HomeThe gender of singlehood

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The gender of singlehood

Le genre des célibats

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Published on Wednesday, January 06, 2021


À l’automne 2021, ce colloque transdisplinaire entend renouveller l’approche des célibats. Refusant une définition en négatif de l’alliance, définition qui passe forcément à côté de toutes les nuances et complexités du célibat, ces deux journées pluridisciplinaires seront l’occasion de bâtir un outillage théorique commun. En créant le dialogue entre les disciplines, entre les périodes historiques et les aires culturelles, ce colloque souhaite montrer la pluralité des situations de célibat. Une confrontation des célibats féminins et masculins devrait également permettre de sortir des stéréotypes du vieux garçon et de la vieille fille.


With financial support of « Cité du Genre, IdEx Université de Paris, ANR-18-IDEX-0001 »


  • Organized by Juliette Eyméoud (EHESS)
  • Claire-Lise Gaillard (Paris 1, CRHXIX)


If singlehood appears implicitly in many research related to marriage or family and conjugal life, it has rarely been considered as a main topic. This conference’s goal is to put singlehood in the spotlight. To do so we must question the very definition of this word and its multiple interpretations and meanings according to academic fields, historical periods, or cultural areas.

English and American historiographies have long been interested in the subject. Singlemen and furthermore singlewomen, from medieval times to the modern era, belonging to different social classes, have been written about (Amy M. Froide, John McCurdy). In France, the first research about singlehood has been led by historians working on Women’s History, mostly linked to the 19th and 20th centuries (Arlette Farge, Cécile Dauphin). Other eras as well as the other sex have been neglected, except for priestly celibacy which has been studied from a theological point of view (Nicole Grévy-Pons) and from a social/judicial approach (Myriam Deniel-Ternant, Cindy-Sarah Dumortier).

Singlehood is caught in a set of representations forged by our Western modernity, which has made the couple the normative model. Sociologists have met singlemen/women and have testified to their loneliness, sadness, economic difficulties, and social stigmas created by their status (Pierre Bourdieu, Marie Bergström, Françoise Courtel, Géraldine Vivier).

This conference intends to build a dialogue between several academic fields, historical timelines and cultural areas in order to evaluate the multiple situations of singlehood. To take a step back from the stereotypes of the old maid and the old bachelor, it will also be necessary to conduct a study of gender differences or similarities.

Three lines of questioning

1- Defining and classifying singlehood

This first line wants to draw attention on the fact that we usually define singlehood by opposition to marital life, which is far from enough. The contributions shall study the historical building up of singlehood as a judicial, social, and literary category.

A classification could appear to show many forms of singlehood according to some variables. For example, a difference can be drawn between life-cycle and life-long singlehood (the first mostly linked to young age or special circumstances, the second due to a system).

In order to define singlehood, some contributions could study the margins of it: widowhood, prostitution, divorce, prenuptial sexuality...

2- To be single within social and family structures

The second line will question singlehood across individual pathways and within family structures. These structures must be questioned as the couple and matrimonial logics vary according to cultural areas and historical periods.

At individual height, singlehood can be undergone, suffered, or accepted and even claimed. Are there significant differences between men and women? Does singlehood impact differently on social, professional, and family life depending on gender or age? What possible strategies of internalization, reject or workaround can be set up to face the stereotypes and social stigmas?

3- Intimacy, sexuality, and emotional life of singlemen and singlewomen

This third line will study singlemen and singlewomen intimacies, their sexualities as well as their emotional lives (notably friendships or non-biological kinship as a substitute to family structures).

Medical and psychological views on singlemen/women’s bodies and minds would be greatly appreciated.

How to submit proposals

  •  A text clearly related to one of the three lines and not exceeding 800 words,
  •  A short biographical presentation (academic field, research interests, publications).

The proposal must be sent before March 1st 2021,

to: eymeoudjuliette@gmail.com claire.lise.gaillard@gmail.com

The conference will be held over two days, in Paris, in September or October 2021. Being dependent on sanitary circumstances, we are waiting to know more to fix a place and a precise date.


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Monday, March 01, 2021


  • célibat, genre, démographie, imginaire social, patrimoine, famille, réseau, sexualité, intimité


  • Claire-Lise Gaillard
    courriel : claire [dot] lise [dot] gaillard [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Juliette Eméyoud
    courriel : eymeoudjuliette [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Claire-Lise Gaillard
    courriel : claire [dot] lise [dot] gaillard [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The gender of singlehood », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, January 06, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/15o0

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