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  • Not at a Distance : On Touch, Synaesthesia and Other Ways of Knowing

    Erin Manning

    Chapter from the book: Nirta, C et al. 2020. TOUCH.


    Feeling-with the world might be the best definition of synaesthesia. To feel-with is to be incapable of drawing firm boundaries between sensation, experience and world. Bodies don’t lose their limits as ‘loss of sense of agency,’ a pet concept in neuroscience and experimental psychology, would suggest. Bodies continuously trouble the edgings into experience of their body-worlding, making apparent that there never was a firm boundary that separated body and world. These are the assumptions that come with the deficit model that drives neurotypicality: that a body is an enclosure; that the world is at arm’s length from the body; that certain bodies have more value than others (white bodies, able bodies); that there is a baseline of sensation that is ‘normal’; that there are five senses that can be delineated from one another; that life without any of those senses is a truncated life. Taking as the point of departure deafblind poet John Lee Clark’s proposition that ‘a thousand other things sing to me’ and putting Clark’s writings into conversation with those of autistic poet Tito Mukhopadhyay, this chapter explores the politics of sense as it plays out in neuroscientic accounts of synaesthesia, ending on Clark’s concept of ‘distantism’ and the emerging practice of ProTactile, a communicative/cultural proposition that refutes the distantism at the heart of accounts of body-world separation.

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    Manning, E. 2020. Not at a Distance : On Touch, Synaesthesia and Other Ways of Knowing. In: Nirta, C et al (eds.), TOUCH. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book37.e

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    Published on Jan. 17, 2020