Eviga emotioner och konstruerade känslor
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As a field of historical research, the history of the emotions has been expanding rapidly in the last decade. Although it is a field with an obvious identity, it lacks a clear consensus on methodology; neither have various schools of thought been recognized. However, in this brief introduction to the field I argue that two different approaches can be distinguished in research on the history of the emotions. The first emphasizes continuity in the cognitive constitution of man. If we assume that humans have always had emotions and that they have had similar effects on human behaviour down the ages, then we have a powerful analytical tool with which to understand decision-making and political processes. Consequently, one could say that this first approach views the history of the emotions as characterized by continuity. The other approach is to problematize the meaning and cultural effects of different emotions over time. The implicit assumption is that the same emotions have had different effects on people in different cultures at different times. Emotions are constructs just as much as thoughts and ideas are constructs. Consequently, one could say that this second direction views the history of emotions as characterized by contingency. These two approaches are not divided by an epistemological chasm, however. On a theoretical level one must always combine the two approaches to some degree. Even if looking to the continuity of emotions, one must still be aware of the cultural context in which the object of study is set. And even if emotions are constructs, it is still hard to overlook the fact that the idea that emotions make up a consistent category is heavily, reliant on a notion of continuity. On a methodological level, however, it is necessary to choose between the two directions, since this choice of approach determines what objects of study are of interest and what questions are of relevance.