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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


Skin, Touching, Skin: Disability, Touch, and Radical Interdependence

Skin, Touching, Skin: Disability, Touch, and Radical Interdependence

Christina Crosby • Wesleyan University

November 19 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

What can we learn from thinking about bodies imperfect and undone? In the field of disability studies, bodies are distinguished by “brilliant imperfections” (Eli Clare)that wrongly lead to social disablement and exclusion from public life, injuring those so disabled and impoverishing our understanding of human being. Many disabled people living with significant impairments need daily help with basic functions, as I do. Perhaps the touch of care that so many bodies require can recall us to the radical interdependence of us all. Touching makes for universality—no person can live through infancy without it—and touching is a connection across the spaces between irreducibly singular human beings. In this sense, touching is both a ground of universal interdependence and an act that confirms the inadequacy of any idea of universal human “being.” I consider these matters by thinking first about the complexities of skin as both organ and idea, then turn to the unsettling excitations of sexual touch. I close by briefly thinking about how Maggie Nelson's decidedly queer artistic practice demonstrates the complexities of embodied life at the limits of analytic understanding.

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