Towards a Politics of Intimacy: Rethinking the End-of-life controversy

Dissertation Project, University of Vienna, 2005–2009

“End of life” is a controversial political phenomenon worldwide. Current discussions on the care of the terminally ill and on self-chosen death challenge what was once considered to be natural. “The Politics of Intimacy” suggests a new analytic path to understand the end-of-life controversy: the analysis of acknowledgment of emotions that enter the debate on both the individual and the collective levels. Two empirical case studies – one in France and the other one in the Czech Republic – uncover a conflict between self-governing practices shaped by acknowledgment of individual’s emotions and the State. A new organization of public power seems to arise.

The project summarizes this phenomenon by using the metaphor “politics of intimacy.”
This phrase recalls Foucault’s empowerment of the self that shows that power and meaning are negotiated by means of practices that the individual adopts, rejects, or revises.
“Politics of intimacy” attributes a key role to acknowledgment of emotions in the negotiation
of meaning. The proposed analysis combines interpretive approaches with discourse linguistics and follows how the individual acquires and acknowledges meanings in a specific time and place and how these meanings assume privileged positions in a policy. The project reconstructs
the dynamics of policies through the lenses of the acknowledgment of emotions and helps
to make sense of complex policy processes, of which end-of-life policy is only one.

Results published in :

Critical Social Policy, August 2013

Results presented at:

17th–20th October 2012, Joint Meeting of the European Association of Studies in Science and Technology (EAST) and Society for Social Study of Science (4S), hosted by the University of Copenhagen, Paper giver “Politics of Intimacy: Rethinking the End-of-Life Controversy.”

30th November–1stDecember 2009, NZPSA 2009, Conference of the New Zealand Political Studies Association, hosted by the Department of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, NZ. Paper: “Towards emotion sensitive policy analysis – example of politics of intimacy”

28th October –2nd November 2009, Annual Meeting, Society for Social Study of Science, Washington, DC, USA. Paper: “Investigating Intimacy in the Social Study of Science:  Policies on Dying.”

21st – 23rd June 2009, 4th Conference on Interpretive Policy Analysis, University of Kassel, Germany: Panel Convenor & Chair: Emotions in Policy Analysis: Theory and Interpretation. Paper: “Investigating Intimacy: Research on Dying Policies”.

7th–9th , April 2009, 59th Political Studies Association Annual Conference,  University of Manchester. Panel Convenor: “Emotions as political and interpretative triggers”, Paper: “(Re)searching a political space for emotions: the case of end-of-life policies.”