Some of the most pressing concerns of our time, such as crises connected to migration, the welfare state, international law and terrorism, are part of the Swedish upper secondary school subject Social Science. This means that Social Science teaching easily generates intense emotions, sparks of which are lit in the encounter between the students, the teacher, and the specific content of the school subject Social Science. This aim of this dissertation is to examine what emotions do in the teaching of the school subject Social Science (samhällskunskap) and what the subject Social Science does to emotions. This is examined through an ethnographic exploration of Social Science teaching in four different Swedish upper secondary schools. Barbara Rosenwein’s concept emotional communities is central to the analysis, as are Sara Ahmed’s emotion-oriented conceptualisations of movement, attachment and contact.
In the study, it is shown how an emotional community of Social Science teaching emerges that in part is different from comparable emotional communities in other school subjects, such as History and Religious Education. There is furthermore a dissonance between the role emotions are supposed to play in the teaching and the role emotions actually do play. Despite being clearly related to the specific subject content of Social Science, it is also important to note that emotions are always relational, which leads to attachments and detachments in the group of teacher and students. Emotions in Social Science teaching are moreover connected to conflictuality, multiperspectivity, ideas about ‘the good citizen’, and the subject’s inherent contemporaneity.
An important result of the dissertation is that in emotionally intense teaching situations, teachers’ attempts to use a ’traditional’, rationality-oriented Social Science analysis do not resonate with the students. The examined cases of Social Science teaching therefore seem to suffer from a traditional division between rationality and emotionality that largely has characterized political analysis in the 20th century. A rapprochement between the students’ lifeworld and the school subject’s disciplinary analysis would benefit from an increased use of the emotional dimension and community of Social Science teaching.