The Touching, Feeling, Flourishing Body: Historical and Contemporary Approaches to Touch

Date: 24 September 2010
Time: 4:00 - 5:30pm
Venue: Room 150, Main Building, The University of Hong Kong

The Touching, Feeling, Flourishing Body: Historical and Contemporary Approaches to Touch by Dr Mark Paterson (School of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter )

seminar poster What could loosely be characterized as a ‘return to the senses’ has been taking place in recent years within the social sciences, cultural history and philosophy. Following Robert Jütte (2005), David Howes (2005) and others, a shift within the public sphere concerning attitudes to the body and sensation within late capitalism can also be identified, one that validates experience, pleasure and sensation in ever more novel and unusual ways.  Both historically and philosophically, however, the place of touch remains problematic.

In this talk I wish to explore this ambiguous status of touch and touching in two interconnected ways. Firstly, identifying the treatment of touch and tactility historically within European thought, noting some long-running philosophical and physiological assumptions about touch from Aristotle onwards. And secondly, highlighting some novel approaches to bodily sensations, especially through empirical case studies, identifying new ways to characterize and represent such experience within the social sciences. The intention is to bridge some prior historical conceptualizations of touching within European thought with contemporary social scientific approaches to touch, tactility and bodily experience.

About the speaker:
Mark Paterson is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Exeter. Between 2002 and 2006 he was Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England (UWE). After Consumption and Everyday Life (Routledge, 2005), he wrote The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (Berg, 2007) in Sydney, Australia, with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). He has published journal articles in philosophy and social science journals and is involved in research projects on robot skin and the haptic modelling of prehistoric textiles. Currently he is writing Seeing with the Hands: A Philosophical History of Blindness for Reaktion and co-editing Touching Place, Spacing Touch for Ashgate.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Barbara Dalle Pezze.