychic life of power’.2
This chapter
likewise considers emotions as a critical aspect of the social acts and behaviour that
create capacity for domination and subordination, while also recognizing that they
are themselves shaped by specific cultural contexts and local understandings of race,
faith and gender politics, among other considerations.3
Furthermore, it proposes
that feeling practices not only reflect modes of domination and subordination
but that particular kinds of emotional expression can themselves be understood
as forms and performances of power (as well as a disruption of these).4
As such, this
chapter asks what emotional expressions and practices could do for those who ruled
in the early modern period, as representatives of a system and as individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledhge History of Monarchy
EditorsElena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S. Dean, Chris Jones, Russell E. Martin, Zita Eva Rohr
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781138703322
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


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