The Intimacy Lectures

About Our Images

The images at the top of our page represent different attitudes towards and experiences of intimacy.

The first image comes from Dannah Dennis, a doctoral student in Anthropology at UVA, current doing fieldwork in Kathmandu. This picture is of friends at a school where she is working, and she explains: It's not uncommon at all to see clusters of girls and boys holding hands, linking arms, and hugging like this, but never in a mixed-gender group. In polite society, men and women aren't supposed to touch each other in any way that could possibly be avoided, and that training starts young. On the right side, you can see female friends in a similar pose.

The second image was taken by Non Arkaraprasertkul and Xinyan Peng. Xinyan, a doctoral student in Anthropology at UVA, explains the picture: This is the big and famous marriage market in a public park in Shanghai, where parents post descriptions of up their sons and daughters’ profiles for matchmaking. Basically, many parents go to the “market” on Saturday, put up their sons’ and daughters’ profiles, and talk with other parents, looking for good match for their own children.

The third picture was taken by Jacqueline Cieslak, a doctoral student in Anthropology at UVA. She explains: This is a special fast because it includes everything — food, water, chai. The fast is broken at a certain time by the husband, who must feed his wife from his own hand. Women plan for days ahead what they will wear on Karva Chauth, and they talk about it with great anticipation — particularly women who profess love for their husbands and women who say their marriage is doing well. During the fast, women in the neighborhood come together for puja (rituals) and prayer, and they pass around feminine items, like cosmetics, jewelry, henna, and the traditional pot used in the ritual (called a karva). This photo focuses on the karva, which is a symbol of the holiday, and in the background, you can see all the women gathered to share items, apply cosmetics and henna, and do puja several hours before breaking the fast with their husbands. Food and sex are very powerfully equated in India — almost all the idioms and metaphors having to do with one reference the other. So to deny oneself food in order to be fed by someone else is a deeply meaningful and intimate act. I really like this photo because it also captures the intimacy shared by women on a holiday that, at face value, seems to be about the relationship between husband and wife.

The fourth picture comes from the documentary film The Great Happiness Space, about host clubs, and the men who work at them, in Japan. Host clubs typically cater to heterosexual female clients, and hosts are paid to drink, flirt, and talk with guests. We highly recommend the film for anyone interested in issues of intimacy, as well as ethnographic research in host clubs by Akiko Takeyama.