Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies

Theme Two: Exuberance / Tolerance


Structures of feeling have an uncanny way of dissolving into ambiguity and ambivalence. This research strand focuses on this felt ambivalence, to explore the valences of exuberance and tolerance as central features of contemporary sociality and intersubjectivity. On the one hand, exuberance and tolerance announce themselves as counterpoints on an axis of the spectacular and the everyday; the active and the passive: exuberance is to active as tolerance is to passive. On the other hand, when one considers everyday forms of contemporary youth sociability, exuberance emerges as a feature of the cultural lifeworld, or habitus. Similarly, tolerance is not merely passive acceptance or accommodation of difference - in the context of hospitality, for example, it takes on a more spectacular and obviously expressive form. In the context of policies of tolerance it constructs its intolerable other. Corresponding ambiguities surround the moral and political valences of exuberance and tolerance. Both may be equally morally acceptable or repugnant - politically subversive or conservative. One may compare the exuberance of the 1968 student protests with the contemporary anti-abortion movement; the tolerance of religious difference shown by ecumenical movements with the tolerance of human rights abuses shown by dictatorial regimes. Our work in this research strand is oriented around the following questions:

  • What are the limits of exuberance and tolerance - both empirically and theoretically?
  • What are the 'social lives' of these categories, in contemporary society?
  • How do exuberance and tolerance structure the contemporary lifeworld?
  • How do practices of exuberance or tolerance manifest themselves specifically in dominant and subordinate (sub-) cultures?