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  • The Illicit Touch : Theorising Narratives of Abused Human Skin

    Nicole Nyffenegger

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


    This contribution, on books bound in human skin and the narrative afterlives of the Auschwitz tattoos, explores the multifarious valences of touch in connection with law, norms, and normativity via skin, the largest sensory organ of the human body. In particular, it focuses on skin that bears the marks of abuse and hence testifies to a perpetrator’s boundary-transgressing touch. Such illicit touch is aimed at objectifying the victims, at marking them as inferior and subhuman. This project discusses and theorizes a variety of narratives concerned with abused skin and underlines the fluidity and changeability of marks on skin that is caused by these narratives. It does so in two parts in order to exemplify both the transgressive touch of individuals and of a regime: the first part is concerned with books bound in human skin instead of animal-derived leather, and the shared abjection in the narratives of those that engage with those books; the second part investigates the narrative appropriation of the Auschwitz tattoos by the victims of the Nazi regime’s illicit touch between World War II and today.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Nyffenegger, N. 2020. The Illicit Touch : Theorising Narratives of Abused Human Skin. In: Nirta, C et al (eds.), TOUCH. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book37.f

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Jan. 17, 2020