This special section is the result of a online workshop called ‘Living in Crisis’ hosted by the TASA Social Theory thematic group and Thesis Eleven in 2020. Attendees were invited to think about the relationship between social theory and crisis in two ways. First, how can social theory be utilised to unpack what is happening in the world today? Second, do social theorists offer legitimate ways of understanding and responding to this crisis?
The essays in this thematic issue reflect on late 20th- and 21st-century figurations of ‘upheaval’ to measure the affective and emotional dimensions of some of the most complex challenges of our times. In exploring the discursive potency of the term ‘upheaval’ itself they attend collectively to an ‘optics’ of upheaval – that is, to the ways in which upheaval’s forms are rendered visible or invisible in a variety of contexts.