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Understanding Emotions in Post-Factual Politics

Negotiating Truth

Anna Durnová

Post-factual politics has united scientists and civil society in a public defence of truth, however, the battle may already have been lost to a binarity of facts and emotions. Analysing and comparing scientists’ protests against the Trump presidency with famous scientific controversies in modern medicine, this innovative book redefines truth as a negotiation in public discourse between the interplay of values, beliefs and facts. It shows that in order to understand post-factual politics we must unveil emotion’s role in knowledge-making.
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Acknowledgements

Anna Durnová

This book could have never been written without some substantial hints from my colleagues. When I had the idea of using the historical controversy of Ignaz Semmelweis for political analysis of truth, the academic culture of speedy publication spoke against it, as ideas that are not quickly applicable and publishable need to be readapted. I want to thank Birgit Sauer and Georg Lauss for discussing with me the initial thoughts on this topic and giving me the courage to pursue them further.

I then had the chance to receive substantial financial support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) which has funded the research on the Semmelweis case, and the development of the theoretical framework presented in this book. Through its gender policy, FWF enabled me to continue with this project after the birth of both my children. Most importantly, the funding enabled me to do a research fellowship at the Yale University Center for Cultural Sociology, without which I would have not been able to study the 2017 protests of scientists and, most importantly, to embed this fieldwork in the larger questions of culture, meanings and emotions.

I want to thank Jeffrey Alexander, with whom I first shared the idea to bring March for Science into this book for giving me the substantial intellectual inspiration to analyse this short piece of American politics. I also want to thank Frank Fischer, Doug Torgerson and Patrick Le Galès for their substantial feedback in linking the case to the question of expertise in politics. I want to thank here all those I could speak to about the atmosphere in United States academia, who want to stay anonymized for this book. Not only their insider knowledge but also their feelings helped me to get a sense of the events.

Many of my colleagues read parts of the book, disagreeing with me and giving me very valuable feedback. I thank here especially Tomáš Samec, Jan Daniel, Dagmar Rychnovská, Andrew Cohen, Abby Stivers, Holger Strassheim, Lukáš Likavčan, Ingrid Metzler, Philippe Zittoun, Peter Skilling, Linda Zerilli, Patrick Baert, Gerald Posselt, Dagmar Comtesse, Veronika Frantová, Olivier Borraz, Kathrin Braun, Eric Neveu, Daniel Šitera and Tomáš Profant. I also want to thank students of my University of Vienna course on post-truth for helping me to conceptualize my initial thoughts on the topic.

Last but not least, my husband Pavel Pospěch has accompanied this project both intellectually and personally from its very beginning and has done all the emotional work, without which this book would have never been accomplished. I am very thankful for that.