Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Inclusivity
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
While research on how to construct, maintain, restore, or otherwise manage intimacy is abundant in psychology and related disciplines, there is limited anthropological literature focusing on how humans in various relationships and sociocultural contexts create, define, and experience closeness. Approaching intimacy from the perspective of linguistic anthropology, our emphasis is on the ways in which different forms of intimacy are (co)-constructed in ordinary conversations, performances, offline and online narratives, political discourse, interviews, and other everyday discursive practices. We are not just looking at “intimate relationships” per se, but are considering intimacy and closeness as a processual phenomenon of everyday interaction at various simultaneous spatiotemporal scales. We suggest that examining the ways in which humans (co)-construct intimacy—or don’t—is crucial to understanding multiple historical, political, cultural, and social processes. Stance as constructed in interaction, for example, is key for understanding issues of individual identity formation, as well as the solidification of dynamic identities among participants at various levels: in couples, groups, and larger collectivities. Through stancetaking or “taking up a position with respect to the form or the content of one’s utterance” (Jaffe 2009:2), interlocutors may enact varying degrees of intimacy through the alignment or disalignment with a certain speaker or topic of the ongoing conversation. "Doing being intimate” likewise depends on interlocutors’ particular lexical, grammatical, prosodic, and gestural strategies as they are deployed in embodied interaction (Goodwin and Goodwin 2000).
As an emergent process, the co-construction of intimacy in interaction thus has broad historical implications as it relates to the building or challenging of particular alliances. At a more micro-ethnographic scale, intimacy and the experience of emotion-in-interaction are likewise deeply intertwined. The fundamental concerns of this panel are the ways in which the fluid, heterogeneous processes of intimacy and identity formation articulate with one another to yield intricate and varied chronotopic configurations. We thus emphasize the cultural as well as subcultural variation in terms of how intimacy is generated, but also in terms of how it is created in particular moments in time and space. This panel thus attends largely to the different theories and methods that are available for studying intimacy as a collaboratively produced interactional achievement. Presenters investigate how intimacy is key in the (co)-construction of speech participants’ identity, such as relational identity in couple’s ordinary interactions in the United States, collective identity in Northern Italian executives’ narratives, and multiple identities in song performances by East African artists. Panelists also explore how intimacy is negotiated through an analysis of the use of deictics in Spanish speaking contexts, how responsible intimate relationships can develop and solidify between anthropologists and informants as well as looking at how these processes are complicated for those with atypical interactional behavior such as the case for adults with autism. By examining intimacy in a wide range of interactional settings, this panel will not only advance theory and methods specifically in linguistic anthropology, but have broad implications for both cultural and medical anthropology as well.