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Understanding Emotions in Post-Factual Politics

Negotiating Truth

Anna Durnová

Post-factual politics has united scientists and civil society in a public defence of truth, however, the battle may already have been lost to a binarity of facts and emotions. Analysing and comparing scientists’ protests against the Trump presidency with famous scientific controversies in modern medicine, this innovative book redefines truth as a negotiation in public discourse between the interplay of values, beliefs and facts. It shows that in order to understand post-factual politics we must unveil emotion’s role in knowledge-making.
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Chapter 2: Vexatious knowledge

Anna Durnová


This chapter analyses the first characteristic of truth’s scenography: vexatious knowledge. Breaking with previously accepted knowledge, scientific discoveries make the new knowledge irritating, or even threatening, which raises an emotional dynamic that is nevertheless downplayed by the public presentation of truth. While the public performance of truth by scientists taking part in the March for Science demonstrates such detachment from emotional dynamics, an examination of the irritants and threats surrounding the discovery of AIDS or, once again, the Semmelweis case, shows how this neglect of the role of emotion in truth production disguises the socio-political interdependencies lying behind the alleged truth assertions, and makes it impossible to distinguish actual scientific breakthrough from a fraud that is only staged as such a breakthrough. It thus suggests that, in order to deal with post-factual politics, we need to pay more attention to how emotional appeals to facts are used and mobilized in the public discourse on truth and science.

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