Conclusions: Empathy and its Afterlives

  • Carolyn Pedwell
Part of the Thinking Gender in Transnational Times book series (THINKGEN)


In tracking empathy’s ambivalent grammar across a range of affective sites — from American presidential politics, to postcolonial literary works, to popular science — this book has explored the varied ways in which empathy travels and translates; how it is differentially interpreted, experienced and made to work transnationally. My argument throughout Affective Relations has been that it is not just that discourses and rhetorics of empathy are strategically mobilised to suit a wide range of political agendas and interests (though they certainly are), but also that the particular social, cultural and geo-political circuits through which emotions and affects are produced are constitutive of how empathy is felt and materialised. Thus, as I contended in Chapter 1, neoliberal political appropriations of a feminist politics of care, whether in the form of Obama’s empathetic politics of hope or the popular business rhetoric of ‘the empathy economy’, have not functioned to empty such practices of feeling, but rather to ensure that empathy, care and compassion are generated in the interests of maintaining dominant social and economic forms, such as the nation and the multinational corporation. Or, as suggested in Chapter 5, reading neuroscience against the grain enables us to ask careful and contentious questions about how, via their ubiquity and repetition, racialised experiences, logics and systems of classification might become materially incorporated into the workings of mirror neurons, thus shaping the autonomic ways that empathy is (or is not) activated.


Mirror Neuron Feminist Politics Affective Relation Small Place Affective Particularity 
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Copyright information

© Carolyn Pedwell 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn Pedwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Newcastle UniversityUK

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