International Conference: Strange Intimacies

 23-24 September 2022
 Lossi 3, Tartu, Estonia


Then they talked as if they had known each other all their lives; which was odd, she said, as they always did, considering she’d known him perhaps one hour. Weren’t they, though, conspirators, seekers after hidden faces? That confessed, she paused and wondered, as they always did, why they could speak so plainly to each other. And added: “perhaps because we’ve never met before, and never shall again."

Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts


(all times are in the Eastern European Summer Time)

Friday, 23 September

10:00-10:15 Opening
10:15-11:15 Keynote: Gregory Seigworth, Millersville University: Ongoing, Ordinary, Overdetermined: Lauren Berlant’s Sociality

Panel 1: Posthuman Literatures

12:45-13:30 Lunch

Panel 2: Lived Experiences

15:00-15:15 Coffee 

Panel 3: Postsocial and Decolonial Insights

16:15-16:30 Coffee 

Panel 4: Posthuman Relationalities

19:00 Conference dinner

Saturday, 24 September


Panel 5: Postdigital Intimacies

10:30-10:45 Coffee 

Panel 6: Ways of Being

12:15-13:15 Lunch

Panel 7: Artistic Practices

14:45-15:00 Coffee 

Panel 8: Queered Intimacies

17:00-18:00 Aperitif
18:00-19:00 Keynote: Dominic Pettman, New School for Social Research. Sad Planets: An Experiment in Affective Scale
19:00-19:30 Closing discussion

Call for papers

Have you met a stranger at a delayed flight and discovered, in two hours, that you had more in common than with your immediate family, but neither of you has any desire to exchange contact details to keep in touch? Have you taken comfort in sharing the same bus or subway to work for years with familiar faces without changing a word? Did you poignantly miss your local baker during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, although you do not even know their name?

Do you have a special place, a tree, or another non-human being or thing without which you would not like your life? Are you happy to see the world opening up again to places that are buzzing with life of all sorts: street-cafes, farmers’ markets, open-air theatres and concerts that are full of strangers?

We are interested in precisely these kinds of intimacies that linger in odd places between accidental acquaintances and randomly encountered things, but have not been given much consideration in the major narratives of intimacy. We are interested in intimacies that are not first and foremost romantic or necessarily long-lasting, but that somehow touch, without merging fully, and by touching, leave a trace. How do these hidden intimacies structure our public spaces and institutions? What do they do to us as individuals?

We want to hear about odd, queer, strange intimacies that often vanish under the narratives of couples, marriage and children, but which nevertheless linger and, to paraphrase Lauren Berlant (1998), have to push their aesthetics to the extreme to have a life. We are thinking with the affective and post-human turns that have swept many disciplines with their focus on non- linguistic forces and intensities, and more-than-human or non-human beings and things. We are particularly moved by the works of Lauren Berlant, Kathleen Stewart, Jane Bennett, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze and many other thinkers whose work is not afraid to feel. We are also interested, where relevant, in tracing the continuity between post-structuralist and feminist thought, and new thinking in affect and posthumanism.

We ask 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? The focus of our conference is on arts and humanities, with a focus on literature, but we also welcome insights from other disciplines, especially critical theory.

We are at this juncture envisioning discussion in three main directions:
  • intimacy as strange encounters and belonging;
  • intimacy from the perspective of gender, class, race, sexuality;
  • intimacy with the non-human/environment/ nature/objects;
The following is a list of possible topics, but is not limited to these topics:
  • non-familial intimacies, found communities
  • feminism and intimacy/ love
  • unplanned intimacies and encounters Intimacy with and through art
  • reading, writing (and creation) as intimate acts
  • embodiment and senses
  • intimacy and Covid19
  • intimacy with the non-human and environment
Keynote speakers:
  • Dominic Pettman (New School for Social Research)
  • Gregory Seigworth (Millersville University)

The conference will try to create a sense of intimacy – there will be no parallel panels so that every participant can take part in all the sessions without having to choose and everyone has a change to listen to each other’s work. We welcome short, 15-minute presentations rather than long papers to allow time for discussion. We also welcome creative approaches to presenting.

For questions write to Prof Raili Marling ( and to Dr Eret Talviste (

Please send 300-word abstracts and 100-word bios by 1 March 2022 to Dr Eret Talviste (

Cover image credit: Alexandra Hughes, Filmy (installation shot), Mixed media. 2016 –