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Achievement-oriented practices and mindsets are omnipresent in everyday life, whether at school or in leisure activities, within families, at work, on TV or online. They include formalized competitions, exams, and rankings, but also informal interpersonal comparisons. Achievement-oriented practices inform self-perceptions, such as being “better” or “worse” than others, being (un)able to achieve something, thus shaping social relations between colleagues, relatives, friends, and even people who have never actually met. Not least, such practices and mindsets produce emotions: envy, fear, shame, rage, sadness, sympathy, but also pride, satisfaction, and joy.
Our workshop will investigate achievement-related emotions – defined as emotions linked by contemporaries to the idea of personal achievement (Verheyen 2018) – in the 19th and 20th centuries. How have such emotions been produced, communicated, and interpreted in different historical and cultural settings, and how can historians analyze them? How have disciplines such as the educational sciences, medicine, and economics made sense of the interrelation between achievement, non-achievement, and emotions? Special emphasis will be placed on the global and transnational dimensions of achievement-related emotions. This approach allows us to question master-narratives of modernization that present Europe and the United States as historical centers of meritocracy and productivity that conquered the entire world (to a greater or lesser extent). Therefore, we especially invite papers that explore achievement-related emotions in non-Western societies, emphasize the limits of achievement-related emotions within Europe and North America, or address global entanglements.
Possible paper topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Which social practices stimulated achievement-based emotions, or were intended to do so? Who had an interest in connecting achievement or non-achievement with particular emotions, thus determining which feelings were appropriate?
- How were achievement-based emotions staged and presented, whether in diaries and biographies or in photos, paintings, and monuments, or even purely auditorily?
- What was the role of language in experiencing achievement-based emotions? Did such emotions differ depending on the vocabulary available for addressing them?
- How did the historical emergence and attribution of achievement-based emotions inform individual and group identities along the lines of gender, race, and class, political affiliations, religion, ethnicity, or citizenship?
- How and why have achievement-based emotions become a market, for example used to sell advice literature, training materials, and consulting services?
Please submit a proposal of no more than 350 words and a short CV (1 page) in German or English to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for submission is January 31, 2021. We expect to be able to cover hotel and travel costs (train ticket, 2nd class), though you are welcome to defray organizing costs by soliciting funds from your home institution. We plan on publishing selected papers in a special issue.