Emotion in Communities of Nursing Practice

In this presentation I will talk about emotion in the workplace with reference to a case study of nursing practice in the UK’s National Health Service. I will argue against the use of ‘affect’ as it is conceptualised in cultural studies as forces or intensities that pass from body to body and which are beyond the realm of discourse. Instead, I use the term emotion to refer to feelings that arise within the networks of social relations between people, whether these are discursively articulated or not, including relational networks in the workplace. For nurses, identity and emotion is created in the attachment to a virtual community of practice – that of nursing and its professional values, including the key value of ‘care’. Furthermore, emotion is created in local communities of nursing practice, in relations between health care professionals and their patients, and this is different in each of the workplaces where nurses are based, such as emergency wards and hospices. I argue that in these contexts different ‘cultures of feeling’ are created that emerge from and reproduce the emotional relationships beteen staff and between staff and patients. This understanding also aims to go beyond current conceptualisations of ‘emotional labour’ in the service and health care sectors.

Ian Burkitt is Professor of Social Identity at the University of Bradford UK where he teaches sociology and social psychology. He is the author of numerous publications on the social formation of self and identity, embodiment and activity theory, and the social and relational contexts of emotional experience. His books include Bodies of Thought: Embodiment, Identity and Modernity (Sage, 1999), Social Selves: Theories of Self and Society, 2nd edition (Sage, 2008), and Emotions and Social Relations (Sage, 2014).