The universe of emotions has always represented a major challenge for research in every field of knowledge, from Philosophy to Physics, from Psychology to the Arts. Although everyone knows what emotions are insofar as almost everyone can “feel”, when it comes to providing a clear or systematic explanation of emotions, scholars from a range of disciplines struggle to find common ground. One breakthrough that has oriented research agendas since the 1990s consists in the claim that the human mind is – despite the rationalist tradition rooted in Descartes’s philosophy and the following theories of Enlightenment and Positivism – emotional (see, for example, pivotal studies by Antonio Damasio and Joseph Ledoux in the 1990s). Interdisciplinary studies see cognitivists collaborating with psychologists (Hollitscher, Aggressionstrieb), anthropologists (Fried and others, War), sociologists (Ahäll & Gregory, Emotions, Politics and War), and historians (Langhamer, Noakes & Siebrecht, Total War) to understand the link between war and the emotions.
The so-called “emotional turn” is perhaps the most recent development in the scholarship on war. Social and cultural approaches to the study of war and conflict have allowed the expansion of this field beyond politics, military history and strategy, thus repositioning the focus of the history of war on society more broadly. Gender studies, for example, have shown the impact of cultural constructs on masculinity and femininity in wartime (Diamond, Women and the Second World War in France; Summerfield, Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives), whereas the more recent “memory boom” has established the complexity of the memories of war and the ways in which they are affected by experience, trauma and the specific contexts of remembering (Ashplant, Dawson & Roper, Commemorating War; Thomson, Anzac Memories; and Winter, Remembering War). Zooming in on emotions and feelings as categories for historical and interdisciplinary analysis in the field of war and conflict thus seems like a crucial step forward.
The entire Issue n. 4 and the single contributions can be downloaded below:
Introduction to Issue n. 4 (2021), by the Editors