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Sociabilities and socialities occur in all sorts of spaces. Coffee-houses, salons, and polite society might be the most frequently discussed aspects of later early modern associative culture, but everyone in Britain participated in various forms of affective practices that signalled their affiliation to (or aspirations to be part of) specific communities. These communities ranged from clubs and societies to families and households.1 All were exclusive groups that defined themselves as discrete cohorts through specific social and emotional behaviours. This collection explores the affective nature of these sociabilities and socialities in the wide variety of sites in which they occurred. We adopt a broad definition of the concept of ‘spaces for feeling’ here: they are understood as communities formed by a shared identity or goal (or aspiration towards these), practised through a specific set of emotional expressions, acts or performances, and exercised in a particular space or site. These spaces could be physical or conceptual. Since the distinction between sociality and sociability appears to depend on the degree to which the social relations of a given community produce positive affect, emotions are clearly at the heart of how we seek to understand our subject here. However, so too are the specific identities of the individuals and groups whose sources we are interpreting, since they provide the lenses through which we can perceive the nature and impact of the emotional content within these associational forms. As these essays demonstrate, the line between sociality and sociability often varied for individuals even as they exercised the emotions of membership, as it also did for those who were denied access to participation from particular group formations. The essays in this volume thus explore the complex and various ways in which sociabilities and socialities were produced and practised through affect and in particular spaces, for whom and in what context, and with what emotional impact, in the later early modern and early industrial periods in England and Scotland.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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Book Chapter

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