Commemoration and Emotional Imperialism

Alfred Archer, Benjamin Matheson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Northern Irish footballer James McClean chooses not to take part in the practice of wearing a plastic red poppy to commemorate those who have died fighting for the British Armed Forces. Each year he faces abuse, including occasional death threats, for his choice. This forms part of a wider trend towards ‘poppy enforcement’, the pressuring of people, particularly public figures, to wear the poppy. This enforcement seems wrong in part because, at least in some cases, it involves abuse. But is there anything else wrong with it? We will consider the various ways the existing literature on the ethics of commemoration might help us understand what is wrong with poppy enforcement. We will argue that this cannot provide a complete account of what is wrong with poppy enforcement. We then argue that such pressure can constitute two distinct forms of affective injustice, which are wrongs done to people specifically in their capacity as affective beings. In McClean’s case, we argue first that poppy enforcement is a violation of affective rights and second that he faces a particular type of affective injustice that we call ‘emotional imperialism’.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • affective injustice
  • Commemoration
  • emotional imperialism
  • ethics of war


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