The Intimacy Lectures

Martha Fineman Presentation

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas Presentation

Laura Grindstaff Presentation

Mignon Moore Presentation

Elizabeth Armstrong Presentation

Paula England Presentation

Eva Illouz Presentation

About Us

The Intimacy Lectures have been initiated by Allison Pugh and organized by a team including:

Allison Pugh is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia and an honorary research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia.  Her research focuses on how economic trends affect people in their intimate lives, and examines how families adapt to increasing insecurity, commercialization, overwork, and risk.  Her latest book, The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity, is a study on the broader impacts of job precariousness, and is available this January from Oxford University Press.  Tumbleweed asks the question:  if employers owe us very little, what does that mean for the way we think about obligation in our other relationships?  Her first book, Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children and Consumer Culture (University of California Press, 2009), was based on three years of ethnography with children and parents in California, and looked at the commercialization of childhood from within.  She maintains a twitter feed @allison_pugh.

Allison Alexy was an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia and is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. A cultural anthropologist focusing on contemporary Japan, her research interests include ideals and experiences of family lives, constructions of intimacy, and legal anthropology. Her book manuscript, Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan, considers how people negotiate connections, independence, happiness, and desire in relation to divorce. Her newer research project considers the intersections of family and citizenship in transnational relationships, particularly international child custody disputes and abductions. She is sorry not to be able to see these excellent talks in person.

Susan McKinnon is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology. As a cultural anthropologist, her research and writing have long been focused on issues relating to kinship, marriage, and gender. She examines their cross-cultural and historical diversity, their centrality in the structures and dynamics of hierarchy and equality, and the ways scientific texts have transformed their culturally specific manifestations into universal facts of nature. Her books include From a Shattered Sun: Hierarchy, Gender, and Alliance in the Tanimbar Islands and Neo-liberal Genetics: The Myths and Moral Tales of Evolutionary Psychology as well as the edited volumes, Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies (with Sarah Franklin), Complexities: Beyond Nature and Nurture (with Sydel Silverman), and Vital Relations: Modernity and the Persistent Life of Kinship (with Fenella Cannell).

Andrea Press was the founding Chair of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Currently she is Professor Media Studies and Sociology at the University of Virginia. Her most recent book is The New Media Environment (with Bruce Williams, Blackwell). She is also author of Women Watching Television: Gender, Class and Generation In The American Television Experience, Speaking Of Abortion: Television And Authority In The Lives Of Women (with Elizabeth R. Cole), and co-editor of New Feminist Television Studies: Queries into Postfeminist Television and of the journal The Communication Review. Her forthcoming book looks at representations of feminism/postfeminism in popular media, and their reception amongst women of different ages, occupations, social class and ethnic backgrounds. She has held appointments at Oxford University, the London School of Economics, Hebrew University, the University of Leicester, the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, the Stanhope Center for Communications Policy Research, and the Tavistock Clinic in London, and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Soroptimist International Foundation.


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.