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Critical Intimacy Reading Group, McMaster University
Energized by cross-disciplinary investigations, the new field of intimacy studies generates epistemological sites akin to what Foucault, writing on the instrumentality of sexuality, identifies as “dense transfer point[s] for relations of power.” To scrutinize the affective orientations that shape habits of everyday living is not to dislodge local and contemporary coordinates of gestures from global and historical ones; rather, this close examination re-textures our understandings of the complex regulation of bodily subjectivity (Butler; Fanon; Grosz; Mbembe; Ahmed) and makes it possible for us to re-imagine interpersonal interactions (violence, conviviality, attraction, dis/comfort, humour) and their entangled attachments to macro-histories of belonging, displacements and dispossession.
To consider the logic of intimacy is not solely to study domesticity, romantic and/or sexual relations, then, but to question the places and the supposed non-places of intimacy. In other words, the logic of intimacy draws our attention to the “precarious [domains of] affections” (Boym). For instance, Svetlana Boym’s work on intimacy focuses on the “inadequacies of translation,” motivating her to argue that “diasporic intimacy is dystopian by definition.” Moreover, Lisa Lowe regards intimacy in terms of “proximity or adjacent connection,” leading her to coin the phrase “the intimacies of four continents” as a way “to discuss a world division of labour emerging in the nineteenth century.” Scholars such as Laurent Berlant and Ann Laura Stoler have examined the geographies and politics of intimacy, and, in doing so, have interrogated “the making of the private and the managing of the intimate in the making of imperial rule” (Stoler).
Extending beyond Stoler’s investigation of intimacy in the context of 19th and early 20th century imperial rule, our inquiry includes both historical and contemporary global inequities that grow out of differently fractured nodes of power. As Andrew Shryock has noted, the existing scholarship on intimacy has yet to adequately engage postcolonial realities since scholarly engagement with the intimate—with the particulars of everyday life—has consistently been “construed as irrelevant or antithetical to the transnational, postcolonial, and resistance-oriented agendas that animate the most compelling approaches to public culture.” Thus, we invite essays that take up the making of the private and the managing of the intimate in order to link the histories of ostensibly private spaces to globalization and postcoloniality. That is to say, we are particularly interested in essays that examine intimacy in relation to globalization and postcoloniality; that study the affective vectors of global/ postcolonial politics and power; and that critically attend to the emotions that shape and that are lodged within narratives of liberation, progress, mobility and re-connection.
In this light, “Postcolonial Intimacies” relocates the concept of intimacy to conditions of post-colonial exchanges, with inter- and intra-continental circuits of passionate politics, and to acts and interested networks of globalization, with all its economic, ecological, immunological, and informational concerns (Benhabib). Although it has been commonplace to view globalization and postcoloniality as patterns of practice, production, and consumption of identities, we want to reposition and thus claim these ideological frameworks as knowledge systems of intimacy. We do so in order to intricately link both worlds’ framing to corporeal vulnerability; to widespread economic and institutional breakdowns; and to global and neo-liberal capitalism that has long been shaping the cultural and political livelihoods of affected communities. To these ends, we want to ask grounded questions about the emotional economy of belonging, labour and migration; ethics and responsibility; and the affective and cultural tensions surrounding public and private demonstrations of care, comfort, familiarity and/or unease.
Areas of inquiry for submissions may include, but are not limited to, the following topics and questions:
• Geographies of intimacies: “the intimacies of four continents” (Lisa Lowe); “diaspora space” (Avtar Brah)