An introductory Q&A with the Illuminating Friendship network.

Q: How did the Illuminating Friendship network come about? 

There is currently increasing interest in the topic of friendship across the humanities and social sciences, especially in philosophy. In anthropology, friendship has long been in the background: ethnographic methodology relies on friendships, so there’s plenty of reflection on individual experiences of it, but surprisingly less focus on it as a concept. The pandemic, with its extended periods of social distancing, has also refocused us on what it means to be connected (you can see this in some media coverage, like this series of op-eds); this was preceded by the rise of social media as space for connection, which we are still trying to understand. Friendship is everywhere, and yet there is little consensus on what we mean by that term. We both felt that to truly understand friendship we needed to approach it from more than one perspective, hence the idea of an interdisciplinary network. In this research network, we will explore the different ways friendship is understood and inhabited, drawing on a diverse range of disciplines and perspectives, including literature, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, gender studies, and theology. We have tried to assemble a genuinely interdisciplinary lineup of speakers and are eager to include more perspectives. We would be delighted to hear from people working on friendship from different corners of academia, at Cambridge or elsewhere.

Q: By definition, a CRASSH research network has an interdisciplinary question at its core. What is yours? 

What is friendship, and what is its moral, political, and social significance? Is there enough agreement on what friendship means to develop a working definition?

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about this year’s convenors, speakers and attendees and the perspectives they bring to the discussion?  

In Michaelmas term we will welcome psychologist Mahzad Hojjat on 10 October to open the series. Evolutionary anthropologist Dan Hruschka will speak on 24 October, followed by philosopher Cathy Mason on 7 November and classicist Frisbee Sheffield on 21 November.

In Lent and Easter, we will have contributions from anthropologists and scholars of religion, further expanding our disciplinary reach.

Q: What can we expect from Illuminating Friendship in 2022/23?

You can expect scholarship from several disciplines, and different historical and geographical periods. We hope to present a wide range of perspectives.

Q: How can people learn more about your network? 

You can find out more on our network page, and you can follow us on Twitter. We welcome everyone to our network meetings. We meet alternative weeks during term time on Mondays from 12:00-14:00. Join via Zoom or in person at the Faculty of Divinity (Sidgwick Site), Seminar Room 6. Write to Susan to join our mailing list and receive notifications of upcoming talks.

  • Written by Susan MacDougall and Lucy McDonald.



Tel: +44 1223 766886