States of Sentiment: Exploring the Cultures of Emotion
Pramod K. Nayar
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
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Orient BlackSwan
  • This book proposes that our responses to various situations, events and representations are not entirely private, individual and internal. They have a crucial social dimension.
  • Emotions are a result of the internalisation of cultural codes and discourses that inform, and even determine the appropriateness or inappropriateness of emotional responses.
  • We see a terrorist as a threat, a cyclone as worrying, a rags-to-riches story as a feel-good moment. We mourn the sudden death of Michael Jackson, we rejoice in the victory of a triumphant Tendulkar and we react with horror and shock to 9/11. All of these are emotional responses to specific representational strategies that present these people and events in particular ways. These strategies in turn construct our emotional relations to the events and people.  
  • Exactly how sentiments of care, passion, desire, pleasure, fear, sympathy or pity are discursively commodified (made a commodity) in the mass media, films, reportage and the other public culture forms today is the subject of this book. It demonstrates how cultures today are getting emotion-driven.
  • The book is organised around four ‘sentiments’—well-being, suffering, aversion and hope.
  • It uses reality TV, hate speech, self-help literature, media coverage of  9/11 and 26/11, autobiographies, websites and films, and blends theoretical insights with elements of innovative inquiry, to show how emotions are packaged and how these emotions then determine social relations itself.
Pramod K. Nayar teaches at the department of English, University of Hyderabad.

Foreword: Overture to a Study of Emotions by Shiv Visvanathan
Introduction: Emotion Cultures and Cultural Emotion Studies
Smile: Cultures of Well-being

The Idea of Well-being
Well-being and Sociality
Spectacles of Well-being
Well-being Cultures
The Transformational Citizen
Scars: Cultures of Suffering
The Idea of Suffering
Suffering and its Affective Sociality
Scar Culture, Extreme
Cultures and Tele-Trauma
The Trauma-Aesthetic
Suffering and its Collaterals
Spectacles of Sentiment
Precarious Lives, Witnessing and the Coming Community
Shudders: Cultures of Aversion
The Idea of Aversion
Aversion Cultures
The Rhetorics of Aversion
Aversion Spectacle
Yearning: Cultures of Hope

The Idea of Hope
Utopianism and Hope
Spectacles of Hope-cultures
Utopian Processes and Practices


1. Release Date : 08-Apr-2011 Venue : Hyderabad
2. Release Date : 15-Apr-2011 Venue : New Delhi
Economic & Political Weekly 19 Nov 2011

‘ … an invitation to a new multi-disciplinary social science crafted with humour, a sense of paradox, ready to be vulnerable as it plays out new ideas and new speculations about the world of ideas … this book is only an aperitif to a richer creation, a sensorium of words, visuals and events that celebrates a still emerging world to which the author plays guide, sceptic, trustee, storyteller and critic.’

- Shiv Visvanathan, Social Scientist based in Ahmedabad

‘Pramod Nayar’s States of Sentiment represents a fascinating merger of cultural studies with philosophy, psychology, and trauma studies through the overarching category of Affect.  The book is filled with the ‘emotional style’ that Nayar explores, and readers recognise the influence of culturally-coded images and narratives in the creation of real emotions and conceptions of happiness, suffering, aversion, and hope.  Broadly appealing and creative, Nayar’s text connects with readers, thanks to his well-chosen examples (mostly from American and Indian public culture) and easy way of inserting himself into the text. Nayar offers a way to critically consider the effects of a continuous barrage of mediated and emotionally-charged content without dismissing the media as toying with people’s emotions and loyalties in order to manipulating viewers.  Rather, he posits that the media can have a positive role to play; by transforming trauma into fictional melodrama, kitsch can make history consumable. While recognising that there is a generalised trend toward affective indifference as we are inundated with images of suffering, Nayar also sees a space being opened for voluntary work and interventions based on sympathy. The book ends on a hopeful note, assigning real consequences in terms of both emotions and actions to the ideas and narratives encountered in public culture.’ 

 - Kristen Rudisill, Department of Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University, USA

‘We live in a world in which expressions such as “globalization”, “the increased pace of life”, “the knowledge revolution”, “media saturation”, and “compassion fatigue” are so familiar as to be banal. Our senses and our emotions are overloaded and still we seem to have more and more access to emotionally intense events and stimuli that are increasingly packaged as commodities. Taking cues from Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall’s views of culture as respectively “structures of feeling” and “feelings, attachments and emotions as well as concepts and ideas” Pramod Nayar in this impressive work of cultural studies unpacks the discursive fields of emotion.… But this is no jeremiad of a bereft culture. Rather States of Sentiment points to an affective turn in public culture that contains within it hope, that is “emotion generated through the imagination of possibilities”. It is a bracing study, but one that offers a way out of the dead-end of despair in our highly commodified world.

- Ian Lewis Gordon, Department of History, National University of Singapore

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