Emotion, Character, and Ethnicity

John Corrigan

in Business of the Heart

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780520221963
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924321 | DOI:
Emotion, Character, and Ethnicity

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Protestants asserted collective identity and broadcasted their difference from other groups through their participation in the Businessmen's Revival. This chapter illustrates the way in which white Protestant identity was consolidated through a strategy of negatively constructing the emotionality of others. Protestant revivalgoers operated out of a set of assumptions about emotionality that allowed them to characterize out-groups as emotionally defective. Protestant Bostonians' elaborations on the “Irish temper” marked the Irish more clearly as outsiders at the same time that it reinforced certain notions of white Protestant emotionality and identity. The same is true for white construction of African American emotionality as inferior in several ways. And abolitionists, too close to blacks themselves, were painted with a similar brush. All such projects were a way for the dominant Protestant population to understand and assert itself by creating contrastive relations with other populations in the city. Emotionality, just as importantly as skin color, national origin, language, or social class, served as a marker of difference for the Protestant middle class. For white Protestants, then, the Irish did not join the revival because they were emotionally unfit for it, African American participation was minimal for the same reasons, and abolitionists, due to their defective emotionality, simply did not understand. All three groups likewise were unfit to conduct any sort of important business, not just the business of the heart.

Keywords: Protestants; collective identity; Businessmen's Revival; African American emotionality; Protestant Bostonians

Chapter.  8784 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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