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Intimacies under Tension from, and In, the Arab-Muslim Worlds

Intimités sous tension dans, et depuis, les mondes arabo-musulmans

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Published on Wednesday, March 02, 2022


Since the advent of the affective turn, when the humanities and social sciences began to pay increased attention to the objectification of emotions, studies on the “intimate” have increased exponentially. As an analytical category, intimacy allows to question dominant and normative visions of the private and the public spheres, and to understand how they are reproduced, challenged, and/or transgressed. Intimacy can therefore be considered as a political process. By encouraging the exploration of new methods of field research, this issue of L’Année du Maghreb is also opening up to “alternative” forms of ethnographic restitution.



Since the advent of the affective turn, when the humanities and social sciences began to pay increased attention to the objectification of emotions, studies on the “intimate” have increased exponentially. Classically associated with the affects and the self, the private sphere, sexuality and care, and with the processes of subjectivation and abstraction from the Other (Giddens, 1992; Sennett, 1977), intimacy is shaped by social and historical dynamics which have been explored by a flourishing academic literature (Jankowiak, 2008). As an analytical category, intimacy allows to question dominant and normative visions of the private and the public spheres, and to understand how they are reproduced, challenged, and/or transgressed. Intimacy can therefore be considered as a political process. As a quality of relatedness, intimacy sheds light on the way intersubjective relations take place, but also on how space is shaped by the subjective and intersubjective construction of its boundaries.

Over the last thirty years, intimacy has also evolved into a central topic for scholars working on the Arab-Muslim worlds (Hoodfar, 1996; Joseph, 1999; Abu-Lughod, 2016). Several studies have addressed the historical, social and cultural processes of construction of intimacy through a focus on marriage, family, gender, sexuality and love. Part of their efforts has been to deconstruct the ethnocentric visions and to de-exoticize Western imaginaries towards those fields and practices[1]. Focusing on the dialectic between gender and power, family and the state, as well as on the daily strategies of negotiation and redefinition of the boundaries between licit and illicit, public and private, these studies present intimacy as a space of fulfilment, but also as a space of constraint, or even violence (Povinelli, 2006).

The political, economic, and social transformations that have rapidly and radically occurred during the last ten years in the Maghreb, the Gulf and the Middle East encourage scholars to interrogate the evolution of the relation that these societies entertain with intimacy. This volume aims at shedding new light on these transformations. The Arab revolutions, the wars in Yemen and Syria, the large migratory movements these and other events have provoked, but also the financial and economic crisis in Lebanon and the Covid-19 pandemic, have directed the attention of scholars towards the dynamics of mobilisation, coordination or resistance, and the ways they produce new forms of intimacy. Such unrest thus makes it possible to bring into light new forms of commitment, union and solidarity that emerge alongside with new social and economic needs (Mirman, 2019).

This special issue aims at expanding the reflection on intimacy as a collective and interactive process, by examining its underlying tensions and ruptures. We invite contributors to think particularly of space and time as two determining dimensions. People’s practices and trajectories that contribute to redefine intimacy over time can thus be observed, whether in or from the Arab worlds (Boris & Parreńas, 2010; Berrebi-Hoffmann & Saint-Martin, 2016; Mahdavi, 2016; Gouyon, 2018, Odasso, 2019). Although anthropological, sociological and political perspectives offer a privileged access to the making of intimacy through life experience, historians are also encouraged to contribute insofar as their work can offer important insights to the understanding of social change, in continuity or in rupture with the past of the Arab-Muslim societies. While being open to other themes, the proposals can be included in three main axes:

Territories of intimacy and (in)visibility

Pluri-territorial migrations, temporary and long-term resettlements induced by wars, the crackdown of authoritarian regimes or the economic crises share an original condition of rupture. Think, for example, about the forced movements of Syrians since the war outbreak. Their settlement, thought to be temporary, on the Turkish-Syrian border or in Lebanon, has become a lasting permanence in off spaces of waiting where their desire for elsewhere is mixed with the dream of return, and is confronted with the social and economic tensions of these new inhabited territories (Agier, 2002; Doraï & Puig, 2012; Schielke, 2020; Biner & Biner, 2021). Such situations drive people to draw new trajectories of “reconstruction” throughout space and time, as well as throughout “virtual mobilities”, and specific forms of presence/absence, as the counterpart to certain material constraints (Chachoua & De Gourcy, 2018). We suggest addressing these phenomena through the prism of the “territorialization” process generated by these trajectories, with a focus on intimacy. To use Nicolas Puig’s words, how does “a space”, whether on the scale of a city, a camp, a house, or even an online discussion, “become intimate” (Puig, 2012)? This axis intends to focus on the dialectic between mobility and intimacy in order to explore the dynamics which underline the multiple passages between “familiar” and “unfamiliar” territories, and vice versa.

The authors are invited to address these issues by thinking of the reconfiguration of intersubjective, friendships, family, amorous or community-related relationships in situations of mobility. If solitude can be a common condition to the experiences of mobility, it also generates new forms of sharing and pooling, which can be facilitated for instance by the use of digital tools. How is the intimate produced by images, sounds, or by other types of online and offline expressions ? How can these forms of expression induce voluntary or involuntary processes of visibilisation (intimacy then becoming “extimacy”), of appropriation of the space and/or new forms of control ?

Spaces and domestic intimacies

The recent Covid-19 pandemic has propelled the domestic space at the core of public debates. The household has received new media attention and has brought gender, race, class, and generational relations back into focus. Even if some reflections were initiated by researchers conducting surveys at the time of the pandemic, little systematic research has been conducted in the Arab-Muslim worlds. One of the avenues opened up by the pandemic condition lies, in our sense, in an exploration of intersubjective and intergenerational relations, and the way they (re)define the domestic space in continuity or in rupture with the pre-pandemic domestic dynamics.

We encourage contributions to address, among other things, issues such as concubinage, non-formalised romantic relationships, daily interactions within the household, grandparents and grandchildren’s relationships, as well as relationships of domesticity, subalternity, and care, etc. (Meneley, 1996; Jansen, 1997; Ghannam, 2002; Breteau, 2019). In the context of forced proximity and distance induced by the pandemic and lockdowns, the domestic sphere re-emerges as the theatre of gender relations, models of femininity and masculinity, but also of violence and tensions that push to re-interrogate the relationship to what is “known”, but also to disease, life and death. What impact do these aspects have on the structuring of family, friendship and neighborhood relationships? How do they participate in the processes of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of intimacy? Focusing on the domestic space is not narrowing the gaze on a supposedly intimate object. More than a spatial and temporal boundary, the household can serve as an analytical tool to shed light on the dialectic between public and private. It also enables reflection on intimate interactions that remain under-explored in comparison to researches on the institutional and normative aspects of marriage and family in the Arab-Muslim worlds.

Fieldwork relations and reflexivity

Of a methodological order, the third axis concerns fieldwork relationships, and more precisely the reflexive aspects which emerge from researching on affects and intimacy, as well as from the construction of the researcher’s trust and legitimacy. Anthropologists and sociologists have long attributed an almost anti-ethnographic character to intimacy, especially in Arab-Muslim societies, to the point of focusing on its sacredness and the importance of its inviolability (Dresch, 2000). As a result, having access to intimacy has been considered as a sign of ultimate trust and of the researcher’s acceptance by the informants (Armanet, 2011; Caratini, 2012).  The researcher’s representations influence undoubtedly his/her access to the field of intimacy. Albeit treated as subsidiary data for the research, these representations can nonetheless be the object of a methodological reflection about the sharing of experiences, especially at a time when the very conditions of access to the field are undergoing a deceleration and important impediments (conflicts, pandemic, police states, etc.).

As much as ethnographic fieldwork, intimacy is relational. We can therefore ask what enables researchers to get access to intimacy in the multiple contexts of the Arab-Muslim worlds. In what way does s·he participate in certain forms of intimacy? The trust-building process which takes place between informants and researchers leads them to develop reciprocal comfort zones which are revealed by field experience itself. The contributors who wish to question this aspect are invited to examine how fieldwork can produce specific intimate “space-times”. They are invited, for example, to focus on the methodological strengths of multi-site research, or online fieldwork. As fragmented fieldworks are increasing due to people’s condition of migration and mobility, sharing it and creating a certain degree of intimacy can become crucial. These situations can also be problematic as they potentially affect the researcher’s legitimacy and his/her scientific approach. By limiting people’s movements, an event such as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an explosion of webnography. This axis therefore invites contributors to examine the conditions of access and collect of data issued from the web, and to think of how confidentiality can potentially impact field relationships.

By encouraging the exploration of new methods of field research, this issue is also opening up to “alternative” forms of ethnographic restitution. Writing is but one of many ways of giving back others’ words and offering an insight into the complexity of lived experience. Other formats than the article, such as comic strips, drawings or videos, will therefore be welcomed to enrich this issue, and could be the occasion of reflexive discussions. Intimacy gains in fact to be treated by mediums that help, by their specific vocations, to seize its allusive, evocative or unutterable aspects.

Submission guidelines

  • 350-to-500-words abstracts in French or English, including bibliographical references and a short biography must be sent no later than April 1st 2022 on this link
  • The coordinators will provide an answer by April 30th 2022, and full articles, written by following the journal’s publishing norms, must be sent before November 1st 2022
  • Reviewers’ assessments will be forward to contributors in February 2023.
  • This special issue of L’Année du Maghreb is scheduled for June 2023

Selection committee L’Année du Maghreb

Appel à contributions pour L'Année du Maghreb Dossier de recherche n°29|2023, vol. I

Intimacies under Tension, From and In the Arab-Muslim Worlds

  • Marion Breteau (anthropologue, American University of Kuwait – CEFREPA Koweït)
  • Michela De Giacometti (anthropologue, Iris – EHESS)
  • Laura Odasso (sociologue, Collège de France, ICM, MESOPOLHIS)

Rédactrice en chef du dossier : Perrine Lachenal,  anthropologue, CNRS, Centre Norbert Élias

  • Céline Lesourd, anthropologue, CNRS, Centre Norbert Élias, co-directrice de publication
  • Loïc Le Pape, politiste, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, CESSP, co-directeur de publication
  • Aurélia Dusserre, historienne, AMU, IREMAM, trésorière
  • Éric Gobe, politiste, CNRS, IREMAM, rédacteur en chef adjoint (chroniques)
  • Nessim Znaien, historien, AMU, IREMAM, rédacteur en chef adjoint (varia)
  • Marc André, historien, Université de Rouen, GRHis
  • Sophie Bava, socio- anthropologue, IRD, AMU, LPED
  • Saïd Belguidoum, sociologue, AMU, IREMAM
  • Katia Boissevain, anthropologue, CNRS, IRMC
  • Myriam Catusse, politiste, CNRS, IFPO
  • Mathilde Cazeaux, historienne, Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès, PLH
  • Meriam Cheikh, anthropologue, INALCO, CESSMA
  • Thierry Desrues, sociologue, IESA/CSIC, Cordoue
  • Karima Dirèche, historienne, CNRS, TELEMMe
  • Louisa Dris Aït-Hamadouche, politiste, Faculté des sciences politiques et de l’information, Alger 3
  • François Dumasy, historien, IEP, CHERPA
  • Camille Evrard, historienne, IMAF
  • Vincent Geisser, politiste, CNRS, IREMAM
  • Marta Gonzalez Garcia De Paredes, relations internationales, Université Loyola Andalucía, Seville
  • Isabelle Grangaud, historienne, CNRS, Centre Norbert Élias
  • Didier Guignard, historien, CNRS, IREMAM
  • Richard Jacquemond, linguiste, AMU, IREMAM
  • Chiara Loschi, politiste, Université de Bologne, CITERES-EMAM
  • Alain Messaoudi, historien, Université de Nantes, CRHIA
  • Chiara Pagano, politiste, Université de Bologne, Wits Institute, Univ. de Witwatersrand
  • Antoine Perrier, historien, CNRS, IREMAM
  • Erin Pettigrew, historienne, NYU, Abu Dhabi
  • Florence Renucci, juriste, CNRS, IMAF
  • Farida Souiah, politiste, Emlyon Business School, OCE
  • Beatriz Tomé-Alonso, relations internationales, Université Nationale d’Education à Distance (UNED). 


Abu-lughod Lila, 2009 [1986], Sentiments voilés, Paris, Le Seuil.

Agier Michel, 2002, « Between War and City: Towards an Urban Anthropology of Refugee Camps », Ethnography, n° 3, p. 317-341.

Armanet Eléonore, 2011, Le ferment et la grâce. Une ethnographie du sacré chez les Druzes d’Israël, Toulouse, Presses Universitaires du Mirail.

Assaf Laure, 2013, « La corniche d’Abu Dhabi : espace public et intimités à ciel ouvert », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], n° 2. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/2625  

Berrebi-Hoffmann Isabelle et Saint-Martin Arnaud (dir.), 2016, « Dynamiques de l’intime », Socio, n° 7, Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.

Biner Özge et Biner Zerrin Özlem, 2021, « Syrian Refugees and the Politics of Waiting in a Turkish Border Town », Journal of Social Anthropology, n° 29 (3), p. 831-846.

Boris Eileen et Parreñas Rhacel S. (dir.), 2010, Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care, Stanford, Stanford University Press. 

Breteau Marion, 2019, Amours à Mascate. Espaces, rôles de genre et représentations intimes chez les jeunes (sultanat d’Oman), thèse de doctorat en anthropologie sociale et culturelle, Aix-Marseille Université.

Caratini Sophie, 2012, Les non-dits de l’anthropologie, suivi de Dialogue avec Maurice Godelier, Vincennes, Thierry Marchaisse.

Chachoua Kamel et De Gourçy Constance (éds.), 2018, « Mobilités et migrations en Méditerranée : vers une anthropologie de l’absence ? », REMMM, n° 144.

Cheikh Mériam, 2020, Les filles qui sortent. Jeunesse, sexualité et prostitution au Maroc, Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles.

Clough Patricia T. et Halley Jean (dir.), 2007, The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Durham, Duke University Press.

Constable Nicole, 2007, « Love at First Site? Visual Images and Virtual Encounters with Bodies », in Padilla Mark B. et Hirsch Jennifer S., et al. (dir.), Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World, Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, p. 252-269. 

Costa Elisabetta et Menin Laura (éd.), 2016, « Digital Intimacies: Exploring Digital Media and Intimate Lives in the Middle East and North Africa », Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, n°9 (2).

Doraï Kamel, Puig Nicolas, 2012, L’urbanité des marges. Migrants et réfugiés dans les villes du Proche-Orient, Paris, Téraèdre.

Dresch Paul, 2000, « Wilderness of Mirrors: Truth and Vulnerability in Middle-Eastern Fieldwork », in Dresch  Paul, James Wendy et Parkin  David (dir.), Anthropologists in a Wider World: Essays in Field Research, New York, Oxford, Berghahn, p. 109-127.

Filaire Anne-Marie, 2013, « “Une chambre à soi”. Des jeunes en quête d’intimité », in Bonnefoy Laurent et Catusse Myriam (dir.), Jeunesses arabes. Du Maroc au Yémen : loisirs, cultures et politiques, Paris, La Découverte, « Cahiers libres », p. 207-210.

Fortier Corinne, Kreil Aymon et Maffi Irene (dir.), 2018, Reinventing Love ? Gender, Intimacy and Romance in the Arab World, Berne, Peter Lang.

Francez Émilie, 2017, Politiques et représentations du hammam à Marseille : anthropologie d’un espace-frontière, Thèse de doctorat en anthropologie sociale et culturelle, Aix-Marseille Université.

Hoodfar Homa, 1996, Between Marriage and the Market: Intimate Politics and Survival in Cairo, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Ghannam Farah, 2002, Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Londres, University of California Press.

Giddens Anthony, 1992, The Transformation of Intimacy. Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Standford, Standford University Press.

Gouyon Marien, 2018, « Circuler pour aimer, aimer pour circuler. Le “travail émotionnel” de l’amour entre hommes comme ressource migratoire vers la France et Dubaï », Migrations Société, vol. 173, n° 3, p. 65-78.

Jankoviak William R. (dir.), 2008, Intimacies, Love and Sex across Cultures, New York, Columbia University Press. 

Jansen William, 1997, Women without Men: Gender and Marginality in an Algerian Town, Leiden, E. J. Brill.

Joseph Suad, 1999, Intimate Selving in Arab Families: Gender, Self and Identity, Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Press. 

Lemeilleur Sandra, 2016, L’expressivité de l’intime sur les dispositifs du web : processus de la subjectivité et machinations contemporaines, Thèse de doctorat, Université Michel de Montaigne — Bordeaux III.

Le Renard Amélie, 2019, Le privilège occidental. Travail, intimité et hiérarchies postcoloniales à Dubaï, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po.

Mahdavi Pardis, 2016, Crossing the Gulf: Love and Family in Migrant Lives, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Massad Joseph, 2007, Desiring Arabs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Meneley Anne, 1996, Tournaments of Value: Sociability and Hierarchy in a Yemeni Town, Toronto, Buffalo, Londres, University of Toronto Press.

Mirman Yves, 2019, Des engagements à l’épreuve du temps. La cause des disparus au Liban (2011-2018), Thèse de doctorat, Aix-Marseille Université. 

Navaro-Yashin Yael, 2009, « Affective Spaces, Melancholic Objects: Ruination and The Production of Anthropological Knowledge », Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, n° 15 (1), p. 1-18. 

Odasso Laura, 2019, « Les implications du dispositif d’immigration : pratiques de définitions et de redéfinitions publiques et privées des intimités binationales en France et en Belgique », Enfances Familles Générations [En ligne], n° 34. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/efg/9714

Perdigon Sylvain, 2008, « La corniche des célibataires. L’intimité à l’épreuve du transnationalisme chez les jeunes Palestiniens de Jal al-Baher, Liban-Sud », in Drieskens Barbara (dir.), Les métamorphoses du mariage au Moyen-Orient, Beyrouth, Presses de l’Institut français du Proche-Orient (« Cahiers de l’Ifpo »), p. 33-46. 

Povinelli Elizabeth A., 2006, The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality, Durham, Duke University Press.

Puig Nicolas, 2012, « Villes intimes. Expériences des réfugiés palestiniens au Liban », in Puig Nicolas et Doraï Kamel (dir.), L’urbanité des marges : migrants et réfugiés dans les villes du Proche-Orient, Paris, Théraèdre, p. 235-256.

Roux, Sébastien, 2016, « Affects », in Rennes Juliette (dir.), Encyclopédie critique du genre, Paris, La Découverte, p. 33-41.

Schielke Samuli, 2020, Migrant Dreams. Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States, American University of Cairo Press.

Sennett Richard, 1995 [1977], Les tyrannies de l’intimité, Paris, Seuil.

Tissot Sylvie (dir.), 2014, « Les espaces de l’entre-soi », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 2, 204, p. 4-9.


[1] The hammam, in this regard, is one but of many examples – Francez, 2017.


  • Aix-en-Provence, France (13)


  • Friday, April 01, 2022


  • intimité, monde arabo-musulman


  • Laura Odasso
    courriel : laura [dot] odasso [at] college-de-france [dot] fr
  • Marion Breteau
    courriel : marionbreteau [at] hotmail [dot] fr
  • Michela De Giacometti
    courriel : degiacomettimichela [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Sabine Partouche
    courriel : sabine [dot] partouche [at] uni-amu [dot] fr


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

To cite this announcement

« Intimacies under Tension from, and In, the Arab-Muslim Worlds », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, March 02, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/18cq

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