Annual Agnes Heller Lecture
Intimacy as Freedom: Friendship, Gender and Everyday Life
Dr Harry Blatterer, Macquarie University
Wednesday 5 November 2014
5.00 – 6.30 pm
Martin Building Lecture Theatre
In intimate life, anything seems possible. Sexualities, lifestyles and identities appear to be merely a matter of individual proclivity and choice. Commitment is optional. The last vestiges of convention seem finally overcome and freedom appears realised. Arguably, friendship offers itself as the freest of all human associations. A weakness of cultural prescription opens a terrain in which intimacy can be lived in a trust relationship that personifies equality, justice and respect. Friendship’s ‘relational freedom’ enables the mutual development of selves; it is generative. Therein lies ‘the beauty of friendship’, as Agnes Heller has reminded us. But the freedom of intimacy is limited. Embedded in a society that attributes different repertoires of intimacy to women and men, and privileges male homosociality, friendship’s freedom is curtailed. Especially, although not exclusively, cross-sex friendships continue to show evidence of persisting tensions. To what extent do social phenomena like ‘friends with benefits’ relationships signal an alleviation of the tensions? Are ‘erotic friendships’ that harness the benefits of friendship, but repudiate the constraints of ordinary coupledom, a way out of the impasse? In this lecture, I view central aspects of heterosexual intimacy through the ‘small world’ prism of ‘intimate friendship’, to suggest that it refracts social relations in the world at large.
Harry Blatterer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Macquarie University. He is author of Coming of Age in Times of Uncertainty (2007),Modern Privacy: Shifting Boundaries, New Forms (with M R Markus and P Johnson, 2010) and Everyday Friendships: Intimacy as Freedom in a Complex World (2015). He completed his PhD (UNSW) under the supervision of Maria R. Markus, friend and intellectual ally of Agnes Heller.
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
La Trobe University