Emotion as creative practice: Linking creativity and wellbeing through the history and sociology of emotion



This article draws on recent developments in the history of emotion and the sociology of creativity to argue that emotions themselves may be viewed as creative practices. After an initial, broad overview of key historical and epistemological complexities in emotions research, it describes a framework for understanding emotion (and the history of emotion) proposed by Monique Scheer (2012), which is grounded in the practice theory of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. In Scheer’s view, emotions should not be viewed as fundamentally internal physiological or psychological states, but as the practices to which those states are inextricably linked, and by which they are mobilized, named, communicated and regulated. The article then describes a sociological framework for understanding creativity proposed by Janet Chan (2016), which is also underpinned by Bourdieu’s practice theory, and which posits that creativity is an inherent feature of all social action and may generate social change via institutionalized cultural practice or cultural revolt, the latter of which may itself take at least three forms. It then links Scheer’s and Chan’s frameworks together, explaining how, from this sociological perspective, emotions can be understood as creative practices, as embodied acts of thinking performed in habituated ways and which themselves generate change by doing different types of creative work. It proposes a new four-part framework for categorizing emotions as creative practices, based on Chan’s framework for creativity: 1) emotion as institutionalized cultural practice; 2) emotion as cultural edgework; 3) emotion as cultural transcendence; and 4) emotion as cultural transformation. It concludes by suggesting that this framework provides an original and useful way of explaining the role of emotion in generating social and historical change, and of explaining the link between creativity and wellbeing from a sociological perspective.


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