The Emotions as an Approach to the History of Foreign/International Relations
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 4
The panel’s specific focus, how doing emotions history can enhance our understanding of foreign/international relations, fits the AHA theme of “Linking Levels of Experience.” An assumption long held by both diplomats and historians of diplomacy is that foreign/international relations have been so vital that of course they have taken place wholly on the supposedly rational level of supposedly objective national interest. Nevertheless, the foreign/international relations of states, as well as the transnational relations of individuals and non-state actors, have often been high stakes, cross-cultural ventures that were indeed emotional. Emotional perceptions have predisposed decision makers to propose or oppose particular policies, make friends or enemies, and pursue peace or war. Emotions history enables scholars to delve at a deeper level into the thoughts, motivations, and behavior of historical actors.
On our panel, Ute Frevert, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, will discuss the ramifications of European disputes with the Chinese imperial court over the emotionally evocative kowtow ceremony. Frank Costigliola of the University of Connecticut will examine how the U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan struggled to channel his emotions in the 1930s amidst the trauma of Stalin’s deadly purge of figures whom Kennan knew and admired. Barbara Keys of the University of Melbourne will investigate the early 1970s friendship between Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai as a case study of how the dynamics of affection and trust can prove as significant as national interest in shaping international relations. Our proposed chair and commentator is Susan Matt of Weber State University, who has written widely on emotions history.