Conceiving contemporary society as increasingly impersonal, we seek to compensate by transposing the language and conventions of intimacy into an increasing array of personal and social spheres of interaction . Intimacy not only becomes a challenge to traditional boundaries of what is considered private or public but also serves as an indicator of the changing and fluid notions of individual and collective, self and other. Intimacy is commonly seen as a practice in the private sphere or as something pertaining to the self, but we have not yet explored the cultural and ethical consequences of its migration into the public sphere, or its potential as a category that help us think about social phenomena.
This project proposes to explore the cultural and ethical status of intimacy in the contemporary setting of Québec. This will be done through a cultural and sociological study of intimacy in contemporary Québec society and the history of the idea of intimacy. This will allow a critical engagement with the concept of intimacy as an ethical problem. This investigation will be set against the empirical backdrop of Québec's recent and controversial Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural differences (CCAPRCD), also known as the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. Many commentaries have emerged focusing on the Commission's engagement with questions of race, language, cultural pluralism, religion and secularism. My dissertation will argue that alongside-and perhaps even underlying-these issues, the Commission's proceedings suggest a profound and widespread anxiety surrounding the question of intimacy in contemporary Québec society. I will treat the Bouchard-Taylor Commission as a site in which the contemporary politics of intimacy became public, and as a platform for exploring the philosophical and ethical dimensions of this project.
The Graduate Research Fellowship for Continuing Doctoral Students helped me complete: 1) the historical and cultural context for the eruption of the problem of intimacy in Québec in the events surrounding the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (chapter 2); and 2) a discourse analysis of the popular discourses during and after the Commission (chapter 3).
The second chapter begins with a general sociological account of the rise of Modernity in the West and the development of the modern self/individual which contribute to frame the cultural context in which intimacy becomes a problem. The chapter continues with a focus on the cultural and political history of Québec. This section highlights the collective experiences in Québec that set the stage for the events that precipitated and followed the establishment of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission: the emergence from the hegemony of the Church; the historical and contemporary experience of domination and disadvantage at the hands of English Canada; the modernization of the Québec provincial state and political culture; Québec's struggle to control immigration; and Québec's experience with multiculturalism and ethnocultural diversity.
The third chapter is divided in four main sections: the context of emergence of the Commission; the creation and organization of it; the popular discourses; and some considerations about the final report. The grant helped me sketch the three first sections of it and do most of the discourse analysis reviewing political parties, the press, and groups and individuals which participated to the discursive imaginary surrounding the Commisssion. This section focuses on dimensions that are symptomatic of a deeper anxiety concerning a range of dynamics that can be gathered under the umbrella of intimacy: self-disclosure; the relationship between public and private; authenticity; recognition; emotion; the individual and community; difference; care and responsibility; communication; the body; and vulnerability.