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Impersonal Intimacy in an Expanded Field

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Organizer: Aleksandr Prigozhin

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As critics like Leo Bersani and Tim Dean have shown, there’s much to be gained for criticism by decentering the self in addressing questions of intimacy. In their critiques of the sovereign ego, suspending the claims of the self opens possibilities of less-coercive relationality that doesn’t subordinate others to the identity-making machinery of the ego.


This seminar seeks to push the question further, by interrogating the relations between intimacy and matter. While varied strands of new materialism have been calling for a renewed intimacy with matters nonhuman, intimacy even at the human-to-human scale remains anything but a safe, uncompromised ground for flourishing and mutual recognition (as Dean and Bersani, among others, have shown).


Instead, intimacy is permeated with political aspirations, agressions, flights of fancy, fantasies of simplicity and clarity, everyday mythologies, histories of violence and contradictory desires. Heeding Donna Haraway's call to stay with the trouble of messy relationality, this seminar seeks to take the temperature of our collective conversation about charged and meaningful proximities. What are intimacy's promises, limits, and costs?


Some questions (by no means exhaustive) that arise:


What does the long history of intimacy's ‘inhumanities’ contribute to our present moment of turning to the nonhuman? What is gained, and what lost when we take seriously extra-human intimacies of vibrant matters far removed from our ordinary experience? And, in turn, what challenges arise in thinking about such intimacies’ relation to knowledge (as desired, for instance, by Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse)? What do such intimacies do to us, to our fictions of sovereignty and to our ways of living nonsovereignty? What do we learn from rethinking sexual intimacy as also inhuman and material? What are the meaning-making effects of such intimate matters?



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