This panel explores connections between intimacy and the private/public. Focusing on various sites of intimacy—families, friendships, romantic or sexual relationships—papers will address how intimacy is not just personal but reflects and shapes broader societal processes.
The term 'intimacy' evokes a sense of private, personal relations. It is sometimes construed as conceptually distinct from supposedly public realms of economics, work, policy and politics; or is depicted as corrupting or being corrupted by these. Yet, as the feminist slogan articulates, 'the personal is political'. Intimate relations are enabled and constrained by broader power structures but so too these are reworked through intimate relations. Norms of intimacy constitute fundamental aspects of these supposedly public realms. For example, through relations of reciprocity intimacy is fundamental to economy. Meanwhile, through spreading consumer culture and mass media, ideals of love, romance and companionship are transforming intimacy the world over. Focusing on various sites of intimacy—families, friendships, romantic or sexual relationships —we invite papers that consider articulations between 'private' and 'public' aspects of intimacy. The panel considers issues such as: • How might we define intimacy in the context of anthropological research? What does the examination of social relations through the lens of intimacy bring to the discipline? • How are the public/private boundaries of intimate relationships formulated and challenged in different contexts? How does interrogating the multiple meanings of 'private' and 'public' further the study of intimacy? • How are changing economic norms, new communication technologies and/or transnational media reshaping, and being shaped by, intimate relations? • What do the contradictions and complexities in the way intimacy is experienced and understood tell us about broader social change and continuity? • Can public policy be improved by a more intimate understanding of intimacy?