There has been an unprecedented interest in the subject of loneliness over the past decade, an interest that has been intensified by the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. As collective states of isolation have led everyone to experience states of loneliness, and exacerbated the conditions of the lonely, questions have arisen about how to talk about this difficult emotional state, the social and labour forces that exacerbate it and the public and cultural resources that might help counteract it. Loneliness, ‘as Fay Bound Alberti argues, is an extraordinary contemporary phenomenon that is also ‘one of the most neglected aspects of emotions history’. The history of emotions can be hard to trace archivally and the history of loneliness – unlike the history of solitude – is often seen as a shameful state: a state that reveals the failure of social structures is often experienced as an individual failure. It is also intimately related to how we think not only of public forces, social structures and welfare, but also about gendered, sexual and racial communities – about who belongs in the community of the nation state.
Structures of living, working and relating that were emergency measures of isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic have increasingly been adopted as permanent forms of distanced contact and communication. How might we think and navigate the challenges that these distancing technologies pose? What technologies might mitigate loneliness and what technologies might exacerbate it? What is the role of culture in the production of loneliness? And to what archives do we turn to write a history of loneliness? This special issue aims to draw together exciting new ways of thinking about this subject – as it relates to technological, national and cultural structures. How do we distinguish between collective and individual experiences of loneliness? And what is the relationship between gender, loneliness and contemporary politics? What contributions can cultural theory, history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, political theory, media studies, and the wider critical and social sciences make to our understanding of this emotional state, and its possible remediation? In answering these questions, the issue seeks to address what social structures and political forms are most responsive to the central place that loneliness occupies in contemporary life.
For this special issue of the journal we invite contributions addressing this question from any perspective.
Possible topics might include but are not limited to:
- Technology, loneliness and living with new digital forms
- Loneliness and the history of labour
- Economic and social precarity and loneliness
- The representation of loneliness in contemporary politics
- The gendered structures of loneliness
- Loneliness and migration
- Loneliness and race
- Trauma and loneliness
- New sexual communities and technologies of communication
- Geographies, spaces and architectures of loneliness
- Social projects directed towards mitigating the effects of loneliness
- Responses to loneliness in the Covid-19 pandemic
- The distinction between loneliness, solitude and isolation
- Queering loneliness and forms of isolation in LGBTQ communities
- The medicalisation and pathologisation of loneliness
We invite proposals in the form of a title, 300 word abstract and biographical note. The deadline for submission of proposals is May 10th Proposals will be selected by the end of May, and the deadline for the delivery of full articles (7,000-9,000 words) will be November 30th 2022. Please entitle the email subject as “Abstract Submission: New Formations Special Issue on Loneliness.”
Please submit proposals to Jess Cotton (CottonJ1@cardiff.ac.uk)
For more information on New Formations, including the journal’s style guide, can be found at https://journals.lwbooks.co.uk/newformations/page/submissions-guidelines/
 Fay Bound Alberti, ‘This “Modern Epidemic”: Loneliness as an Emotional Cluster and a Neglected Subject in the History of the Emotions’, Emotion Review 10.3 (2018), 242-254.