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The Promise of Touch. Rethinking the Vulnerability of Spectators
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies.
2013 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent feminist theorizing, the notions of vulnerability and precariousness have emerged as key concepts for thinking about power and agency, violence and openness, injury and transformability, ontology and epistemology, ethics and politics (e.g. Butler 2004, 2009; Brown 2005, 2006; Berlant 1997, 2011; Cavarero 2007; Braidotti 2006). While highly divergent in their historical and philosophical legacies, the different approaches to vulnerability and precariousness share an interest in vulnerability as the ontological or historical condition or quality of human body. In the fields of feminist visual theory and media studies, these conceptualizations of politics and ethics of embodiment have resulted in reconceptualizations of spectatorship as a state of vulnerability. On the hand, viewing is theorized as embodied engagement, as haptic or tactile practice or in terms of synaesthesia and multisensory experience. On the other hand, the interrelationship of viewers and images (sound-images) is being interrogated as a dialogue or interaction. These powerful ideas are most visible in the important writings by Vivian Sobchack (The Address of the Eye: The Phenomenology of Film Experience, 1992; Carnal Thoughts. Embodiment and the Moving Image Culture, 2004) and Laura U. Marks (The Skin of the Film. Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses, 2000; Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, 2002) and, more recently, by Jennifer M. Barker (The Tactile Eye. Touch and the Cinematic Experience, 2009).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Affect, emotion, embodiment, touch, feminist film theory
National Category
Studies on Film Gender Studies
Research subject
Cinema Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-99581OAI: diva2:687266
The 5th Christina Conference of Gender Studies: Feminist Thought – Politics of Concepts. University of Helsinki 23.–25.5.2013
Vulnerability: Rethinking Representation, Politics and Materialism
Swedish Research Council, 1458902
Available from: 2014-01-13 Created: 2014-01-13 Last updated: 2014-01-13

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Koivunen, Anu
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