CECI n'est pas EXECUTE 2012-2016 | EMOPOLIS - Emotions and Political Mobilizations in the Indian Subcontinent  

Recherche | Projets et programmes financés

2012-2016 | EMOPOLIS - Emotions and Political Mobilizations in the Indian Subcontinent  

Coordinators: Stéphanie Tawa Lama & Amélie Blom    



Schedule of activities

EMOPOLIS at a glance


The EMOPOLIS program began in November 2012 at the CEIAS, thanks to a grant from Emergence(s), the City of Paris' support program for fundamental research. This three-year research project gathers together 16 scholars in Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, History, and Cultural Studies, based in France, Germany, India, Pakistan, and the United States. It aims at analyzing the role that emotions play in triggering, shaping, and possibly hampering as well, social and political mobilizations in the Indian sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh).


Scientific program


The initial aim of this research project is to take a new look at South Asian political life by focusing on diverse patterns of mobilization, a concept deliberately understood here in broad terms as “any collective action oriented by a concern for promoting a public good or for repealing a public evil, that gives itself adversaries to fight against, so as to make the process of participation, redistribution and recognition possible” (Daniel Cefaï). Indeed, political claims and opinions are expressed through numerous, diverse, and often very imaginative forms of action in the public space of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some employ peaceful means, be they conventional (street demonstrations, rallies, strikes, hunger strikes, sit-ins, petitions, public audiences, institutionalized activism) or informal (art, literature, music, etc.). Others use violent means (riots, armed militancy).

Our main contention is that instrumental behavior alone fails to explain the nature and scope of these mobilizations: emotions need to be brought back into the picture. How can we ignore, for instance, the importance of public anger in the wave of protests against the gang-rape of a 23 year-old student that shook India in December 2012? How not to notice that spontaneous public gatherings against terrorist attacks in Pakistan happen when a sense of collective shame is invoked, as was the case when Malala Yusufzai, a teenage education activist, was shot in the head (October 2012) or when the Sri-Lankan cricket team was targeted in Lahore, three years earlier? The same question applies when considering the various processions organized by students, artists and intellectuals against the removal of a statue of the "bangla bauls" (folk singers who play an important symbolic role), under the pressure of Islamic activists, in Dhaka in 2008.

These recent examples, captured in the pictures above, clearly testify to the relevance and variety of the vocabulary of emotions in South Asia's political culture: anger, shame and sadness in the cases mentioned, but also love, happiness and joy in other cases. While the role of emotions in political mobilizations has generated a substantial body of research in the past decade, this approach has been largely limited to the western world. The EMOPOLIS program is based on the premise that an analysis of South Asian political mobilizations via in-depth studies of their affective dimension is bound to deliver new insights not only on South Asian political culture, but also on affective studies. Ideed, in trying to address this research gap, the EMOPOLIS program aims to de-compartmentalize area studies, affective studies and political theories. This integrative approach will help to investigate both the universal and culture-dependent dimensions of emotions.

EMOPOLIS will address the following questions:

Why do certain emotions become, at a given time and in specific settings, legitimate motivation for political mobilization while others do not (or not anymore)?

What role do emotions (and which ones in particular) play in facilitating individuals' participation in, following of, and receptivity to a specific cause?

How do specific institutions, organizations, networks and groups include emotions in their mobilizing strategies and how do they "work" on them?

What effects do the emotions experienced in the very moment of collective action (and again, which ones in particular) have on its shape and course?

What role do the state's “politics of emotion” play in the public expression of particular emotions, which ones and on which issues?

In order to answer these questions, we will work along five thematic axes:

The theoretical and methodological challenges of documenting emotions and of studying, in an interdisciplinary framework, the interlinkage between emotion and political mobilization;  

The historical evolution of the norms and rules governing the public expression of emotions;

The interdependency between individual emotions, collective emotions, and the "emotional-institutional context" that regulates the political expression of emotions;

The semantic properties of the language of emotions in South Asia, with a focus on activist literature;

The semantic and visual properties of “political emotions” in South Asia, with a focus on activist literature and on popular cinema.


Research team


Sadaf Ahmad (Assistant Professor in Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore)

Martin Aranguren (Doctoral Research Fellow in Sociology, CEMS-Centre d'Étude des Mouvements Sociaux/EHESS, Paris)

Véronique Bénéi (CNRS Research Fellow in Anthropology, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Institutions et des Organisations Sociales-LAIOS, Paris)

Luc Bellon (Film-maker & Doctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology, EHESS, Paris)

Amélie Blom (Visiting Professor in Political Science, Campus Asie/Sciences Po Paris)

Fabiene Gama (Photographer and Research Fellow in Anthropology, Universidade de Brasilia)

Annu Jalais (Assistant Professor in South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore)

Margrit Pernau (Senior Research Fellow in History, Center for the History of Emotions/Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)

Carla Petievich (Visiting Professor in Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin)

Imke Rajamani (Doctoral Research Fellow in History, Center for the History of Emotions/Max-Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)

Max Stille (Graduate Student, South Asia Institute/Heidelberg University, Heidelberg)

Nandini Sundar (Head of the Department of Sociology, Delhi University, Delhi)

Stéphanie Tawa Lama (CNRS Research Fellow in Political Science)

Raphaël Voix (Research Fellow in Anthropology, CEIAS-Centre for South Asian Studies, Paris)

Laetitia Zecchini (CNRS Research Fellow in Cultural Studies, ARIAS-Atelier de Recherche sur l'Intermédialité et les Arts du Spectacle, Paris)




Emotional transactions, a general framework for describing emotions: The example of the Delhi subway (M. Aranguren)

The new politics of happiness in India's educational institutions: The case of Maharashtra (V. Bénéi)

Resorting to indignation: Social reformers and the question of the slums in Bombay, 1930-1940 (V. Caru)

Anger and civility: Indian Muslims from the 18th to the 21st century (M. Pernau)

The language of love in the dissenting poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib (C. Petievich)

Mobilizing anger: The ‘angry young man’ in popular Indian cinema ca. 1970-1990 (I. Rajamani)

Emotions and civil war in Chhattisgarh (N. Sundar)

Citizenship and emotional stratification in post-liberalization urban India (N. Sundar)

The emotional dynamics of public hearings in India (S. Tawa Lama)

From loving devotion to protestation against the State: A case study in West Bengal (R. Voix)

Culture under siege? Hurt, anxiety and censorship in India (L. Zecchini)



The role of emotional mobilization in the passage of the anti-sexual harassment legislation in Pakistan (S. Ahmed)

How to make sense of "anti-blasphemy" mobilizations in Pakistan? (S. Ahmed)

Emotions and political engagement against anti-Shia violence in Karachi, Pakistan (L. Bellon)

The emotional dimension of socio-political activism in the name of Islam in Pakistan (A. Blom)



The personal is political: A visual study of Bangladeshi feminists’ performance (F. Gama)

The pursuit of an identity in a fragmented mindscape: The emotions behind mass demonstrations against war criminals in Bangladesh (A. Jalais)

Emotional Ethos and Imitation in Islamic Sermons in Bangladesh (M. Stille)


Schedule of activities


Schedule of activities


flux rss  Actualités

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Devenir juifs : conversions et assertions identitaires en Inde et au Pakistan

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