Intimacy is tightly bound up with notions of privacy, sexuality, proximity and secrecy, and with dynamics of sensual and affective attachments and forms of desire. In that sense, it is integral to the formation of what is called “the human,” selves, subjectivities, as well as communities, publics, collectives and socialities. Anthropologists, by deploying ethnographic methods and immersing themselves in the everyday lives of their informants, have contributed a great deal to the investigation of such intimate domains. With this two-day workshop, we aim at contributing to the continuing anthropological discussions on intimacy, and explore how multiple domains and forms of intimacies are defined, shaped, constructed and transformed across cultures and social worlds.
As a fruitful starting point one may follow Ann Stoler’s approach and view intimacy as a site of constant query: as “the sensory, the affective, and domestic space” or as a domain that “builds borders, creates distances, marks off knowledge and shared forms of it” (2006:15). Or following Lauren Berlant, one may conceptualize intimacy as involving “an aspiration for a narrative about something to be shared” (1998: 281). Scholars have critically addressed the notion of intimacy where such narratives about sharing have become contentious, where intimate worlds have become the topic of fierce public debates. Intimacy thus seems to become visible precisely where it is being contested. This allows us to ask a whole set of questions: What are the social, cultural, political and economic conditions of intimacy? How are sentiments, desires and affect produced and distributed in social life? How does the production of knowledge and secrecy affect the domain of intimacy? What kinds of knowledge are rendered intimate, and what makes them intimate? What is it that is to be shared, as Berlant refers to, who does the sharing, and who is involved in crafting the narrative of sharing?
Anthropologists have long sought to investigate forms of intimacy that may be described as alternatives vis-à-vis given societal norms. In doing so, researchers have pointed out how such alternative forms of intimacy question and often transgress received notions of what is to belong to the private and the public domains and are thereby engaged in a negotiation over what types of interactions may and should be defined as intimate. Discourses and practices of intimacy are thus an important means of mediating between the private and the public, but even more broadly, between different socialities, spaces, and geographies. In this workshop, we would like to take up this idea of intimacy as a form of mediation, yet explore and investigate what forms of intimacy may be identified beyond the domain of sex and sexuality.
We invite contributions that seek to take intimacy in relation to and beyond the study of sexualities and make use of the concept in a variety of geographical locations, addressing one or more of the following questions:
· How does intimacy relate to nationalism, the political domain, areas of consumption and religion?
· What social work does intimacy do in these contexts, how does it order various forms of sharing?
· Where do relationships start and where do they cease to be intimate?
· What kinds of affect, what forms of attachment and desire cast relationships as “intimate” in the first place?
· How much is intimacy nurtured by notions of privacy and publicity?
· To what degree is intimacy an effect of the interventions that seem to be threatening its very existence, interventions by various actors and agents such as state authorities, law, medico-scientific scholarship, multiple understandings of religion and the regulations related to it, the media and else?
The workshop will be addressed by Prof Henrietta Moore (University of Cambridge) and by Prof Sasha Roseneil (Birkbeck University of London).
Applications are open to PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers who engage with ethnographic methods in their research. Each participant will have 20 minutes for presenting their work.
Please send your abstracts (max. 300 words) alongside a short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org by DECEMBER 1, 2013. Accepted papers will be announced no later than JANUARY 10, 2014.
Sertaç Sehlikoglu, PhD Candidate, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Marlene Schäfers, PhD Candidate, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Aslý Zengin, PhD Candidate, Socio-Cultural Anthropology, University of Toronto
This program is partially funded by the Division of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and Newnham College, Cambridge.
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