The question of intimacy 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.
Young people, students, are concerned about their intimate lives. Changing social, political, and economic structures have made for lives that must be lived in what appears to many as an increasingly severe - cold and shrewd - world. They are anxious about the future of their personal life; they are unskilled in imagining forms it might take and in seeing possibilities that might be available. And rightly so.
Can universities do a better job responding to this anxiety?
As public life becomes increasingly emptied of voices that speak intimately, the university is arguably one of the few places where it remains possible to explore and cultivate one. Whether or not the university can and should be a place for intimate knowledge and the intimate voice is a question worth asking. Is the critical enterprise that shapes the production of knowledge in humanities departments conducive to the exploration of the intimate life? Should it be? Is our aim at objectivity in the production of knowledge by the natural sciences and the social sciences conducive to the exploration of an intimate world? Should it be? What is gained and lost either way? Can there be a pre-disciplinary space where such questioning could occur?
One does not need an advanced degree to have something to say about intimacy: we all have a stake in it, even if negatively. By engaging the topic, academia reaches beyond its walls, engages, and even educates a popular concern. The topic is being studied by experts in fields all across the disciplines that make up a university. Questioning intimacy can be a place where the different sets of knowledge produced by the natural and social sciences, the humanities, and even the professional schools come together and shape one another in a truly interdisciplinary fashion. For universities looking to bring together divisions and schools that seem to be growing autonomous and apart, the question of intimacy perhaps holds special promise.
About the Series
Each speaker in the series will present a public lecture. Seminar participants are also invited to attend a luncheon discussion the following afternoon and to participate in four additional luncheons scheduled between the visits of each speaker. We call these additional meetings "sense-making meetings" because they are where we join together to make sense out of what the speakers, as individuals and in sum, have left with us.