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Unit information: Emotions in Contemporary Society - 3rd year in 2015/16

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Unit name Emotions in Contemporary Society - 3rd year
Unit code SPAI30005
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Perrier
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit introduces students to the critical study of emotions from an interdisciplinary perspective. What are the links between inequalities, identities and emotions and how do emotions participate in creating social, cultural and political boundaries between self and other? We consider the emotional dimension of issues of racism, classism, misogyny, and nationalism and critically examine the role of emotion in reproducing and challenging social inequalities. The unit introduces students to different conceptual models of emotion, with a view to understanding what sociological theorising can contribute to understanding emotions and how it might compliment other traditional psychological models of emotion. We consider a range of social science concepts such as affect, the unconscious, emotional labour, therapeutic culture which students are encouraged to apply in different social contexts e.g. in the workplace, health, politics using a range of sources such as advertising, film, TV, music and literature.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Evaluate and combine different conceptual approaches to emotions
  • Apply this theoretical knowledge to analyse emotions in a range of empirical contexts and to their own lived experience.
  • Demonstrate critical and detailed knowledge of the role of emotions in reproducing and challenging social inequalities

Teaching details

1hr lecture and 2hr seminar

Assessment Details

Formative Student group presentations

Summative 3000 word essay (100%)

Reading and References

Bendelow, G. and Williams, S. J. (Eds.) (1997) Emotions in Social Life: Critical Themes and Contemporary Issues Routledge London.

Barbalet, J. (2001) Emotion, Social Theory, and Social Structure, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Craib, I. (1989) Psychoanalysis and Social Theory: The Limits of Sociology, Harvester Wheatsheaf, London.

Ahmed, S. (2004) The Cultural Politics of Emotion Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Clarke, S. (2003) Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism London: Palgrave.

Clarke, S., Hoggett, P. and Thompson, S. (eds.), Emotion, politics and society, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. (all chapters)