AAA 2020 Call For Papers: Precarious Connections: Exploring Social Disconnection Across the Lifecourse 

Precarious Connections: Exploring Social Disconnection Across the Lifecourse 

Social disconnection has emerged as a particular form of precarity, the logical endgame of an individualizing neoliberal trajectory exposed, in particular, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults around the world often have been disproportionately subject to this disconnection; although, we would argue, this is a phenomenon individuals face across the lifecourse. Yet, even as inertia pushes toward isolation, inherent interdependencies and the futures they make possible are revealed. In this panel, we present ethnographic research from across the life course to document sustained and novel forms of social disconnection being experienced and to draw insights about imaginaries made possible by embracing our interdependence.

Within anthropological scholarship, there has been long-standing interest in the relationship between aging and sociality (or its absence) resulting in various forms of social disconnection and isolation. Anthropologists have worked to articulate the dimensions of social disconnection by describing and distinguishing between not just loneliness, but social isolation, solitude, and marginality (Biehl, 2005; Lamb, 2008; Coleman, 2014; Mikkelson, 2016; Danely, 2019). This literature provides insightful commentary on social processes and relationships and highlights the interdependent nature of social disconnection.

This panel investigates various forms of social disconnection with the intention to highlight the fact we understand disconnection in relation to the (imagined) body politic. In doing so, we maintain that different relationships to sociality (e.g., loneliness, solitude, social distancing) are not mutually exclusive, but instead are dynamic and simultaneous. Alongside these relationships, this panel explores the affective, relational, technological, social, and political-economic dimensions of social disconnection. How do institutions construct and organize solitude and other forms of social disconnection? What kinds of work does social disconnection do for our current political economic configurations? Under which conditions do forms of social disconnection emerge, shift and/or circulate across different contexts? How is social disconnection experienced and understood across the life course? What forms of solitude(s) emerge within social relationships? In light of the spread of COVID-19, how do loneliness and solitude(s) emerge as the new form of sociality/belonging and social organization?

We are looking to add 2 additional papers to our panel, and thus, invite ethnographic submissions that consider the following topics, but are not limited to:

  • social disconnection across the life course
  • intersection of technology and social disconnection
  • encounters of loneliness, solitude and social isolation in intimate and non-intimate relations
  • navigating the healthcare system and social disconnection
  • how institutions and policies create socially-disconnected subjects
  • social disconnection as a form of sociality
  • considerations of solitude, loneliness and social distancing amidst outbreaks/epidemics/pandemics (eg Ebola, SARS, Covid19)

Interested panelists should submit their paper title, abstract (no more than 250 words), affiliation, and contact information to Fayana Richards ([email protected]) and Aaron Seaman ([email protected]) by March 30. Decisions regarding abstract submission will be circulated by April 3.