Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Urban Sociology

Nina Margies

Dissertation Project (finished)


Emotions and Social Change. Feeling Hysteresis in Post-Crisis Spain

Research Interests:
  • emotion & social change / crisis

  • emotion management

  • emotion & (urban) space
  • global transformation of work

  • urban youth


This thesis captures narratives of young people in Madrid in the aftermath of the economic crisis (2016-2018) and their emotional accounts of change. Based on a qualitative case study with in-depth interviews, it analyses how the young people dealt emotionally and cognitively with lost prospects for the future, especially their investments in education that rarely led to (good) employment.
Emotions – as considered in this thesis – are by no means just personal experiences, they are profoundly shaped by the way society is organised. I show that in the young people’s everyday lives, structural change appeared as a mismatch between how they expected their (working) life to be and what was actually possible on a precarious labour market in post-crisis Spain. They perceived their situation as impasse of getting by and ahead which translated into feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, frustration and resentment. In order to understand and deal with these emotions, many young people detached from frameworks of interpretation and value systems that they felt were no longer useful in their situation and looked for other niches of individual and collective emotional expression. Facing change, therefore, involved working on their emotions, for instance by adjusting, suppressing or validating them. After all, the young people’s emotions were not only reactions to the socio-economic transformations but were also means and practices that they used to assert themselves in a changing environment and to negotiate their place in post-crisis Spain.