Feminist Theory 23 (1):23-38 (2022)

Loneliness is often described as a deadly epidemic sweeping across the population, a silent killer. Loneliness, we are told, is a social disease that must be cured. But what does it mean to think of loneliness as a feminist issue, and what might a specifically feminist theorisation bring to conceptualisations of loneliness? In this paper, I argue that feminism helps us see that loneliness is not just personal but political. I trace how stories of loneliness surface, circulate, shift and compound within the specificity of the present, centring on recent strategies proposed by the UK government in their ‘national mission to end loneliness’. I outline how this policy discourse upholds certain normative attachments as having the promise to alleviate loneliness: coupled love, the family, community. Such framings serve to depoliticise contemporary conditions of loneliness, positioning loneliness as a personal failure, with the cure for loneliness as the responsibility of individuals and communities. Absent in government depictions of the problem of loneliness are the wider mechanisms that condemn people to lonely lives, when infrastructures fail, when people find themselves violently cut off from the world. Finally, I speculate on what might happen if we were to challenge this framing of loneliness as always and only a problem in need of a cure. I seek to uncover some of the political potentials of loneliness, asking what can be learnt through reflecting upon shared experiences of loneliness? For, as feminist politics has shown us, feelings of disaffection and alienation can help us imagine other worlds.
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DOI 10.1177/14647001211062739
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The Promise of Happiness.Sara Ahmed - 2010 - Duke University Press.

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