Introduction: The politics of negative affects in post-Reform China

Lisa Richaud


If there is such a thing as a dominant public sphere in post-reform China, its emotional tonality has often been described as overwhelmingly positive, as evidenced by the recent focus on “happiness” campaigns or state-promoted “positive energy.” This special section takes the prevalence of positivity as an invitation to investigate its opposites: what, in an authoritarian context, is the political work of negative affects such as bitterness, fear, shame, indifference, deflation, or trouble? Locating the articles within a broader literature on affect and emotion in anthropology and beyond, this introduction provides an overall framing for the collection. Based on the articles, it depicts the potential of negativity as both disruptive and generative, as affects work through their evaluative and propositional force which induces transformation while often evading repression.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/717656