Cultural Encounters, Empires and Emotions

This cluster aims at expanding the existing research on cultural encounters and emotions in the Centre for the History of Emotions and seeks to establish new research ties across the Centre’s programmes and with scholars outside of the Centre.

Cultural Encounters, Empires and Emotions

Image: The Castle of Batavia, Andries Beeckman, 1661. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.

Emotions played a vital role in the way encounters took (and take) place, both on a personal as well as on an international political level and the culturally appropriate performance of emotions often decided about the nature and outcome of these encounters. For example, Dutch officials of the VOC had to learn that the correct expression of respect and acknowledgement of social status, together with presenting socially appropriate gifts, was the only way to establish favourable relationships with Asian rulers which were needed to obtain permissions to trade. In Christian conversions the performance of new emotional styles was a key element required by missionaries but often appropriated or contested by converts. The social practice of emotions in colonial spaces (urban centres, trading posts, churches, courts, etc.) simultaneously shaped and contested colonial rule.

‘Cultural encounters, empires and emotions’ is a group of researchers whose work focuses on the role of emotions in cultural encounters that took place across medieval and early modern empires. We work on different aspects of cultural encounters such as European perceptions of early modern Malay music, medieval travel literature, Dutch diplomatic convoys and gift exchanges, the use of music in facilitating Christian conversions in the Americas and Japan, European travel reports, the reception of Asian goods and the making of courtly cultures or the emotional biographies of colonial objects in museums.

Collaborating Members

Benjamin Schmidt (The University of Washington)
Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University Växjö)
Arvi Wattel (The University of Western Australia)
Joachim Östlund (Lund University)
Susanne Meurer (The University of Western Australia)
Jette Linaa (Moesgaard Museum, Denmark)
Malin Gregersen (Linnaeus University Växjö)
Jacqueline Holler (Northern British Columbia)
Joost Cote (Monash University)
Francoise Mirguet (Arizona State University)
Magdalena Naum (Ăarhus University, Denmark)

Cluster activities

Cluster members presented papers/panels at:

Study Day, ‘Emotions in the Early Modern Contact Zone’, The University of Western Australia, 26 June 2015

ANZAMEMS panel ‘Mapping Identities: Emotions and Ethnographies in the Medieval and Early Modern World’, July 2015

Shaping the Modern Program Collaboratory: ‘Emotions, Materiality and Transformations in the Colonial Contact Zone’, The University of Western Australia, 7‒8 March 2016

‘Encounters: The Music of Europe and Asia’, Perth, 19 June 2016

International Conference ‘Emotions: Movement, Cultural Contact and Exchange 1100-1800’, Freie Universität Berlin, 30 June to 2 July 2016

‘Encounters and Emotions in Colonial Histories’, Public Panel Discussion, The University of Western Australia, Research Week, 7 September 2016

‘Travellers and Traders: Emotional Histories’ Audiotour of early modern objects as part of the exhibition ‘Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean’, West Australian Maritime Museum (in conjunction with the British Museum), October 2016 to April 2017

Main Outcomes


Public engagement

Research project applications

WUN application

Work in Progress

Cluster members are planning to present papers/ panels at the following conferences:

‘Fears and Angers: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives’, Queen Mary University London, 19‒20 June 2017

Powerful Emotions/Emotions and Power c.400-1850, York University, 28‒29 June 2017

‘Stobaeus’ Cabinet of Curiosity: Emotions, “curiosa” and Collecting in Eighteenth-Century Sweden and Beyond’, Lund University, Historiska Museet Lund, 4‒6 October 2017

Inaugural International Conference of the Society for the History of Emotions, The University of Western Australia, December 2017


Jacqueline Van Gent (

CHE Members

Alicia Marchant (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)

The University of Western Australia


Alan Maddox (2012-2016)

The University of Sydney


David R. M. Irving (2014-2015)

The University of Melbourne


Eleonora Rai

The University of Western Australia


Francesco De Toni

The University of Western Australia


Jacqueline Van Gent

The University of Western Australia


Jason Stoessel (2014-2017)

The University of New England


Makoto Harris Takao

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin


Penelope Edmonds

The University of Tasmania


Robin Macdonald

The University of Western Australia


Susan Broomhall (Full term)

The University of Western Australia


Tania Colwell (2014)

Australian National University


Yasmin Haskell

The University of Bristol