Sentimental Surveys? Histories, Emotions, and Pedagogies

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:10 PM
Stevens C-5 (Hilton Chicago)
Jaime Cardenas Jr., Seattle Central College
At this juncture, few will argue that subjectivities play no role in history teaching. Yet, the actual consideration of one of the most powerful and personal subjectivities -- emotions -- is very often overlooked in pedagogical discussions of history. This presentation focuses on pedagogical approaches that consider the histography of emotions in relation to the US history survey course.

As Nicole Eustace (AHR, 2012) notes, “if the biological basis of emotion is universal, yet the cultural incidence of emotional expression has been highly varied, then in that gap between experience and expression… lie the very foundations of the structures of power.” While research projects and publications emerging from emotions history have resonated with some historians (there was, for instance, a published “conversation” in the AHR in 2012, and it covered issues regarding nationalism, gender, and religion, among others), it is a sub-field that does not greatly influence US history textbooks and thus many survey courses. This occurs even though psychology courses (which introduce emotions academically to students) are very popular on college campuses.

Practically speaking, my presentation will examine how, to quote Susan Matt and Peter Sterns (2014), history faculty can pedagogically consider “the anger, the envy, the love, and the greed that prompted… behaviors” in the past. That is, what kind of primary sources and secondary sources related to emotions are appropriate for US survey courses? And, how do we theorize about, and contextualize, emotions without greatly reducing academic accessiblity, especially in community college history courses?

At its conclusion, my presentation will have furthered discussions about the pedagogical practices related to emotions and the US history survey, and illuminated how the personal is political and professional.

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