Title

Mindful Skin: Disability and the Ethics of Touch in Life Writing

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2016

Keywords

Disability studies, skin, Buddhism, mindfulness, touch, phenomenological theories of disability, embodiment, relationality, moral agency, mind-body theory

Abstract

This essay theorises skin as a potential meeting point of Buddhist mindfulness, disability activism, and an ethics of care. The phenomenological turn in disability studies has redirected attention from social conditions to the materiality of the body, restoring discussions of pain, sexuality, and caregiving to disability praxis. Yet metaphors of health continue to suffuse philosophical work on moral agency and touch, and explanations of mindfulness tend similarly to assume a non-disabled physicality in their discussions of mind-body interaction. At the same time, little of the work on touch in the context of disability and pain focuses on the precise moment of contact between subjects. How, then, do we think and write about the symbolic import, and the psychotherapeutic value, of skin touching skin? Mindfulness practice begins with the belief that skin mediates between bodily and emotional states. If we take seriously the kind of skin-to-skin connection that might occur in instances where someone is in pain or has a disability, we might arrive at a more nuanced and sustainable notion of embodiment as the site of emotion, intelligence, and change. This in turn might foster ways of understanding ourselves as interdependent and corporeal beings, introducing the intensities and transformative potential of physical touch to the ways in which we conceptualise subjectivity.

Published In

Life Writing

Volume

13

Issue

1

Pages

47-62

DOI

10.1080/14484528.2016.1132916

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