Is intimacy a useful concept to ask both how we messily relate to one another and how we cooperatively make the structures that oppress us? The problem is spatial and walking the perimeter of intimacy as a concept means tracking our own bodies as they machine together. Constantly, we are grasping and being grasped. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that “[t]he instruments of power – language, weapons, and finally machines – which are intended to hold everyone in their grasp, must in their turn be grasped by everyone.” Lefebvre, hovering critically over the street, echoes this in his insistence that “to grasp a rhythm it is necessary to have been grasped by it; one must let oneself go, give oneself over, abandon oneself to its duration.”

Over the five sessions of this group, I want us to ask what the logics and logistics of our intimacies are. At a glance, the concept of intimacy points us to problems of proximity, shared affect, and sexual politics. It points us to the sparking paradox between a love that collapses two into one and a rutted desire for autonomy, between soft vulnerability and hard security. It points us to our face-to-face meetings with one another. But, read in the harsh contexts machining those meetings, intimacy also points us to the way our everyday lives aren’t always filled with a touching lean towards friendships or kinships that challenge the wider structures that bear down, determine, and police. Instead, our intimacies are often shaped without our knowledge, consent, desire. How do we discipline and fail to discipline one another? How are intimacies uneven and oppressive? What if I don’t want to grasp or be grasped? What if I have no choice – structurally, always more than one? What hope is there at such a small scale?

This research group mirrors and responds to Vancouver writer Danielle LaFrance’s public research project #postdildo, which over the summer of 2018 plunged into the uneasy contradictions at the heart of sexual desire by focusing on the dildo as sexual object and social relation. At the end of her sessions, LaFrance critically identified a limit both in the declaration “it’s a structural problem” and in her own appeals to complexity and contradiction. She reflects:  “My own simple declarative has often been ‘relationships are messy.’ Why are they messy though? They are messy at the point the hegemonic structure meets, or responds to, the interpersonal structure. And vice versa.” My hope, inspired by LaFrance’s method, is that dwelling in the messy contradictions around intimacy will provide a useful sightline to consider the ways our daily meetings and interactions add up into the spaces that shape us.

Sessions will take place at OCAD University – Room 514, 205 Richmond St, Toronto – on the below dates from 1-4 pm.

This group is public and encourages participation from different communities both inside and outside the academic institution. Please email if you’re interested in participating.

Sincere thanks to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the University of Toronto Scarborough, and OCAD University for their support.

February 23: Intimacy as a Keyword, Intimacy as a Scale

Lauren Berlant – “Intimacy: An Introduction”

Elizabeth Povinelli – “Empires of Love: An Introduction”

Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner – “Introduction: The Global and the Intimate”

March 9: Our Touching Moments

Erin Manning “Sensing beyond Security: What a Body Can Do” (from The Politics of Touch)

Kim TallBear – “Yes, Your Pleasure! Yes, Self-Love! And Don’t Forget, Settler Sex is a Structure.”

Nicole Brossard – French Kiss, Or: A Pang’s Progress

March 23: Surveillant Intimacies

Katherine McKittrick – “The Last Place They Thought Of: Black Women’s Geographies” (from Demonic Grounds)

Arun Saldanha – “The Trials of Transcendence” (from Psychedelic White)

Jody Chan – “Safe Enough: On Love, Fear, and Queer Dance Parties”

April 6: Intimate Materials

Mel Chen – “Lead’s Racial Matters” (from Animacies)

Elizabeth Povinelli – “Rotten Worlds” (from The Empire of Love)

Rita Wong – Forage

April 20: Love as a Limit to Intimacy

Eleanor Wilkinson – “Single People’s Geographies of Home: Intimacy and Friendship Beyond ‘The Family’”

Caleb Luna – “Romantic Love is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We Are Single?”

Samantha Marie Nock – “Decrying Desirability, Demanding Care”

All of these texts will be made available before the sessions with the exceptions of Brossard’s French Kiss and Wong’s Forage (though I may circulate excerpts from these).