The Radicalism of Romantic Love: Critical Perspectives
November 5 & 6, 2013
Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University
The deadline for abstracts (max 250 words) is March 8, 2013
Why has the message of romantic love successfully saturated our culture? As Lauren Berlant puts it, without knowing how it has happened, love has become a ‘core feeling of being and life, a primary feeling of sociality’ (2000, p. 436). Love is now considered the major existential goal of our times, capable of providing us with a sense of worth and a way of being in the world (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1995, pp. 193-94). According to Eva Illouz, love is glorified as a supreme value capable of delivering happiness – a ‘collective utopia’ (1997, p. 7). Narratives of romantic love, from the poems of the Troubadours to Romeo and Juliet, are associated with individual liberty and equality, personal freedom and satisfaction, and with its radical opposition to conventional social structures. For this reason romantic love, from the very beginning, was considered a dangerous idea; its connection with individual agency, its disconnection from family, class, social and religious duty, its association with free love and sexual freedom, made it a threat not only to life-long monogamous marriage and traditional family structures but also to divisions based on class, religion and race. Indeed Anthony Giddens refers to romantic love as ‘intrinsically subversive’ (Giddens, 1992, p. 46). Romantic love is now thought capable of removing social barriers, of delivering individual agency and even social progress. Nowhere has this discourse been more visible in contemporary political debate in Australia than in the same-sex marriage debate where love is the constant cry against the ban on same-sex marriage.
But is love the radical and progressive idea it claims to be? The progressive nature of love is contested by some feminist and queer critiques, which claim that love replicates traditional and oppressive relationships based on sex, gender and sexuality. Papers are sought for a two day inter-disciplinary conference aimed at interrogating the idea of romantic love as a radical political, social and cultural ideal. Love is an important topic not only for scholars of gender but also of politics, sociology and culture more broadly. This conference will present a rare opportunity for a small group of scholars to share their work, discover synergies and to develop networks for future research collaborations. Selected papers will be collected for an edited collection.
Keynote Speakers: Professor Eva Illouz (Rose Isaac Chair of Sociology & Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Professor Simon May (Visiting Professor of Philosophy, King’s College, University of London).
Possible themes are:
• The relationship between romantic love and the institution of marriage
• The concept of love in the same-sex marriage debate
• ‘Love marriage’ as a means of rebellion in subaltern cultures
• Cross-cultural understandings of love
• Feminist, queer and socialist critiques of romantic love
• Love, state and legislation
• Love and disciplinarity in the humanities and social sciences
• Romantic love in entertainment and the ‘culture industry’
Abstracts to be sent to the convenors of the conference: Dr Renata Grossi (Freilich Foundation, Research School of Humanities and the Arts) and Associate Professor David West (School of Politics and International Relations).