Honors College Lecture to Explore the Political Side of Intimacy

Intimacy in its various forms has been at the center of political and social debates for generations.
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Intimacy in its various forms has been at the center of political and social debates for generations.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Whether it was desegregation, same-sex marriage or immigration, intimacy has been at the center of political debates for generations.

Lisa Corrigan, associate professor of communication in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss social issues that have revolved around proximity — and fear of proximity — to different kinds of bodies in the preview lecture for her fall 2020 Honors College Signature Seminar “Intimacies.”

The lecture will take place at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26).

In the mid-20th century, Brown v. Board of Education brought political intimacy to the forefront of American life. “Brown v. Board of Education tapped into American fears of close connections with bodies that aren’t like theirs,” Corrigan said.

This fear is evident in other mid-century acts, like J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretapping of civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., in hopes of implicating them in associations with communist groups.

“Instead of any communist ties, his entirely white FBI found themselves recording and commenting on black civil rights leaders’ intimate lives to manufacture political leverage against them,” Corrigan explained.

The lecture will touch on this and other topics, including why we find it so hard to talk about our feelings and how technology and the digitization of information are affecting the way we interact and communicate with the people around us.

“The digital world is changing intimacy in some ways that are profoundly positive, and some that are profoundly negative,” Corrigan said. “We’re not very good arguers; social media has contributed to the fragmentation of consensus-building.”

In this course, students will be actively “learning about our society’s failures to create a public sphere where intimacy is valued,” she said. “It’s worth examining where we’ve failed in the past, especially in a time like this, when we’re fragmented, alienated and agitated all the time.”

Corrigan, who holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland, is an associate professor of communication, director of the Gender Studies Program, and an affiliate faculty member in both African and African American studies and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Arkansas. She researches and teaches in the areas of social movement studies, the Black Power and civil rights movements, prison studies, feminist studies, the Cuban Revolution and the history of the Cold War.

Her first book, Prison Power: How Prison Politics Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation (Mississippi, 2016), is the recipient of the 2017 Diamond Anniversary Book Award and the 2017 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award, both from the National Communication Association. Her second book, titled Black Feelings: Race and Affect in the Long Sixties (Mississippi), will be available in February 2020. Her third book, tentatively titled Rhetorical Intimacies, explores black intimacies after Brown vs. Board of Education mandated desegregation.


Corrigan’s “Intimacies” is one of four Honors College Signature Seminars scheduled for fall 2020. Other topics will include:

  • Little Things That Changed the World, taught by Chaim Goodman-Strauss, professor in the Department of Mathematics
  • Bad Medicine, taught by Trish Starks, professor in the Department of History and director of the Arkansas Humanities Center
  • Animal Minds, taught by Ed Minar, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy

Deans of each college may nominate professors to participate in this program, and those who are selected to teach will become Dean’s Fellows in the Honors College.

The Honors College brings in leading scholars from other institutions to teach some of these courses, including Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, professor of music at Princeton University, who will lead a fifth Signature Seminar, Brain and Music, during the August 2020 intersession.

Honors students must apply to participate, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Scholars. The course application is posted online on the Signature Seminars web page. For most of these courses, the deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 3. Intimacies is open enrollment; there is no application required.

About the Honors College: Established in 2002, the University of Arkansas Honors College helps the university’s top undergraduate students excel academically, flourish personally and experience a world of opportunities. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $72,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad and 100 percent of them have engaged in mentored research.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Samantha Kirby, senior editor
Honors College
479-575-5848, srkirby@uark.edu


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