Signing up to the social contract

Adrian Piper and the art of inclusion

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  • Published 20200203
  • ISBN: 9781925773804
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

AMONG THE MOST lovely and quirky of the books I own is a hardback compendium called The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust (Profile Books) by British cultural historian Tiffany Watt Smith. Published in 2015, the work offers reflections on almost everything we humans hold dearest and weirdest. There’s Apathy, Broodiness, Compassion, Curiosity, Disgust, Envy, feeling like a Fraud, Grief, Homesickness, Joy, Love, a bit Miffed, Pity, Road Rage, Schadenfreude, Technostress, Uncertainty and Wonder. This A–Z ends with the crashing finality of Żal, the melancholy felt at an irretrievable loss – an untranslatable Polish word said to underpin the genius of pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, who died aged thirty-nine in 1849 after a wild trajectory of exile, turbulent love, social withdrawal, delirium and consumption.

Surprisingly, in this collation of more than 150 of the top emotional hits that really make us human – or feel as though we truly are – there is no entry for Trust. This may mean trust is not as much about feelings as we often presume – and this, in turn, could inspire an encouraging reset in those of us who (still, still) stubbornly incline towards trust in others rather than an attitude of defensive suspicion, or of asset-stripping transaction. Could there be something quite drily rational in a proclivity for trust?

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