How We Socialize Now: A Conversation with Sheila Liming

How We Socialize Now: A Conversation with Sheila Liming

AMID THE accelerated pace of our contemporary lives, did we forget how to socialize along the way, particularly in the wake of COVID-19? In her new book, Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time , Sheila Liming makes the case for putting our phones down and seeking out open-ended, in-person social interaction. The book weaves together insights from thinkers like Walter Benjamin, observations of cultural texts like the Food Network, and stories from her own experiences, like touring with a band. In the process, Liming builds an argument against our era's speed-up pace and for the renewal of social democracy. Liming has been crossing between academic and mainstream venues for the past decade, publishing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic , and The New York Review of Books , as well as scholarly journals. She's also published two other books, What a Library Means to a Woman: Edith Wharton and the Will to Collect Books ( University of Minnesota Press, 2020), and Office (Bloomsbury, 2020). She currently teaches at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. We spoke over Zoom on March 10, 2023. JEFFREY J. WILLIAMS: Your new book, Hanging Out , has been getting a good bit of attention, including a profile in The New York Times Style section. It's a kind of manifesto for socializing and also an argument against the speed-up imperative of capitalism. Can you sketch out your argument? SHEILA LIMING: My argument starts in observations time and the way it has been basically stolen from places in our lives and reappropriated to other things. I'm thinking about the expansion of the workday, and working activities in general, so that it's almost impossible to extricate ourselves from them. Then it turns into an argument about what to do when we're able to reclaim our time for ourselves. One of the concerns I have is with the growing trend towards social isolation. We end up giving in to labor more often than not when we're by ourselves, even when we are engaging in activities that are meant to bring greater […]

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