RHS symposium, Bath Spa University, Friday October 18 2013
The symposium approached the concept of intimacy and closeness from a range of neglected perspectives, addressing several fundamental themes in European history. Current strands in the history of emotions dwell on singular feelings, their production, and the influence of pathological and medical discourse on their expression. Few historians have sought meaning in the theoretical advances of Lauren Berlant and Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose work has profound implications for the way in which social and political relations are understood. The symposium approaches intimacy variously through sessions that explore the following themes: political cultures, (official, popular and subaltern); legal norms; ethnic and religious difference; and desire. The relation between interior and public modes of intimacy are explored, through consideration of the ‘advent of intimacy as a public mode of identification and self-development’ (Berlant). A second key theme is the concept of ‘intimate publics’ in pre-modern and modern Europe. In a similar vein, the seminal work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has offered new perspectives on the way in which intimacy operates in tandem with looking, sexuality and bodily contact.
Invited contributors presented on: gendered intimacy and personal authority in nineteenth-century England; the subversion of political intimacies in early modern intelligence networks; and the influence of medieval ecclesiasts on the policing of intimacy in local communities; the politics of sympathy; intimacy and power in early medieval Europe.