The Politics of Intimate Life


Luke Brunning (University of Birmingham);

Lauren Ware (University of Kent);

8 th of September

Session 1 (10.00-13.00)

“Recognition, Love, and Opacity” – Nick Clanchy (University of Oxford)

“Defining Parental Love” – Jake Lehrle-Fry (Aarhus University)

Session 2 (14.00-17.00)

“Legal recognition of polyamorous families: a claim for desirability” – Francesca Miccoli (University of Milan)

“What ‘being in a relationship’ means and what it should mean” – Perrine Sriwannawit (University of Birmingham)

9 th of September

Session 1 (10.00-13.00)

“Coalition-Building and Erotic Practice” – Caleb Ward (University of Hamburg)

“Time and Tending: Theorising the Politics of Kinship and Intimacy on an Ecological Frame” –  Susan Notess (Durham University):

Session 2 (14.00-17.00)

“BDSM, Sexual Laboratories & Ethical Tightroping” – Rory Kent (University of Cambridge)

“The Politics of Intimate Life: A Symposium Dialogue” – Luke Brunning (University of Birmingham) and Lauren Ware (University of Kent)

Intimate life is shaped by politics. Politics shapes intimate life. This workshop aims to better understand these commonplaces, and builds on the Politics of Romantic Life at MANCEPT last year. We invite talks which seek to understand and ameliorate the situation of sexual minorities and alternative intimate lives in the context of the modern state. Read ‘intimate life’ as broadly as the range of visible experiments in living. Some people happily eschew sex, others reject romance, or the couple, or marriage, or domestic life, or the family. Intimate arrangements, like sexual desire itself, are polymorphous. 

Our questions are: Can the state accommodate this diversity? Should it try? Might love, or the pursuit of pleasure, offer ways of resisting neoliberal ideals? Or is intimate life insular and isolating? These and other tensions abound at a time where some revel in the fact that (nearly) all is permitted, and others feel increasingly anxious and disconnected. 

One function of philosophy is to help us describe, criticise, and perhaps reconcile ourselves to our situation. We do this on the go, from the inside, and approach these questions already as people who love, or hope to love, or as people for whom the happy absence of love inevitably strikes others as a problem. Join us to consider together some of the political questions related to intimate life: an area of human concern at the intersection of philosophy of emotion and political philosophy, and with vibrant interdisciplinary depth drawing from feminist, political, and psychological theory to applied questions in law, education, sociology, and social work. 

Abstracts are welcome on the following questions, or on any other topic related to the political aspects of intimacy (the list below is by no means exhaustive):

  • Are some intimate configurations more conducive to flourishing than others? 
  • Does oppression deform our ability to love well?
  • Does romantic love help, or hinder, justice? 
  • How can we desire better?
  • Should the state support intimacy? 
  • Should the state privilege certain relationships? If so, which ones? 
  • Is the vulnerability of intimate life something to be mitigated, or praised?
  • To what extent is intimate vulnerability separable from political vulnerability? 
  • What would a just intimate life look like?
  • Should the state try to ensure a fairer distribution of intimate goods? 
  • Should the politics of intimate life feature in Sex and Relationship Education curricula?
  • Can we educate (for) intimacy? Would we want to?