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Senior Research Seminar: Dr Julienne Obadia

When Nov 16, 2018
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Room Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge
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Dr Julienne Obadia (University of Cambridge)

Settling Intimate Accounts: Contracts and the Shifting Labor of Love in American Late Liberalism

This talk examines how the pressures of the contemporary mandate to do what one loves – and to love everything one does – shapes ways of imagining experiments in collective life in the United States through the emerging common sense that one’s private life ought to be a rich site of personal enhancement, fulfillment, and optimization. Examining the effects of this on the classically gendered liberal demarcation of public and private, I argue that the late liberal home is being re-imagined from a natural site of nurture and care – a familial retreat from the masculine public space of the market – to a site of negotiation, transparency, and individual choice that requires new regimes of labor and personhood in order to flourish. I examine how contracts – one of a cluster of tools historically associated with the masculine public sphere – are enabling this shift as they are re-directed toward unconventional, but increasingly popular, practices of intimacy such as polyamory, or consensual non-monogamy, that strive to foster responsible relationships that maximize love and empathy. Bringing together anthropological theories of personhood with feminist political theory, I focus on the contract as a technique of personhood that is both enabling dramatic transformations in intimacy while extending the reach of classical liberal theory’s hierarchical privileging of autonomy over dependence.

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