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Navigating the Politics of Anxiety

Moral Outrage, Responsiveness, and State Accountability in Denmark

Mette-Louise Johansen

This article explores how Danish police officers and social workers involved in countering violent extremism (CVE) seek to cope with the possibility of public moral outrage being directed at the welfare state when issues of security and integration arise. In such cases, state officials are faced with a difficult dilemma: on the one hand, they could be blamed for inefficient casework if there is a terror attack. On the other hand, the target group could perceive their intervention as outrageous, in which case it may end up producing the violence that it purports to prevent. The response to this dilemma is a dynamic shift between early and intense intervention on the one hand, and hesitation and “pulling back” from intervention on the other. I suggest that this dynamic response plays a crucial role in risk assessment and decision-making processes related to CVE efforts in Denmark.

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Introduction

The Generative Power of Political Emotions

Mette-Louise Johansen, Therese Sandrup and Nerina Weiss

Moral outrage has until now been conceptualized as a call to action, a reaction to injustice and transgressions, and a forceful motor for democratic participation, acts of civil disobedience, and violent and illicit action. This introduction goes beyond linear causality between trigger events, political emotions, and actions to explore moral outrage as it is experienced and expressed in contexts of political violence, providing a better understanding of that emotion’s generic power. Moral outrage is here understood as a multidimensional emotion that may occur momentarily and instantly, and exist as an enduring process and being-in-the-world, based on intergenerational experiences of violence, state histories, or local contexts of fear and anxiety. Because it appears in the intersubjective field, moral outrage is central for identity politics and social positioning, so we show how moral outrage may be a prism to investigate and understand social processes such as mobilization, collectivities, moral positioning and responsiveness, and political violence.