Across many different disciplines in the social sciences, a particular style of causal interpretation is seeing widespread use in qualitative research. A form of cultural activity is judged by a researcher to be invested with a puzzling and disproportionate degree of emotional affect. Ideas regarding the displacement of affect, primarily associated with psychoanalysis, are imported to describe how the structure or themes of the practice permit it to act as a symbolic realm for the experience of tensions or anxieties, which actually originate in a different sphere of social or cultural life. The strategy has long been used by social scientists, particularly scholars of culture drawing on the synthesis of psychoanalysis and social theory produced by the Frankfurt School (e.g. Adorno & Horkheimer 1947; Marcuse 1956; cf. Habermas 1968).