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Imagining Intimacy After COVID

aLa Trobe University Melbourne, Australia
bAcadia University, Canada

The Emerald Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions for a Post-Pandemic World

ISBN: 978-1-80382-324-9, eISBN: 978-1-80382-323-2

Publication date: 14 April 2023


With the COVID-19 pandemic introducing social distancing measures around the world, how we conceptualise and experience intimacy has significantly and suddenly shifted. Intimate moments such as funerals, weddings and the nurturing of everyday relationships have unfolded over video calls, and digitally mediated contact has been granted, for many, greater importance. At the same time, who we can be close to, and the conditions of this closeness have come under intense scrutiny as we become aware of how bodily proximity and bodily performances such as breathing are implicated in the spread of the virus. With this awareness comes a renewed intimacy with seemingly mundane bodily gestures and performances such as breath – and with the ways in which we are always entangled with those around us. In this chapter, we examine intimacy in a post-COVID future through the themes of proximity, breath and mediation. While intimacy is often conceptualised as occurring only between human subjects, we contribute to a more expansive understanding of intimacy that can account for the closeness and familiarity we feel with non-human objects. We argue that our social worlds are layered with familiar objects that facilitate our everyday encounters – a facemask or Zoom interface – and we argue that conceptualising intimacy must account for these entanglements.



Southerton, C. and Clark, M. (2023), "Imagining Intimacy After COVID", Ward, P.R. and Foley, K. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions for a Post-Pandemic World, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 161-176.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Clare Southerton and Marianne Clark. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited