Research Stream


Ann Brooks (Full term)
Australian Catholic University

Genealogies of Emotion, Intimacy and Desire: Theories of Changes in Emotional Regimes from Medieval Society to Late Modernity

This work explores how different historical periods are characterized by emotional regimes where intimacy in the form of desire, sex, passion, and sexuality largely exist outside marriage, and that marriage and traditional normative values and structures are fundamentally incompatible with the expression of intimacy in the history of emotional regimes from medieval society to late modernity

Genealogies of Emotions, Intimacies and Desire: Theories of Changes in Emotional Regimes from Medieval Society to Late Modernity

James Gillray: 'Fashionable Contrasts; – or – the Duchess's little shoe yeilding to the magnitude of the Duke's foot', originally published by Hannah Humphrey on January 24, 1792.  The print shows the feet and ankles of the Duke and Duchess of York (Frederick, Duke of York and Albany 1763-1827, son of George III, and Frederica Charlotte Ulrica 1767-1820, his wife), in an obviously copulatory position, with the Duke's feet enlarged and the Duchess's feet drawn very small. The image above will be the frontispiece for Ann’s book with Routledge New York.

In this project, Professor Ann Brooks explores the role of intimacy as a driver of emotions and takes Laura Ann Stoler’s (1997, 2002) concepts of ‘the personal and political in emotional regimes’, and ‘mapping intimacy through sex’ as significant in this debate. Methodologically the book is guided by the idea of a ‘historical epistemology of concept formation’ (Somers 2008) which involves a systematic study of key conceptual frameworks developed by theorists in understanding the relationship between emotional styles and historical change. Key in this debate is the concept of intimacy. The book draws on the work of a number of contemporary cultural and feminist theorists in assessing changes in emotional regimes, drawing on intimacy including: Foucault (1990), Stoler (1997, 2002, 2006), McClintock (1995, 1997), Berlant (1997, 2000), Illouz (1997, 2012) and Nussbaum (2001) among others.  More specifically the book considers the concept of ‘genealogy’ as a methodological strategy and focuses on the relevance of genealogy as a methodology to assess historical change. William Reddy (2001) shows how the management of emotions in communities reflects relationships of power and politics, and he maintains that social change occurs as individuals resist and challenge dominant emotional regimes that limit ‘emotional liberty’.

Related Publications

Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, David Lemmings and Ann Brooks (eds), (New York: Routledge, 2014).