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Accepted Paper:

Who Cares About Failure? Exploring Emotional Practices of Working Against Shame on Stage  
Helen Franziska Veit (University of Tuebingen)

Paper short abstract:

The global event-format 'fuckup' forms a new way of dealing with failure. It provides a stage and a caring audience for speakers who can perform self-care and emotion work against shame. However, the events reproduce powerful logics of the ethics of self-transformation and self-optimization.

Paper long abstract:

The ethnographic research for my PhD (European Ethnology; in Germany, Austria and Switzerland) has given me insights into a field where speakers share their failure stories with an audience, live and on stage. These so called ‚fuckup‘-events aim to work against a hegemonial culture of a stigmatization of failure and oppose an emotional norm that binds shame to failure. Instead, they show themselves with humor, in an entertaining way, and they present and celebrate knowledge about 'good' ways of failing.

For those who perform on this very stage, the events provide a public setting for experiences of transforming their feelings; in co-presence of the audience, that represents an emotional community (Rosenwein 2006). The events provide a certain materiality and sociality and an in-between space that allows and asks for emotion work (Hochschild 1979) and a transformed and (self-)transforming approach to failure.

The events claim to be a global and social ‚movement‘ that cares for the failed and promotes moral ideals that move away from an ethics of money, while at the same operating as a franchise-system that markets failure expertise to companies. My study takes the stance of practice theory and emotional practices (Scheer 2012, 2016) to explain how the events help failed make sense of their experience but also reificate programs of emotional self-optimization (Bröckling 2016; Illouz 2003, 2009; Rose 1999) and ideas about the nature of the body, emotions, the private and the public.

Panel P114b
Emotions and the powers of care. Sensing, judging, or rejecting asymmetric encounters II
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -