In this contribution, I suggest activating the notion of atmospheres as a heuristic device to empirically research affects. I will argue that analysing the composition of atmospheres allows one to take into account three key dimensions of affects: their spatio-materiality, their sensuality and their (in)stability. Building on a process understanding of atmospheres, I reflect on how each of the three dimensions can be empirically researched and how they interplay in the emergence of atmospheres.
The paper focuses on emotions to analyse negotiations of belonging and experiences of difference. Emotional accounts such as childhood stories of second generation Spaniards in Switzerland serve as the empirical material. The analysis of this material exemplifies how such an analytical focus on emotions furthers our understanding of complex stories about social positioning along different axes of difference, complex ways of identification, and resistance to social role models.