Cyberspace and Intimacy: Maintaining Cross-Cultural Relationships at a Distance

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Wilasinee PANANAKHONSAB, Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, Thailand
This paper examines how online cross-cultural couples maintain love and intimacy at a distance. It draws on Thai women’s experiences in dealing with and negotiating the process of moving in and out of the physical co-presence of their Western partners. The study considers emotional experiences connected to the absence of loved ones through the dominant perspectives of theories of emotion constructionism. I argue that intimate relationships are not only constructed through physical interactions between the two partners, but are also stretched across space and time. Thus, in order to maintain relationships at a distance, cross-cultural partners have to enact some behavior in order to preserve a sense of being in a relationship given the discontinuity between physically co-present interactions. The ability to access to new communication technologies increases the obligation and desire for regular and frequent contact. The exchange of virtual co-presence between cross-cultural couples can create more abstractly imagined forms of love and emotional care. It enables imaginary co-presence and allows cross-cultural couples to articulate their interdependence within their everyday lives and to create a sense of togetherness when physical co-presence is absent or non-existent.