Questioning Intimacy

Organized by Jeff Kosky, Karla Murdock, Paul Cabe, and Brian Murchison

What do you hold dear?

Most people when asked would probably say that their intimate life is important to them. And yet, there is much to suggest that intimacy with others and with the world is becoming more and more rare, harder and harder to achieve. More people are living alone as the energy and hassle of letting others draw close appears less like a worthwhile investment of scarce time and energy. Pervasive surveillance appears to erode the privacy in which our intimate lives are led. Young people in particular, many of whom have not known a world other than the hyper-connected one of today, might feel a vague, unformulated suspicion that their intimate life is permeated by a pervasive ambiguity in which it is difficult to find what of their selves is intimately their own.

Indeed much about the structure of contemporary society makes it appear as if the value we place on our intimate life is lip service at best. The Questioning Intimacy seminar series is a year-long colloquium that aims to explore this puzzling fact.

Why Study It?

There are lots of questions to ask of intimacy, and the intimate life does much to put ourselves in question. One does not need an advanced degree to be concerned about it and to have something to say about it; we all have a stake in it, even if to reject it. The popular and everyday concern with the intimate life is in fact shared by many experts in university disciplines such as Psychology, Sociology, Zoology, Philosophy, and Literature. It is also an increasingly important consideration among professionals who ask how it figures into their work as doctors, lawyers, architects and urban designers.

The question of intimacy thus offers the university rare and special opportunities to both learn from and educate a popular concern. The Questioning Intimacy seminar series aims to seize these opportunities.

What's This Seminar Series All About?

The seminar is organized around a series of six visiting speakers chosen for the discipline they represent as well as for the perspective they bring to our study of intimacy. Each of the speakers is a leader in his or her field and one whose popularity extends beyond the narrow confine of their discipline.

The opening set of lectures provide occasion for reflection on the meaning and experience, the future and value, of intimate life. It draws on experts in Sociology and Zoology, as well as an "expert native informant" from the intimate realms, an accomplished poet and critic. The closing set of speakers explores these themes in applied or practical settings such as medicine and palliative care, law and politics, and urban planning or architecture.

How Can I Get Involved?

In addition to attending public talks by each speaker, students, faculty, staff may apply to join a core group of committed seminar participants who will meet throughout the year to:

  • Attend the majority of the six public lectures by the visiting speakers;
  • Attend luncheon discussions with the speakers, where student participants will assume leadership roles;
  • Participate in additional "sense-making meetings" to discuss the issues raised by the speakers and the topics they address.

Where Do I Apply?

Fill out our online application to indicate your interest.

Apply Today


The lectures and other events making up Questioning Intimacy are possible with support from the Office of the Provost, Office of the Dean of the Law School, Office of the Dean of the College, Office of the Dean of the Williams School, the Institute for Honor, and the Howerton Fund of the Department of Religion.