Frozen by threat or motivated to move? Emotionally charged horizons of opportunities in development work of universities
Keywords:affective practice, change, development work, emotions, universities
How do emotions function in the development work and change attempts of universities? This article investigates the emotional dimensions of development of higher education and how emotions relate to the conditions of academic work, and the university as a forum for those initiatives. Building theories from affective cultural studies, the article drafts and explores the concept of ‘emotionally charged horizon of opportunity’. This concept defines emotions as relational, culturally situated social forces connected with relationships, collective mentalities and belief systems, which the article explores by example of two cases: a national attempt to renew a degree structure on a disciplinary level, and a departmental initiative of development of the academic unit. Taking a discourse analytic approach with the focus on emotions, the analysis comprises two major findings. First, affectivity was present in the practices of development work, in the hierarchies of power, group relations and identities of the academic culture. Second, the actors’ expectations about the future, the emotional judgments attached to these expectations, and the position of the actors were crucial for the development process.