This initiative is analysing collective emotions using an exploratory methodology that considers the interconnectedness of mind, body, and affect, as well as the cultural conditioning of emotions.

  • Emotions influence both individual and collective behaviour. As such, they shape social dynamics and leave their imprint on all cultural production. This initiative seeks to develop an approach that allows us to understand for the first time how complex ritual experiences engaged their participants emotionally.
  • Since we cannot reconstruct what people of the past felt, the focus falls on collective experiences.
  • Recent studies have shown that the collective performance of actions can bring individuals into emotional lockstep, thus inviting analyses of collective rituals as mechanisms for emotional synchronisation (and manipulation). By developing a methodology that allows us to identify the emotional implications of collective celebrations in the past, this initiative enables a better understand of their individual impact and effects, thus recovering an important dimension of past culture.
  • The proposed analytical model reconstructs the experience used as case study (i.e., the martyr ‘panegyris’, or annual celebration) following a ‘nesting doll’ approach that considers all available levels, beginning with the ‘experience’ and ‘expectations’ ones that have been shown to shape our interaction with the world. The model divides the experience in three phases. 
  • The first considers elements preceding the ritual, which shaped its perception. In the case of martyr panegyria this includes, for example, stories circulating about the martyr or the shrine, as well as actions such as travelling, visiting the locality, or other Christian shrines in the area. 
  • The second phase considers the celebration proper, whose stages are reconstructed in order, and taking into account the ways in which they engaged participants somatically, cognitively, and affectively. Methodologies developed across the historical sciences are used to reconstruct the experience from written, material, and visual sources. Then, the cognitive sciences are used to understand the individual and cumulative effects of these actions. Finally, we consider how the experience relates to the designers’ understanding of human perception in order to identify what effects they sought to achieve through it. 
  • The third phase considers actions taking place after the end of the ritual per se, which defined its meaning for participants and shaped how it would be remembered and communicated to others.