Abstracts of Strange Intimacies
Keynote: Ongoing, Ordinary, Overdetermined: Lauren Berlant’s Sociality
Gregory Seigworth, Millersville University
In this talk, I want to explore what Lauren Berlant is doing when she theorizes affect and sociality: particularly the way that Berlant’s theorizing lingers, de-dramatizes, and layers. Or, in the three big ‘O’-shaped keywords that appear with increasing frequency across Lauren’s late work: ongoing, ordinary, overdetermined. Finding form for feeling-thought in its lived specificity, says Lauren, is conceptually propositional, a conjectural heuristic. Locating the conceptual-affectual hook makes real what might have been – perhaps only a few moments ago – a set of vague impressions, a swirl of atmospheres, a tangle of vectors, a strange intimacy. Form is why Lauren leans so heavily on the case study and the object/scene as the exemplars that serve as the linchpins for her theory-maneuverings.
In the coda to the 2020 edited collection, Mapping the Affective Turn in Education, Lauren tells the editors in an interview:
The thing about affect is that there is no direct evidence of it: but there is no direct evidence of anything, as all processes require refraction in solidity-approximating forms. This forces us to think about mediation. As I argue in … On the Inconvenience of Other People, “Mediation is not a stable thing but a way of seeing the unstable relations among dynamically related things.” It is in this sense that all formulations of mediations are heuristics. Things that hit one with force often put people in mind of the literal though, setting off a search for the source that ‘reduced’ them to encountering themselves or the world specifically. But of course, the hit itself is a mediation, a thing that communicates proximity, atmosphere, mood, and intensity.
With Inconvenience, there is a swerve from the stuck-ness and impasse of the everyday and of theory as found in Cruel Optimism. Here Lauren is trying to experiment with how a new explanatory genre (what she calls ‘our inconvenience drive’) can be made generative, how to invent or, she says, ‘attend to terms for transition’ that ‘forge an imaginary for managing the [extended] meanwhile,’ for ‘writing the long middle without drowning in it’ … In the new Inconvenience book, Lauren wishes to stick with the impasse or encounter (as ‘mediation’) and engage what could be set loose from within the space-times of its relations – to find ways “to be graceful and generous when things get awkward” (27). Instead of chasing after what lies just at the ‘cusp of semantic availability’ (as Raymond Williams described the role of ‘the emergent’ in structures of feeling), it is more a matter of finding/inventing the terms for a ‘transitional infrastructure.’ In my talk, I will argue that, while always a part of her affective architecture, with the latest book, Lauren Berlant places even greater emphasis upon the ongoing, the ordinary, and the overdetermined. And that these coordinates will allow us to glimpse something more that resides within and among our strange intimacies.
Dr. Gregory J. Seigworth is Professor of Communication Studies in the Department of Communication and Theatre. He has published widely in journals such as Cultural Studies, Architectural Design, Culture Machine, and m/c. Greg has contributed chapters to various books, including Deleuze: Key Concepts, Animations of Deleuze and Guattari, and New Cultural Studies. Most recently Greg has co-edited, with Dr. Melissa Gregg (University of Sydney), a collection of essays on affect and cultural theory (2011, Duke University Press).
Frail Geometry: Shells and Biominerals in the Modernism of Hope Mirrlees
Ruth Alison Clemens, Leiden University
In the preface to her 1919 novel Madeleine: One of Love’s Jansenists, the British modernist writer Hope Mirrlees muses on the relation between art and life. Figuring art as “the dauntless, plastic force that builds up stubborn, amorphous substance cell by cell, the frail geometry of a shell,” Mirrlees proposes a modernist poetics which is distinctly ecological and materialist. Here, art is a force which gives form, in the sense that it organizes matter. At the same time, this is a strange and intimate matter; granular and fluid with a stubborn agency of its own. I identify in Mirrlees’s brief paratext a poetics of biomineralization: the gradual yet ossifying process by which organisms build mineral structures. In this paper I conceptualise this process of biomineralization precisely as occurring in the intimate meeting-point of life and art. This conceptualisation, I argue, underscores Mirrlees’s unrefined and ephemeral modernist practice. In turn, I consider how this poetics of biomineralization illustrates how we are in a constant state of exchange with our environment. The ecological liminality of the process illustrates life’s continuity with non-life.
Ruth Clemens is a lecturer in Literary Studies at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. In 2020 she was awarded her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Leeds, and her thesis explored how literary paratexts are strategies for multilingual border crossings in modernist literature. Her research interests include translation and multilingualism, experimental literature, critical posthumanism, book history, and feminist new materialism. Her work has appeared in Feminist Modernist Studies, Modernist Cultures, and Comparative Critical Studies. She is currently working on a new project about the poetics of biomineralization in shells, teeth, and bone.
Intimacy Reimagined: Epistemic Relations in Água Viva
Pınar Türer, University of Amsterdam
This paper rethinks the epistemic relation of self and other in intimacy through a close reading of Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva. My thinking with Lispector’s book builds on the hypothesis that in intimacy ⎯a relational mode often associated with sharing from the “innermost,” there is a desire experienced and acted upon by the self to know ⎯or to understand⎯ the other, as well as her own self. This can also be thought of with the more colloquial expression of someone’s desire to be seen as they are, or to see the other as they are in an intimate relation. This “as they are” is a knowledge claim, immediately making this a relation of epistemic assessment. Furthermore, this is a two-sided yearning for knowledge, marking intimacy as a different, especially fertile ground to think the epistemic relation of self/other otherwise. Reading the textual dynamics of intimacy in Água Viva through a feminist lens, I argue that Lispector portrays a narrator who is after a mode of being in intimacy that is challenging to the Western hegemonic systems of knowledge, where discovery, transparency, and control are prioritized. Through a conceptual lens which I construct with the Caribbean philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant’s theorizations of “donner-avec” and “opacity,” I propose two steps to rethink the epistemic relation of self/other in intimacy. While the first step articulates how to stay with the trouble of this yearning through a discussion of contradictions and paradoxes in Água Viva the second step rethinks the yearning for knowledge as a different mode of curiosity that figures “right to opacity” as a condition for intimacy. Tracing these elements in the text, I show that Água Viva enables a reconfiguration of the conditions and experience of intimacy, and as such opens onto new ethical and political possibilities of relationality.
Pınar Türer is a Ph.D. candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam. She has a Research MA degree in Gender Studies from Utrecht University. Her current research focuses on the potentialities of intimacy for a feminist, decolonial ethics. Working with literature and art from a transnational perspective, she works to theorize intimacy in ways that challenge dominant modes of knowledge production in self/other relationality. Other interests include feminist pedagogies, bodies and movement, erotics, and intimate methodologies in research as well as artistic and literary production. Through non-academic writing, she searches for ways to incorporate theoretical questions into the fabric of everyday life.
Reader and Character Intimacy in Marguerite Duras's work
Crisia Constantine, Griffith University
Drawing upon the work of French writer Marguerite Duras, this paper explores processes of construction of intimacy between characters, and characters and reader. It follows the cues of three selected writings, La maladie de la mort (The Malady of Death), Moderato Cantabile, and Hiroshima mon amour, discusses the transformation of characters through their interaction and examines reader’s experience. It underlines the sense of intimacy on the reader's part and shared subjectivity between characters/ reader.
Across the three texts, characters’ exchanges are outlined at the intersection of different conceptual registers and temporalities that respond to, tension or oppose each other. They experience intimate chance encounters, unexpected, random contacts, that destabilise them as subjects, impact them, transfigure them and provide them with new knowledge. However, the shifting between chronologies creates a theoretical model of emotional and cognitive reconstruction that is tendered to the reader.
This paper further focuses on Duras’s literary innovations and strategies to enforce reader’s engagement, opening a space of inclusiveness, but also of ambiguity and questioning. In La maladie de la mort the second person narrative implies the reader, pulls them into the narratee-character position and calls on to them. In other words, it gives to the reader the identificatory option that compels them to deeper invest in the storyline. In Moderato Cantabile, the blending of narrative transports the reader into fictitious, possible alternative scenes of other couple’s past affair, transforming them into a witness. Hiroshima mon amour offers even more speculative points for the reader to occupy and create their own version of the story.
Yet, I am a reader myself. It is through an intimate engagement with the three texts that I reach this understanding and perspective. Therefore, I argue that Duras’s writings have a certain reflexive-like quality that enriches the intimacy shared between characters and reader.
Crisia Constantine is a cultural studies scholar, writer and curator, educator, art facilitator and practitioner. As a doctoral researcher at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Constantine surveys the relation between ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing’ in the field of visual arts and literary studies. Also, her work explores nomadism, childhood and women’s trauma, and community memory.
Giazú Enciso Domínguez, University of Houston Clear Lake
Olivera Jokíc, John Jay College CYNY
This presentation focuses on the life in letters that has developed between the paper’s two authors. Usually two unexceptional creatures of digital media and the global academic labor market, the authors are attached to each other in a tangible way of handwritten correspondence.
Connecting the various places in the world to which we go for personal and professional reasons, the correspondence is our mobile archive of the experiments we make with our lives, in a medium that carries its own meanings. Initially colleagues in disparate institutional positions, we established the preliminaries of our relationship around the peculiar circumstances of our existence: migrant women making “careers” in transnational academic structures, in languages of European empires, comfortable in the “third world” and its economies of human contact.
Scholars of psychology and writing, respectively, and migrants who share no ‘native’ language of ease and understanding, we write as we can and as we find letters convenient. The letters from different locations in the world, written and received over the years, with ordinary delays and against the deep slowdown of the pandemic, serve as means of communication and brief self-studies of the changing selves. From our various settings, none of them either home or entirely foreign, we renegotiate writing our positions, our voices, the constant changes in living circumstances, professional and immigration status, places of residence, stability of employment, clarity of feeling.
The presentation, delivered by both, will discuss how letters reflect and remake the relationship defined by constant movement. Interested in the letter form as an obsolescent technology for the maintenance of our intimacy and proximity, we discuss what gestures signal familiarity in our letters today—the correspondence of feeling for women who don’t share one language of intimacy or familial closeness.
Dr. Giazú Enciso Domínguez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Houston Clear Lake, in Latin American Studies; Women and Gender Studies; and Behavioral Science Programs. Dr. Enciso was a visiting scholar in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University New York (CUNY) and a postdoctoral fellow in the Sociology Department at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include affect and emotions; body; gender; and diversity in higher education.
Dr. Olivera Jokić is an Associate Professor of Literature and Gender Studies at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She is interested in the relationships between literary writing and historical documentation, especially the archives of colonialism; in the constitution of archives; in writing about gender and histories of "women's writing." She is a co-editor of two recent journal special issues about archives and popular culture.
Re-assembling Self with the Earth
Polina Golovátina-Mora, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Covid-19 isolations disrupted not even the routine, but the networks of friendship, possibilities to be with the loved places and the family. Soon enough it became visible that it became again the matter of politics and the borders of nation-states and of the forced belonging came into play with the renewed strength. The recognition of fragility and interconnectedness of life and the world brought to the surface the destructive forces.
The paper unpacks the sense of the shelter provided by the intimacies extended through the intra-action with my two dog children, my garden and the forest streams as well as drawing and craftwork as part of this intra-action. They complement each other and create one sense of being of the Earth with all my senses – knowing (feeling), smell, touch, hearing voices, reaching out, seeing (less than other senses both as a serendipity driven disruption of the hierarchy of the senses and as a result of grief and intentional effort). I focus on the knowledge the provide, the deterritorialization that they put in motion. I discuss the vectors of co-creation of knowledge of Self, the Other and the World. The paper largely draws on Donna Haraway`s thought and agential realism by Karen Barad. The methodology chosen is dia-ethnography facilitated by speculative fabulation and enriched with diffractive analysis. The paper addresses the ethical principles of such work and the methodological possibilities for exploring such intimacies.
Polina Golovátina-Mora is Associate Professor in Film and Media in Education at Faculty of Teacher Education at Norwegian University of Science and Technology – NTNU. Polina holds PhD in History with emphasis in historiography and research methodology. Her research is informed by posthumanist feminism and critical pedagogy and focuses on qualitative, art-based and sensorial research methodology and pedagogy. Polina´s research at different moments has covered an intersection between narratives, language, and power, the monstrous as a reflection of current societal issues, theoretical alternatives to traditional views of nation-state, urban artistic practices, nature and elements in folklore and their social and environmental meanings as well as questions of memory and creativity. She has published articles and book chapters in Russian, English and Spanish.
Intimacy With Tools
As a continuation of my inquiry into a possible object-oriented method of performance art, which focused on the human-bathtub relationship I am now looking to further explore the interdependency of tools (technology) and the human experience.
While working intimately with bathtubs it became clear that it „is at the same time the consequence as well as the catalyst of human evolution“. The primitive artifact’s shape is brought about by the human phenotype while the conception of it at the same time probably also predates Homo Sapiens.
Informed by feminist and critical posthumanist scholars, philosophers of technology and object-oriented ontology, I maintain that the evolutions of human bodies and artifacts are entangled inextricably. Tools, like humans, are not static but continually in transformative co-development.
I aim to document, describe and interpret the use of a tool in order to achieve a level of technological proficiency. As the British ethnographer Jamie Cross has proven on an Indian diamond factory floor, the mastery of even a minute task simultaneously creates the worker as well as the tool. It inspires pride and reveals the nuances body and machine parts are able to perform. Could an embodied, intimate relationship with a tool, such as a pen invite a work of art (such as a poem)? Could the mastery of an artistic tool create an artist?
One of the key components of my contribution will be intimacy with the tool, the close acquaintance of hand and material. By making use of common relationship advice, I will try and maintain an intimate relationship with the tool. At the conference I aim to present the product of my cooperation with the tool I have been intimate with during the summer, in the hope it has produced a high-quality work of art, germinating corruptions, and, in the vein of Jane Bennett, redefined my being-in-the-world by pointing me in new and ecologically conscious directions.
Kaisa Ling is a freelance professional in culture, literary critic, blues musician and radio host. Her main focus in literature has been the poetics of Cuban Neobaroque authors, especially Severo Sarduy and José Lezama Lima. Mostly influenced by formalists, poststructuralists, and the Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics, she has since 2020 turned her attention towards critical posthumanism in order to explore new ways of combining theoretical inquiry and artistic practice. Captivated by OOO, she is currently in search of ways to manipulate and be manipulated by non-human matter, with the ultimate aim of understanding the composition of and variations within empathy.
“Only When It’s Dark”: The Intimacy of Postsocialist Feminism
Jana Kukaine, Art Academy of Latvia
For the conference paper, I would like to stay with the troubles (Haraway 2016) inherent to the reception and understanding of feminism in postsocialist Eastern Europe. As a point of departure, I refer to the research by Alice Červinkova and Kateřina Šaldova on the relationship of women artists towards feminism in the Czech Republic, with an anonymous female artist confessing that she uses “that word feminism only intimately and when it is dark” (Červinkova and Šaldova 2005). I suggest that the adjectives of intimacy and darkness can be used to attest to a peculiar feminist sensibility typical of the region’s culture and art. By researching and assembling the alternative terms of feminism scattered over Eastern and Central European art histories and theories, I approach the notion of a visceral feminist sensibility – soft one (Popnedeleva/Bryzgel 2018) and intuitive (Kolešnik 1997), latent (Rusinova 2010) and reluctant (Hock 2018), centrifugal (Mosquera 2003) and opaque (Maarling 2012), “further than” and “beyond” (Jones 2012, Tīfentāle 2021). These readings register the weakness (Majewska 2021) of postsocialist feminism (in comparison to its “strong western sisters”) but also enable the understanding of its bodily and affective traces, its intimacy: the way feminism is “close to one’s skin” or even “gets under it” (Ahmed 2010, 2017). The peculiarity of postsocialist feminism might not be only impaired by the invisibility (Pachmanova 2010) and widespread denial (Traumane 2012) of its discourses, but also nourished and sustained by “the intimacy in the darkness”: as a way of engaging in a visceral sensation and thinking about the world with one’s skin. It is a feminist practice for survival in today’s world determined by military atrocities of imperial powers.
This research is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Republic of Latvia, project “Cultural Capital as a Resource for Sustainable Development of Latvia”, project No. VPP-KM-LKRVA-2020/1-0003.
Jana Kukaine is a feminist art curator and lecturer at Art Academy of Latvia and Riga Stradins University, a PhD candidate at Art Academy of Latvia. She researches affect theories, postcolonial and postsocialist feminisms. Jana Kukaine has contributed articles to Photography and Culture (2020), The Polish Journal of Aesthetic (2021) and a chapter to a forthcoming book Transnational Belonging and Female Agency in the Arts to be published under Bloomsbury Academic (2022). Her monograph Lovely Mothers. Women, Body, Subjectivity, published in 2016 by Neputns, is a feminist study of motherhood in the contemporary art of Latvia.
Strange Gaze: Glances at the intimate poetics and politics of looking
Alana Brekelmans, University of Queensland
A young woman spends hours posed nude for a largely male audience. An anthropologist inherits a problematic legacy that forms a seemingly inescapable part of her work. A university lecturer is installed as a living artwork in a gallery. A research assistant is paid by the hour to trace the scars from hundred-year-old portraits of Indigenous People.
Through a series of glances at these relationships, this creative and critical autoethnography contemplates the affective intensities and intimacies that emerge in the charged potentiality of the gaze. By engaging with my various careers and my professional relationship with the gaze, I explore the intimate politics of looking in art and anthropology, charting the intimate moments in the space between subject and object, looker and looked-at, seeing and being seen. In particular, I ask, what are the intimate poetics and politics of looking and looking back? What strange intimacies emerge through the gaze and its exchanges? What happens when the gaze is returned?
In doing so, I examine what is exchanged between the looker and the looked-at, asking what this means for theoretical conceptualisations of the artists’ gaze, the ethnographic gaze, and male gaze. Throughout I ponder what intimacies might emerge through queering and decolonising the gaze, and what this could mean for understandings of disciplines of looking specifically and the politics of embodied expression more broadly.
Alana Brekelmans is a socio-cultural anthropologist, storyteller, and performer. Her research engages with theories of embodiment, affect, temporality, and place. She is particularly interested in how a variety of narratives—especially those which are silent, absent, and more than human—intercept with power structures in the process of worlding. Her PhD thesis, which explored notions of time, space, and belonging in Outback Australia, was awarded the 2021 Australian Anthropological Society thesis award.
Intimacy and Extinction: Caring for the Lost Orangutan
Sara Bédard-Goulet, University of Tartu
A growing number of scholarship is paying attention to the cultural meaning of the current ecological catastrophe and, more specifically, of its sixth mass extinction of species (Heise 2016). While attention is paid to the emotional impact of climate change (Albrecht 2019) and environmental narratives (Weik von Mossner 2017), my attention turns, in this paper, to the human response toward endangered animals and the surprising intimacies that arise between humans and disappearing animals. Considered an “interspecies literature” by some (Cazaban-Mazerolles 2015), contemporary French author Éric Chevillard’s novels seem to offer a genuine posthuman interest in nonhuman protagonists such as a hedgehog (Du Hérisson), an ant and an anteater (L’auteur et moi). Sans l’orang-outan (2007) (Without the Orangutan, untranslated) starts with the death of the last orangutan couple in captivity, which brings about the collapse of the world. The narrator, who was their zookeeper, gets the orangutans taxidermized to keep them in his bedroom but as they start to get too many visitors, he agrees to the building of a glass dome on a pedestal, where the stuffed couple will be visible for everyone but cared for by him only. This leads to a general cult to the orangutans and to an odd relationship between the narrator and the taxidermies that he grooms daily. In this paper, I aim to analyze, through close-text analysis, the strange, yet anthropocentric, intimacy taking place between the zookeeper and the dead orangutans to understand what it reveals about our relationship to endangered or extinct species, which, in turn, structures the institutional response to species endangerment and loss. My analysis will draw on ecocriticism as it is challenged by queer theory (Mortimer-Sandilands & Erickson 2010; Seymour 2013), material ecocriticism (Iovino and Oppermann 2014) and animal studies (Mackenzie & Posthumus 2015), as well as notions of object relation and loss theorized in psychoanalysis (Lacan 2021, Freud 1984).
Albrecht, Glenn A. 2019. Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Cazaban-Mazerolles, Marie. 2015. L’écologie poétique profonde d’Éric Chevillard. Revue critique de fixxion française contemporaine 11: 60–70.
Freud, Sigmund. 1984. On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis. London: Penguin.
Heise, Ursula. 2016. Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Iovino, Serenella & Oppermann, Serpil. 2014. Material Ecocriticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Lacan, Jacques. 2021 . La relation d’objet: Séminaire livre IV (1956-1957). Paris: Seuil.
Mackenzie, Louisa & Stephanie Posthumus. 2015. French Thinking about Animals. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona & Bruce Erickson. 2010. Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Seymour, Nicole. 2013. Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination. Baltimore: University of Illinois Press.
Weik von Mossner, Alexa. 2017. Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State University.
Sara Bédard-Goulet is ASTRA Professor of Romance Studies at the University of Tartu, where she works on contemporary French-language narratives and artworks. Her research interests are based on ecocriticism, reader-response theory and psychoanalysis. Among her publications that are most significantly connected to this paper’s topic are “Cauliflowers and Plane Trees: Cultivated Vegetal in Le Méridien de Greenwich (1979) by Jean Echenoz” (L’Esprit créateur, 2020), “14 or the Missing Arm: Ontological Instability of the French Contemporary Novel in Jean Echenoz’s Work” (Queer(y)ing Bodily Norms in Francophone Culture: Transformation, Fragmentation and Aestheticization, edited by Polly Galis, Maria Tomlinson and Antonia Wimbush, 2021) and “„Postmodernne loomalikkus“: antropoloogiline detsentreerimine Jean Echenozi loomingus” (Humanitaaria 100-aastases rahvusülikoolis, edited by Mari Mets, 2019).
On the Psychic Life of Falling
Alessandra Mularoni, University of Western Ontario
At some point in the day, everyone falls. People have a knack for falling out of windows: Roman Chancellors in 17th Century Bohemia, Jezebel, Deleuze, the hundreds who fell from the Twin Towers. The history of defenestration reveals two distinct forms: one can be pushed from a window or one can jump willingly. The former form is notably associated with the Defenestrations of Prague in 1618, around the time defenestration came to be understood as a term describing political dissent. Dissent, in this context, necessarily requires descent – a rupture followed by a fall. Before his death, O. B. Hardison predicted a cosmic reordering brought on by advanced technology. He argued that artificial intelligence would “disappear through the skylight”, leaving humanity to its own earthly devices below.
What can be said about the psychic life of falling? Is there something about the window that pulls us toward earth’s insurmountable gravitation? Conversely, is there something unaccounted for in otherwise nonhuman “beings” that propels them upward? This essay examines the penetrable space between interiority and exteriority through the window/skylight motif. In so doing, this paper reveals the window as both an object of (and for) desire and the act of falling as an intimate event. I begin by considering the links between defenestration and autodefenestration in terms of the all too human desire for coherence. I then situate these modes of falling alongside cloud-bound desire. My intention is to expose a common feeling manifesting in the intimate space between the inside and the outside – in the fall itself.
Making Face, Carving Bone: La facultdad, Anzaldua & Affect
Nicholas Aranda, Kansas State University
loria Anzaldua, Chicana queer and feminist theorist, authored a number of works facing increased scholarly attention surrounding themes of identity, precarity, and ecology. As the embargo on Anzaldua’s scholarly estate is lifted, scholars find an array of insights to evaluate the insights of Anzaldua utilizing the corollary of new works from the Anzaldua archive. At the same time, an increasing number of scholars have brought attention to the fact that Anzaldua thought of herself as a critical theorist and philosopher; though, Anzaldua was largely not accepted by philosophers and other critical theorists during her own lifetime. One consequence of the early dismissal of Anzaldua arises in the lack of interaction between Anzaldua’s work and rhetoricians.
Very few rhetoricians have bridged the gap between Anzaldua’s thought and rhetorical theory by considering the character of mestiza-rhetoric; though, to date no rhetorical theorists have taken up the work of Anzaldua to theorize the rhetoricity of the posthuman. I contest that Anzaldua’s work is not only of importance to rhetorical theory for its creative attention towards the voice of the non-human; but also, that Anzaldua’s work is critical to bridging divides between feminist posthumanists and theorists who follow the cultural/discursive turn.
This paper will analyze the writings of Gloria Anzaldua for their rhetorical capaciousness. This paper explores the potential afforded by Gloria Anzaldúa’s La Frontera to expose how mestiza spirituality mirrors a new materialist understanding of border-ecologies. I argue that Anzaldúa’s poetry champions a rhetorical capaciousness where otherworldly, non-human, forces populate the border and inscribe border relationships. Anzaldua highlights the ways in which rhetorical registers of matter are almost second nature to meaning-making encounters of those deeply immersed in the borderlands. That is to say, Anzaldua's attunement is made all the more clear by her spiritual and personal connection to mestiza identity. Highlighting the allure of snakes, trees, and the path—Anzaldua notices affects of color, mood, direction, and movement. This analysis offers insight into the intimacy developed by mestiza spirituality to attune to the forces of vitality present at the border.
My current research interests lie at the intersection of Feminist Posthumanisms and rhetorical theory. New materialist contributions to feminist posthumanism significantly inform my research interests. In the hope that attending to the importance of matter will better elucidate biopolitical entanglements, feminist posthumanisms offer novel ways of imaging and knowing our relationship with other bodies and nonhuman forces. I am a queer mestiza graduate student in the Department of Communication Studies at Kansas State University.
Postdigital Intimacies: Tensions, Entanglements, and the Technologies of Encounter
Dr. Adrienne Evans, Dr. Marcus Maloney, and Dr. Lindsay Balfour, Coventry University
Our group, “Postdigital Intimacies,” aims to understand intimacy as both including human-human sexual and kinship relationships, as the traditional spaces of intimacy research, but we also seek to move beyond these understandings. Our vision is one where intimacy connects and reaches out across a range of events, people, objects, feelings, data and technologies. We take the “postdigital” to delineate a context where the digital is invisible and naturalised in how we think, act, feel; attending to the postdigital could fundamentally shape new accounts of how we understand ourselves, others, and the worlds around us. In both theory and practice we draw on feminist intersectionality and our positioning of intimacy as something more-than-digital to inform a research theme.
At the core of our feeling around (post)digital intimacies is relationalities; with ourselves, with others, and with our environment. In current research, we will be working through these three themes: how they overlap and intersect, how they inform and animate the loci of intimacy as tenuous and complex, and how they challenge dichotomies of inside(r) and outside(r), public and private, human and non-human (or more-than-human), digital and more-than-digital, and embodied and disembodied.
Through this lens, we reflect on the conference questions; what kinds of intimacies have a life and how is intimacy influenced by normative life-narratives? What new intimacies emerge from this new attention and what effect do they have on our thinking, our aesthetics, ethics, and politics? Rather than present three individual papers, we propose to share our work in conversation as a way of addressing these questions, and raising new ones around strange intimacies in digital spaces.
Dr. Lindsay Balfour will explore the “strange intimacies” in digital wearable devices such as FitBit and the AppleWatch and, in particular, how biometric technologies operate on the threshold of the foreign and familiar. Her contribution to this panel asks, in part, how is it that touch, as a sense (and, in this case, sensor), can be both comfortable, familiar, and homely, while at the same time unfamiliar, strange, unsettling and uncanny? Moreover, how might we read the excarnation of digital technology as a kind of estrangement, but one brought back to the body as an unfamiliar metric, making us – in Kristeva’s words – strangers to ourselves?
Dr. Adrienne Evans’ contribution to this panel will explore the concept of postdigital intimacies through the networked public-private, suggesting that digitally mediated intimacies make strange the perceived discreetness of these spheres of life. This strangeness is despite the recognition from feminist theory and practice of a public-private entanglement (e.g. the personal is political). She will draw on a number of case studies, including the platform TubeCrush, pregnancy monitoring apps and the cat video and meme on YouTube that challenge how we conceptualise an ‘intimate life’. However, while public-private is undone, this contribution will also reflect on the reformulation of power along structures of gender, race, class and sexuality.
Dr. Marcus Maloney’s contribution will explore ‘precarious’ men’s engagements with online spaces notorious for radicalising discontented and/or aggrieved (and most often white, and cis-hetero) men (e.g. 4chan, certain subreddits on Reddit). To date, related research into these reactionary ‘manosphere’ spaces has predominately (and justifiably) focused on how they propagate toxic/hateful discourses, with little attention paid to why precarious men might be drawn into them in the first place. Indeed, that many at-risk men apparently feel safer expressing their vulnerabilities in such ‘strange’ online spaces than they do via conventional channels of support speaks to the latter’s failure of legitimacy in the eyes of a social group in need of socio-positive interventions.
Dr Adrienne Evans is Reader for Media in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University, UK. Her research focuses on accounts of intimacy in the context of a postfeminist sensibility. In her work, she explores ways in which gender organises personal, social, intimate and cultural relationships, as well as their manifestations in media culture. She has published extensively on these topics and is co-author of Technologies of Sexiness (OUP, 2014), Postfeminism and Health (Routledge, 2018) and Postfeminism and Body Image (Routledge, 2022). She is PI of the AHRC network Postdigital Intimacies and the Networked Public-Private.
Dr. Lindsay Balfour is Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures (CPC) at Coventry University. Her research draws on the philosophical concept of hospitality to consider the relationship between humans and machines (HCI), and employs an intersectional feminist and cultural studies perspective to look at digital intimacies. Currently, she is conducting feminist analyses of surveillance capitalism and embodied computing including the concept of “tracking” through wearables, implantables, and ingestibles. She is a member of the Postdigital Intimacies Research Network, the author of Hospitality in a Time of Terror (Bucknell UP, 2017), and PI on the seed-funded ESRC bid ““Gender, Biometrics, and Access Barriers in Women’s Digital Health.”
Dr. Marcus Maloney is Lecturer in Sociology and Research Associate in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. Marcus' research focuses on the performance of masculinity in digital spaces; video game cultures, narratives, and communities; and postdigital socialities. He has published widely in these areas, including articles in Cultural Sociology, New Media & Society and Games and Culture. His most recent book is Gender, Masculinity and Video Gaming: Analysing Reddit's r/gaming Community (Palgrave 2019).
Companionships, Strange Intimacies and Non-Linear Co-Becomings
Tuuli Innola, Tampere University
Could we imagine companionships that become through small moments, flows of affects, and coming-together of human and non-human bodies, alongside the powerful stories of dyadic “ever after” intimacies? Companionships with flickering futures and fluctuating vulnerabilities, companionships that question commitment, reciprocity, and fixed ideas of life-course as fundamental elements of intimate relations?
Within my ongoing PhD study on non-normative companionships, I have interviewed Finnish female, male and nonbinary persons who have important life companion(s) other than couple relationships. The interviewees name their companions as friends, flat-mates, relatives, animal companions, and ex-partners, or they experience companionship as webs of multiple relationships. Apart from taking as a starting point that important life-companions can be both humans and other-than-humans, I also examine more broadly how the non-human agencies become involved in the processes of intimacy and relating.
In this paper, I explore how companionships become felt and experienced in small everyday moments through entangled affective practices and meaning-makings. I read the data with feminist new materialist methodologies and affect and posthuman theories, and I develop an understanding of companionships as co-becomings (Lykke 2019). This means an approach where companionships are understood as dynamic processes which refrain from becoming a static state of affairs.
Furthermore, I consider the enabling and restricting potentialities that unfold in the processes of cobecoming and ask how those become connected to wider societal and cultural surroundings and power relations. What has been particularly tantalizing for me in my encountering with the data is how the experiences of relating become in complex ways and escape clear definitions and explanations. The everyday affectivity of co-becoming includes potential for new ways of relating; producing intimacies that move beyond normative understandings and materialize in unexpected ways.
Tuuli Innola is a second-year PhD Student in Social Sciences, Gender Studies, at Tampere University, Finland. Her study aims to raise the visibility of intimacies experienced as significant and life-defining that fall outside the categories of romantic and sexual couple relationships as well as to challenge human-centeredness in studies on intimacies. Innola’s study draws from affect theories, post-human thinking, and feminist new materialist methodologies, and she combines timely theoretical discussions with empirically embedded research. Innola is particularly interested in those recent orientations in qualitative inquiry where complex and entangled material and discursive agencies are allowed for while analysing everyday experiences and power relations.
Francisco B. Trento, University of the Arts, Helsinki
What can we learn from the intimacies that detour the neurotypical understandings of relationality—without tokenising them? Drawing from the growing literature on Neurodiversity Studies (Yergeau, 2018, 2020; Egner, 2019), I question the widespread notion of intimacy exclusively connected to neurotypical familial sexual relationships. This presentation, which emerges from an article in its publication phase, comprises a bibliographic review of neurodivergent intimacies followed by semi-fictional and autoethnographic journal entries about dating apps that recall the experiences of a neurodivergent person. Here, neurodiversity includes the whole spectrum of neurological wirings, including persons in the spectrum of autism, AHDH, anxiety disorders and other non-typical modalities of focusing. It also encompasses persons with typical, normative behaviour, namely neurotypicals. I also discuss how the ableist understandings of intimacy devalue more-than-human relationalities. I draw on Melanie Yergeau’s critique of the ‘Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder.’ CADD is an ableist call to recognise a condition that allegedly would affect neurotypical partners of autistics. It stigmatises neurodiversity’s traits and modes of intimacy as male-based and a burden. It erases the neurodiverse folks neither heterosexual nor cis-gendered identified (Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al., 2020). Cassandra’s bias reinforces a normative view on how some bodies should perform (Yergeau, 2020). In this sense, intimacy is recognised if it includes tropes like constant eye contact, linguistic demonstrations of affectivity, and normative gestures that would demonstrate affection. In the performative reading during the Strange Intimacies conference, I will focus on a short presentation of a neuroqueer concept of intimacy and some semi-fictional entries from the researcher’s dating journal.
Francisco Trento (they/them) is a postdoctoral researcher at The University of The Arts Helsinki within the Southern African and Finnish Higher Education Institutions' Network for Health and Well-Being (SAFINET). They also participated in the Senselab laboratory for thought in motion - since 2015, where they did postdoctoral research and previous residences. Their research interests include artistic research, film, neurodivergent intimacies, well-being, radical pedagogies, and neurodiversity.
Titane’s Body Horror: Love and Technology in the Post-biological
Sandra Moyano-Ariza, Graduate Center, CUNY
Julia Ducornau’s horror film Titane (2021) tells the story of Alexia, the gender fluid protagonist with a strange relationship to cars, developed as a child when she gets titanium plates in her head after a car accident provoked by her father. Transferring the love object from her father to cars, Alexia experiences a sort of motorphilia as an adult whereby her sexuality and social identity is defined by technology, which materializes when she gets pregnant from having sex with an automobile. Since, for her, this aspect of her identity is not subjected to the transactional, hypersexualized view of the motor world and its objectification of women, those who position her as such are faced with a gruesome and torturous death. In a twist that challenges the audience’s expectations as well as the horror genre, what is set out to be a serial killer movie becomes one about unconditional love and our generative intimacy with technology.
My paper analyzes human/non-human bonds in the film, from the body horror in the killing spree to her compassionate and loving connection to a community of firefighters led by a man who adopts her as his son. Alexia's gender fluidity occurs along the transformation of her pregnant body, reminiscing of David Cronenberg's body horror but without the paranoia and technophobia that pervades in such representations. Rather, it is through her relationship to titanium that she can connect back to the human; it is precisely through this acceptance that she can reconcile herself with her technological flesh and her hybrid offspring. As my paper demonstrates, Ducornau's account of Eros and technology positions the posthuman as strangely yet inherently entangled and intimate with the technological, embodying the move away from the anthropocentric human theories of Eros and machine, intimacy and the nonhuman, currently emerging in critical theory.
Sandra Moyano-Ariza is a PhD candidate in English at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research works at the intersection of philosophy and digital technology, with interests in the fields of affect theory, new media studies, speculative philosophy, new materialisms, and feminist ontologies. Her work grapples with the highly computed and accelerated experiences of love and intimacy in algorithmic romance as well as their cultural representations. She has recently traced a genealogy of the intersection of affect theory with art and literature, published by Athenea Digital both in English and Spanish
Encounters with the Skin of Stones in Artworks
Mona Tärk, University of Tartu
Stones are objects that we usually regard as extremely other. Whereas we as able humans see ourselves as subjects, stones in their non-living character get the status of objects. Timothy Morton locates the category of abjects between the traditional subject-object divide, thus giving space for understanding our being as a continuum shared with beings far away from ourselves, such as stones. In this presentation, I will discuss artworks that are suggestive of this continuum, exhibiting stones in contexts that feel strangely intimate to the human viewer. Presenting stones in situations that are usually reserved for human bodies, or incorporating surprising materials, such as human hair, to works which are starred by stones, it is as if in artworks these natural objects are made skin bare, which will also expose the viewers’ skin and bring them into an unusual dialogue with stones. In this reflection, the explorations and bendings of the meanings of the skin will be underlined. Besides bringing up the peculiarity of such encounters, I will suggest that artworks, in which stones are abjectified, contribute to enhancing our ecological attitudes towards environments that we partake in, also on a larger scale. Altogether, one stage on which we are prone to open ourselves up to experiences that challenge our corporeality and attitudes is that of the aesthetic. Thus, the presentation brings together encounters with art, with non-human beings, and with ourselves, showing that aesthetic, ecological and corporeal thinking are not separate from one another, but one possible configuration in the net of intertwined discourses and viewpoints.
Jelena Aleksic, Goldsmiths, University of London
The watery intimacies focus on the exploration of bodies of water both materially and semiotically, as a liquid state of belonging, a place of the encounter between different bodies, the inside and outside in a watery milieu. Bodies of water, the term used by Neimanis (2017) considers a human body as a watery organism, or watery matter in creation, place where inside and outside meet, in constant watery circulation. The research paper draws on the feminist posthuman understanding of the human becoming a non human through affective modes of living (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994). Acts of pouring, steaming, sweating, salty tears, swimming, diving are seen as an affective interface, as watery environments where the inside meets the outside of the bodies.
This practice-based research examines the intimacy of bodies of water when dissolving the sense of self in connection with the other watery environment, exploring the embodied liquid epistemology in the making. Additionally, this research is interested in speculating how the act of watery research holds the potential in attuning to the state of being the body of water, in the intimacy of becoming and belonging to an(other), inside and outside of different watery milieus.
Building on Astrida’s understanding of embodiment through the process of worlding happening every day in the watery environment, this approach proposes the act of intimacy in process of being the liquid, in moving, swimming, diving, sensing, researching, being the body of water in the making. This process is demonstrating how our bodies of water are already more than human as part of an ongoing worlding in the watery milieu. Additionally, such understandings allow us to reflect on practicebased methodologies as valuable in shaping the research methodologies in arts and humanities, as corporeal, affective and relational with the material world.
Neimanis, A. (2016). Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1994). What is philosophy? (H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell, Trans). New York, Columbia University Press.
Artist/researcher working in the field of art education, art-based research. I hold an MA from Goldsmiths, Univeristy of London, programme Arts and Learning, and intending to pursue my PhD in the same field. My master thesis was questioning the dominant discourse in social studies where the researcher is detached from the material and social environment where the research is held, and exploring the affective and sensorial aspect of the research practice. Currently, I am leading the Art/Research/Learning group supported by Goldsmiths, an experiential art and research group with graduate students. The sessions are fully online, exploring physical and digital spaces artists and researchers occupy together, with an aim to collaboratively explore the art-based research practices. As an artist/researcher my work evolves around exploring the artistic practice-asresearch, forms of sensory, imaginative processes of knowledge production through creative practice. Recently I became an open course diver engaged in the field of hydrofeminism.
Maksimovic, M. and Aleksic, J. (2021). “Practice based research as an approach to curriculum in higher education.” In Vieira, Cristina C. (Ed.), Temas, contextos e desafios metodologicos da investigacao qualitative em ciencias sociais e humanas. Coimbra University Press.
Aleksic, J. (will be published in 2022). “Artistic provocation: Mattering the research.” In Varga, B.A., Monreal, T. & Christ, R.C. (Eds.), Be(com)ing Strange(r), Research and Practice in Social Studies. Teachers College Press.
Alexandra Hughes, Newcastle
The paper presents research that operates through an exhibition-based fine art practice. The practice brings the photographic image together with sculptural material, performative gesture and painting, challenging the identity of photographic images as ubiquitous, immaterial representations made manifest by digital technologies. As well as through the predilection of photographic theory to evolve critical discourse away from the turbulent and affective qualities of the material phenomenon of photography.
The researcher’s term, ‘Wilding’ photographs, calls into question ontologies and cultural assumptions, through interrogative processes that return the photograph to a physical condition and mutable image in turbulent and shifting relationships with matter, preceding and open to meanings. Through this approach, the research explores the construction of artwork for embodied encounters, which destabilise and re-create worlds: examining the boundaries of representation, material and imagination.
The paper focuses on the researcher’s artwork, Seep, 2021, describing methodologies that privilege co-actions with material and ‘fluidity’ as a specific felt quality that informs and describes Hughes' practice. In doing so, there is a reframing of meanings and experiences of environments, landscape and wilderness, that challenge binaries of nature and culture, between an environment ‘out there’ and a human subject ‘in here’. The research draws out and defines these notions as a process understood through the expression of immersive experiences, multiple perspectives and as a self-reflective journey that is visceral, haptic, ambiguous and changeable.
The visceral and psychological enquiry of this research relates to photography’s expanded field (Baker 2005) and the contemporary and feminine sublime (Morley 2010; Freeman 1995). This research considers theory on ‘New Materialism’ in cultural geography and contemporary feminism; (Bachelard 1942; Anderson & Wylie 2006; Halberstam 2013; Neimanis 2012), as well as considering the embodied encounter through the critical sphere of phenomenology; (Merleau-Ponty 1945).
Close Encounters: Iterations of Intimacy in Contemporary memoirs of Domestic Abuse
Laura Moisi, Technical University Dresden
It’s her twelfth birthday, and her mother just gave her a diary. One day, as she comes home from school, the lock on her diary is broken. “Who said you could go to Washington?” her stepfather asks. First, she is angry. Then, she starts writing again. But this time, she no longer begins entries with ‘dear diary,’ expecting her words to be private. Instead, each entry is a “litany of indictments,” a record of all the things he had done. Many years later, she will remember this as her first act of rebellion, and how “from then on, when he looked at me, I’d return his gaze, the afterimage of my words in the space between us.” (Tretheway 2020, 109).
In the re-telling of her mother's murder in Memorial Drive (2020), writer and poet Natasha Tretheway sheds light not only on the intricacies of abuse and intimacy, but also on the role that readers play in narratives about power and violation. In her memoir, Tretheway places her mother’s story in the larger cultural context, reflecting her coming of age as a young woman of color in the American South. In this particular scene, the allusion of an imagined audience uncovers absences in the discourse on domestic violence, disrupting the very notion of ‘private’ abuse. The book points to the peripheries of the discourse on domestic violence by revisiting the cultural gaps, implicit frames, and omissions that have shaped how stories about intimacy and abuse enter public conversations. And in her cross-genre-memoir In the Dream House (2019), Carmen Maria Machado reflects her own experiences of abuse through the lens of popular culture, and the absent archive of queer representation, experimenting with narrative structure in a way that transports the sense of captivity for readers on the page.
Drawing on the recent wave of autobiographical literature on intimate forms of abuse, as well as on research in affect studies and feminist thought (Ahmed 2017, Berlant 2012, Alcoff 2018), this talk explores iterations of intimacy in these contemporary memoirs. The talk asks the following questions: What forms of intimacy – affections, understandings, confidence – emerge between readers and text in these literary works? How does this involve a reimagination of less overt forms of defiance and resistance that play out in intimate spaces of domestic life? And how do notions of resistance change if we consider these acts to be genuine acts of political protest that can be both, radical and unassuming?
Laura Moisi is a postdoctoral researcher in cultural studies and literature at the Technical University Dresden in Germany. Her current research project “Violent Intimacies” explores contemporary popular discourses on violence and intimacy through the lens of media studies, feminist affect studies, and the history of knowledge. She has completed her PhD at the Institute for Cultural History and Theory at Humboldt University of Berlin in Germany. In her PhD Thesis, she explored the politicized rhetoric of waste, decay and excess in contemporary German and American culture. Her research interests lie in the field of political feminist philosophy, popular culture, affect studies, and theories of liberation and resistance.
Contradictory Intimacies: Paul O’Rourke’s Relations with Life, the Universe and Everything
Sven Blehner, University of Tartu
Joshua Ferris’ novel (2014) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a brilliant book about the mysteries of contemporary life. The protagonist, Paul O'Rourke, is a man whose relations with technology, religion, sports, family, and the world are governed by contradictions. He’s an atheist who is not ready to let go of God. He’s an Amalekite who wants to belong to the Jewish family of one of his lovers. He’s a hardcore Red Sox fan who is devastated by their victories. In short, O'Rourke is struggling to make sense of the ordinary life and affects while also being at an impasse because of different histories and desires pull him in opposite directions.
This in-betweenness where O'Rourke keeps finding himself is an affective place. It is also a place of loneliness, unbearable intimacy, unbearable life. This unbearableness of life is what Lauren Berlant (2011: 10) might describe as systemic crisis or “crisis ordinariness,” or happenings that force one to adapt to change. However, this hiatus or animated suspension also provides a way of affectively thinking of some conventions with which we develop a historical sense of the present (Berlant 2011: 5-6, 53).
Reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour from the viewpoint of affect and queer theories, this paper focuses on Paul O'Rourke’s disorderly desires and intimacies in his struggle to survive in the everyday. It is particularly interested in the affects that arise in the impasse Paul finds himself as well as in the affects brought about by intimacies that do not always fit into the frames of normative intimacy discourses.
Sven Blehner is a PhD student and a junior research fellow at the University of Tartu and a visiting PhD researcher at Utrecht University. His research focuses on affect and queer theories and their applications in analysing literature. His PhD dissertation further focuses on how intimacy practices are represented in the contemporary American novel and how outwardly normative intimacy practices often contain queer elements (or are queer) and on what kind of affects these intimacies elicit. He is also interested in what ecocriticism and affect theory can do for each other. He has written a paper on what kinds of forest elicit affective responses and how humans and non-human entities are situated in relation to the forest assemblage.
Expansive intimacies: thinking spare signs and ‘bloom’ spaces with my mother, Omar Kasmani, Billy Casper, Lauren Berlant, and Broad Oak Bowling Club
Laura Swithenbank, Leeds University
Feelings ping off mums and daughters and spread like sparks around the bright, light tunnels of the shopping centre. While high up on the hill - next to the blackened sandstone church spire, above the scrappy patch of the gas board tip - inside the concert room a too-loud laugh can be met with a sidewards glance. Meanwhile semi-psychic domino intuition abounds while tension rachets up or cools down across the evening. The silence of an early morning is broken when one brother says to another ‘tha’d better get up’ before momentarily settling, dancing across bedsheets, punctuating the airy space with a snort or a whimper as wind whips up the outside wall (Hines, 1968, 2). Across these spaces a phrase, a certain kind of eye contact, habits and recursive rhythms circulate, their impacts palpable and felt on your body (Berlant and Stewart, 2019, 17).
This paper will explore and follow out the intimate affects of multiple worlds including a shopping centre, a working men’s club, and the bedroom shared bedroom of two brothers. I’ll work with Kasmani’s theorisation of intimate public bloom spaces as well as Berlant’s understanding of intimacy as the ‘sparest’ of signs and gestures in public space. Thinking with affective atmospheres and textures, this paper is experimental in nature and takes the form of creative non-fiction.
Could the way we connect and love today ultimately have sadistic repercussions on sexuality and the body? What would happen if we the power of representation would be placed in the hands of the disabled people? How is that even achievable? How to achieve a society where bodies are wanted not in spite of the differences but because of them?
The presentation is based on and tackles Ingo Niermann´s book „Solution 257: Complete Love“. Solution 257: Complete Love is a novel about “completism,” a word Niermann has fashioned to mean something akin to a sexual preference or philosophy, like polyamory, but with a social and political dimension. Completists, in this book, are people who “aspire to social justice through intimacy.” It is a tactic where people have sex and share love with those society has determined to not be overtly desirable: paraplegics, the elderly, those with minor or major deformities, or those who are mentally incapacitated. Practitioners in the novel believe that “only when the redistribution of material wealth includes equal chances of finding sex and love—no matter how elderly, disabled, or ugly you are- communism will become real“.
The book, set in Berlin in 2011, is told from the point of view of Karl, a middle class German man in his late 20s who is in a failed long-term partnership. It begins with a Skype call he receives from an American woman named Ava. She tells him she only has three hours to live and propositions him for sex. On skype Ava speaks to him about the parameters of intimacy, romantic bodily love, but also about the melancholia that relationships can bring.
Complete Love is set in response to the evils of history. Niermann links the continual othering of these “undesirables” to the seeds of fascism, but moreover, draws attention to the fact that those with disabilities have sexual desires and needs too. Niermann asks who is left out of typical desire structures, which are often fed to the masses through advertising in shiny, affinity-based concealer-laced exteriors. He links the culture of infinite swiping on Tinder to an embedded cultural evil that can be traced back to German fascism and enlightenment values.
Sveta Grigorjeva is an Estonian choreographer, dancer and poet. Her latest staged performances Rebel Body Orchestra (2017) and „TEKHNE“ (2020) were mainly circling around the question „what is there left to dance in a neo-liberal and quickly rising neo-fascist era“? At the moment she is finishing her Master’s degree at Justus-Liebig-Universität in Giessen, Germany. Her main research and interest have always been investigating relations between different mediums such as movement, spoken word, performance-art and music. In earlier stagework she often took „identity“ as the starting point of work-making. Lately the interest has shifted to a broader and more abstract understanding of corporeal performative qualities (especially in dance). Her aim is to always develop forms of performances and texts which are expressive, radical and political – which often challenge conventional assumptions about what a poem or a performance is, should be and look like. In her own words: „I approach working – as in learning and making – with an interest of fostering a creative enviroment(s) which are transformed into laboratories, where new strategies and concepts about making art are developed, questioned and tested. Opposite to considering art (texts, poems, performances) only as a highly skilled craftsmanship enacted by people whose education is strongly embedded in didactic traditions. I see it as a way of embodying a different kind of being in the world – a stranger, wilder, more considering and politivally active one.
Graphic Novel and Negative Emotions
Aakanksha Singh, York University
In the graphic novel, Kari, the author, Amruta Patil, portrays the eponymous protagonist engaging with different individuals through different strands of intimacy. Kari shares a flat with two other female flat mates as well as their almost permanent resident boyfriends. Patil shows Kari as having been in a relationship with another woman, Ruth. The third strand is Kari’s curious intimacy with one of her friends, Angel, who is dying of cancer. In all the three strands, there is intimacy without being intimate.
What I am implying by the latter phrase is that Patil emphasises on formation of bonds and connections rather than any physical forms of intimacy within the three strands, even with respect to Kari’s relationship with Ruth. Kari wants her connection to her flat mates to be premised physical closeness automatically leading to emotional and communal closeness, a premise that Patil subtly shows does not always holds true and it is ironically that shaky ground that makes Kari feel as if she belongs among her flat mates. Glimpse of Kari and Ruth’s relationship that Patil allows are always through Kari’s memories and thoughts, leaving the reader wondering about both the existence and contours of their relationship’s intimacy. Lastly, Kari’s friendship with Angel is at once deeply emotional and perverse. Perverse because Kari increasingly turns to Angel because of Kari’s growing fascination with death and a dying individual.
In this paper, then, using these three aforementioned strands, I argue that non-familial intimacies are always bound to be strange/unfamiliar in a world system that prioritises romantic life narrative intimacies. That strangeness can produce a plethora of affects that can be both negative (such as loneliness in Kari’s case) and positive. Using examples from the graphic novel, I therefore argue that even when the emotions are negative, they can also be generative of imagining possibilities beyond the normative expectations and echoing what Jose Esteban Munoz calls, “the rejection of the here and now”.
Aakanksha Singh is a second-year PhD student at University of York. Her research focuses on queer women characters in contemporary Indian fiction written by women.
Keynote: Sad Planets: An Experiment in Affective Scale
Dominic Pettman, New School for Social Research
The notion of a "pathetic fallacy" was first formalized by John Ruskin in the middle of the 19th century, to describe a persistent theme in art and literature: the personification of nature, and the erroneous attribution of human emotions to insentient elements. Ruskin was especially keen to expose poets of a Romantic persuasion, who seemed to believe that clouds could truly be lonely, or that streams could actually be mischievous. (Beyond the aesthetic service of metaphor.) This talk will revisit Ruskin's scepticism, on the other side of the new materialist turn, in which a new generation has entertained the possibility of matter itself exhibiting, or even experiencing, vital properties and animating tendencies. These remarks stem from a larger project - a book-in-progress entitled, Sad Planets (with Eugene Thacker) - that asks what happens to our understanding of affect when projected on to - or scaled up to - the cosmic level. Are we simply succumbing to anthropocentric delusion, or a centrifugal species-wide narcissism, by attributing, for instance, sorrow or melancholia to the non-human world (or even extra-terrestrial worlds)? Or is there a possibility that we are part of a much larger affective ecology, which complicates - and perhaps even erases - the distinction between thought, feeling, and "brute" materiality? With a special attention to cephalopods, this talk will address such questions, and finish by proposing "elemental intimacy" as a specific form of strange intimacy, experienced on the macro and impersonal scale.
Dominic Pettman is University Professor of Media and New Humanities. He has held previous positions at the University of Melbourne, the University of Geneva, the University of Amsterdam, and the American University of Paris. His courses pose questions relatng to posthumanism, critical theory, Continental Philosophy, cultural studies, digital culture, animal studies, sound studies, new media, environmental humanities, and affect theory.