What is the relationship between naming and touching? This symposium explores the haptic effects of names as well as the attempt to name haptic experience through the lens of anthropology, performance studies, philosophy, and psychoanalysis.
The experience of language, specifically of names, shapes subjectivity by impacting one’s relationship to one’s body and the bodies of others. Designators indexing race, class, gender, religion, and status configure haptic relations. How do given names affect the ways one is touched from infancy onwards? How are other names received throughout one’s life — such as nicknames, slurs, or praises — inscribed upon the skin? How do these names open up or constrain the kinds of haptic experiences one can have with other subjects or collectives?
Naming touch can bring visibility to different kinds of haptic experiences, presumably allowing for greater protection, knowledge, communication, and heightened sensations and emotions. Yet naming touch can also stigmatize, normalize, and suppress haptic desires and experiences. What is the effect of naming touch? Are there kinds of touch that evade being named, such as those related to violence, trauma, or intense pleasure? What does the attempt to translate these haptic experiences do to language itself?
Maria José de Abreu