About

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship
– William Blake

Friendship is at once ubiquitous and shadowed: human lives are full of the relations that might be called friendship, and all of these relations fall short of what such an ideal might be. Philosophical approaches encourage us to see friendship as a moral accomplishment that we can perform successfully, or not. Literature, on the other hand, drags us through the depths of friendship’s contradictions and disappointments. The wild success of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels—the first volume was titled in English, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ —suggests that there is something resonant in the shadow side of these relations. Evolutionary biology casts its view backwards to ask about ‘cooperation’ and social network theory posits we view our relations as ‘connections’. An emerging ‘critical friendship studies’ in social science tells us that our contemporary relations are fraught and dissatisfying, and anthropology and sociology show us how many uses human beings have made of the ambiguous, idealised, and even mystical quality of friendship. In this research network, we will explore the different ways friendship is understood and inhabited, drawing on a diverse range of disciplines and perspectives, and consider the potential moral, political, and social upshots of different ways of theorising this important phenomenon.

This network will consist of regular fortnightly lectures, offered over Zoom and in person, from speakers based in and out of Cambridge exploring different understandings and embodiments of friendship.

Join our mailing list via the related links on this page and receive notifications of upcoming talks.

For enquiries contact Networks Programme Manager.

Convenors

Convenors

  • Susan MacDougall is a British Academy Fellow in Social Anthropology (Cambridge) working on everyday ethics, gender, and friendship. Her doctoral work focused on affects and judgement in women’s friendships in Amman, Jordan. Her current research explores the growing field of leadership development. Max Planck – Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change. Contact Susan MacDougall.
  • Lucy McDonald is a Junior Research Fellow in philosophy at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. Lucy works in philosophy of language, ethics, and feminist philosophy. Lucy is currently interested in the philosophy of intimacy, as well as in the role language plays in various social relationships. Contact Lucy McDonald.

Faculty advisors

  • Frisbee Sheffield (University Lecturer, Classics, Cambridge)
  • Iza Kavedzija (Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Cambridge)

Programme 2022 - 2023

Michaelmas Term 2022

Illuminating Friendship
When do we forgive a friend?
10 Oct 2022 12:00 - 14:00, Boardroom, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Mahzad Hojjat (UMass Dartmouth)

The measure of friendship: cross-cultural perspectives
24 Oct 2022 12:00 - 14:00, Boardroom, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Daniel Hruschka (Arizona State University)

Friendship and equality
7 Nov 2022 12:00 - 14:00, Postgraduate Common Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Cathy Mason (Central European University)

Plato, friendship, and the ethics of care
21 Nov 2022 12:00 - 14:00, Online & Postgraduate Common Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Frisbee Sheffield (Cambridge)

Lent term 2023

Illuminating Friendship
Illuminating friendship 1
23 Jan 2023 12:00 - 14:00, Boardroom, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

James Warren (University of Cambridge)

Illuminating friendship 2
6 Feb 2023 12:00 - 14:00, Boardroom, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Rebecca Graber (University of Brighton)

Corporate friendship in the English Reformation
20 Feb 2023 12:00 - 14:00, Graduate Common room, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Constance Furey (Indiana)

Illuminating friendship 4
6 Mar 2023 12:00 - 14:00, Boardroom, Faculty of Philosophy, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Shilpa Phadke and Nithila Kanagasabai (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)

 

CENTRE FOR RESEARCH IN THE ARTS, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES

Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk