Identity, Intimacy (June 2016)

For Modern Horizons Journal’s 7th issue we invite essays exploring the theme of ‘Identity, Intimacy’. One way of thinking about the many spheres of reciprocal influence that exist between ideas of identity and intimacy is to think them in relation to our last issue, ‘Conversations with Tradition’. If tradition is what comes from without and therefore affects our identity from external events and other people, intimacy comes from within – it is what is closest to us and thus affects our identity from the interior of our selves. What is intimate is what is inmost, profoundly familiar, and lies at the very core of our being; it shares that ineffable space with that measure of privacy which constitutes our identity. We can also think of both identity and intimacy as a conversation, with their own varying degrees of openness to others and openness to oneself, with its own languages, expressions and forms of dialogue. What does it mean to have a language of intimacy or an intimate language? To what extent is identity bound to language or expression?

Often, we consider intimacy in terms of physical presence. One thinks of intimate spaces, intimate settings, intimate encounters, corporal intimacy, sexual intimacy; these more physical forms of intimacy no doubt have lasting and important effects on our identity, for our environment shapes, determines, and limits how we construct and construe our selves. In addition to these forms of intimacy, we would like to think about what is at stake when one is intimate in other spheres of being where physical presence is not necessarily the determining factor. As intimacy has many forms, it also has many sources. We can think about intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, or even thinking itself as an intimate act and encounter. Do the effects of intimacy on one’s identity change when we think about intimacy in these other, less physical forms? What are the possibilities and limits of being intimate with oneself; or, is an other – physically present or not – necessary for intimacy to exist?

Related to the spatial dimensions – exterior, interior – of possible influences on our identity are the temporal factors. This is especially significant when thinking about intimacy. What is the relationship between intimacy and time? If physical presence is not necessarily a requirement for intimacy, perhaps a temporal presence, the now, is not a requirement either. In fact one can be intimate with the past, through memory. These perhaps delayed forms of intimacy can affect one’s identity in different ways than present and immediate intimacy does, for time alters our understanding of the past, enhances it, skews it; our identity undergoes similar alterations.

Although intimacy involves what is familiar or recognizable, it can also arise in new or unknown places and at unexpected times. The excitement that accompanies new or unexpected forms of intimacy can be a source of ecstasy or fear that change or redefine one’s emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even physical identity. The fear that is sometimes brought about by new intimate experiences can push one to reject or refuse intimacy, or may bring about the incapacity for being intimate. As identity and intimacy are codependent, the danger is clear: a refusal of intimacy or a false sense of intimacy can lead to a loss or disfiguration of one’s identity.

What causes or inhibits intimacy and what restricts or disfigures one’s identity? Or, perhaps a better question to ask would be: what, if any, are the criteria for measuring different levels and registers of intimacy and identity? Since intimacy may be fundamentally ineffable, to judge or subject it to criteria could be a betrayal; it cannot be expressed simply, but perhaps only enacted. Can we say the same for identity? Can identity be said to have the same ineffability? Is it possible to describe identity, or it is only recognizable when it is performed or lived?

Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

– Forms of intimacy
– Forms of identity
– Intimacy and time
– Expression and enactment
– Intimacy and desire
– Identity, intimacy, and the ineffable
– Identity, intimacy, and memory
– Eros and intimacy
– Friendship and intimacy
– Intimacy and loss
– Knowledge and intimacy
– Intimacy and tradition
– Spiritual intimacy
– Thinking as intimate / Intimate thinking
– Personhood, intimacy, identity
– Intimate spaces, spaces of identity

Please submit full papers to by 25 March 2016.