Emotions in History Research Focus Group

Historical statues and sculptures displaying emotion

Emotions in History Research Focus Group

The IHC “Emotions in History” Research Focus Group seeks to create a space where scholars can cross disciplinary lines and together investigate emotions in the human past. Led by a historian and a psychologist, our group aims to bring into dialogue two cutting-edge subfields—the history of emotions and historical psychology—and foster genuine collaboration among scholars who study the humanities, social sciences, neuroscience, and digital methods. We aspire to facilitate inclusive and probing methodological conversations on how humanists can contribute to assessing human emotions, how psychologists can add historical nuance and depth to their inquiries, and how we can generate truly interdisciplinary research in a joint effort.

Historians and psychologists share a fundamental belief in the cross-cultural variation of emotions. The primary charge of our RFG is to extend cross-cultural reach and contribute to the increasingly global prospect of studying emotions. Contra conventional wisdom, emotions are neither constant nor universal across time and space; instead, they are systematically shaped by social and cultural environments. Nevertheless, the anglophone academy today still largely focuses on the global north. Our RFG proposes to systematically introduce Chinese materials as a corrective to the West-centric orientation. As we raise the profile of one non-Western region, we also expect to foster comparative discussions by incorporating colleagues who study a variety of geo-cultural communities.

Another charge of our RFG is to identify new historical sources able to yield quantitative data. This is a critical place where history meets psychology and interdisciplinarity is in action. We intend to explore digital methods able to facilitate the construction of structured databases. For that purpose, we plan to organize workshops on digital methods and invite humanists and social scientists alike to share their experiences with data processing. The RFG will be joined by a robust body of faculty and graduate students from six departments, and we hope to expand our reach across and beyond campus in years to follow. Our ultimate goal is to make UCSB a new center for interdisciplinary studies of emotions.

Ya Zuo, History

Hongbo Yu, Psychological and Brain Sciences