Shared Emotions and the Sense of Us: The case of the Hanagasa Matsuri (Alessandro Salice, University of Cork)

Abstract: This paper explores the interrelations between shared emotions and the sense of belonging to a community or “sense of us.” It does so in two main steps.

In the first, I take a Japanese folk festival (the Hanagasa Matsuri in Yamagata) as a case study to identify the elements that may trigger, sustain, and scaffold episode of singular emotions in the participants. These elements include: (i) an identical and brief melody that is constantly repeated for hours, (ii) the constant cadence of the melody, which is marked by the resounding beat of several big drums (taiko); (iii) a parade of people (mainly) dancing in a synchronised way (the Hanagasa dance). I claim that these elements “align” the affective lives of the individuals with each other: not only they enable the participants to feel emotional episodes of the very same kind (joy, amusement, elation, pride, etc.), they also direct the participants’ attention towards the same foci of interest. These are objects or symbols of historical and/or cultural relevance to the community that are usually displayed in the parade.

In the second part of the talk, I elaborate on the previous observations. In particular, I argue that this convergence of similar emotions towards the same foci of interest generates a sense of belonging to the community. In so doing, participants activate a social identity—they begin to understand themselves as group members, that is. It is in virtue of this sense of belonging that their affective lives undergo transformation. Single emotional episode of joy, amusement, pride… are not any longer lived through as individual ones, which are numerically different or detached from the emotional episodes of the other participants. They are rather lived through as one, as a collective emotion: their (or better) our emotion of joy, amusement, or pride.


Bio: Alessandro Salice is Lecturer at the Department of Philosophy of University College Cork. Previously, Alessandro held postdoctoral positions at the University of Graz, University of Basel, University of Vienna, and at the Center for Subjectivity Research in Copenhagen. His expertise stretches from classical accounts of collective intentionality and joint action to phenomenology, philosophy of mind and moral psychology. Recently, Alessandro has edited The Phenomenological Approach to Social Reality. History, Concepts, Problems (2016), together with Hans Bernhard Schmid. Alessandro is co-editor of Journal of Social Ontology. His papers have been published in several journals including Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences, European Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, Frontiers in Psychology, Topoi, International Journal of Social Robotics.

Published Oct. 10, 2019 11:13 AM - Last modified Oct. 10, 2019 11:13 AM