Anu Kantola, Guest Professor at Stockholm University’s Department of Media Studies, gave a Public Lecture on 10 April, 2018. The event was organized and sponsored by the Leading Research Environment “Global Media Studies and the Politics of Mediated Communication” (Director: Miyase Christensen), and addressed the meaning of emotions in mediated performances of power and social change.
Kantola, who is a Professor at the Department of Social Research and Media and Communication Studies at Helsinki University, was invited and introduced by Associate Professor Ester Pollack. In the lecture, Kantola wanted to connect media studies with what she referred to as a sociology of emotions and argued that emotions had become even more important in the performance and justification of power by elites through mediatisation.
The lecture built on a research project called “Modern Styles of Power in Finland, 1945-2015”, which concerned the representations of national power elites in Finnish magazines. Kantola had identified four different styles that characterized the representations of political figures during this period, such as former Finnish president Urho Kekkonen, and businessmen such as Kari Kairamo, whom was the CEO of the Finnish tech company Nokia between 1977 and 1988. In the 1950s, the predominant style was paternalistic, where leaders performed as responsible parents, whereas in the 1970s the style had changed, and leaders more often performed as rational bureaucrats. Towards the 1980s, the style had changed once again, where leaders were usually found to be performing as eccentric individuals. This style seemed to last until somewhere around the financial crisis in 2008. Since then, the mediated performances of elites had become more authoritarian in style.
According to Kantola, these styles could be understood against the background of more overarching global and historical processes such as the emergence of the post-war welfare state and the neo-liberal turn in politics and economics towards the late 1970s. However, at the same time as a particular style could contribute to justify the power of elites during a specific historical context, it usually also carried with it some negative connotations which would eventually lead to as transformation. For example, the individualistic eccentricity of leaders that characterized the media representations from the 1980s, Kantola suggested, have in some ways paved the way for the conservative and authoritarian performances by world leaders today. Although Trump, could of course be considered as performing a little bit of both.