The Tacit Dimension of Touch: Tactile Recognition, Tangibility and Self-touch in Kurt Goldstein’s Studies on Agnosia

Body and Society 28 (1-2):91-120 (2022)
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In his experimental studies on tactile recognition, the German neurologist Kurt Goldstein observes a peculiar ‘twitching movement’ of the body in neurologically impaired patients suffering from mind-blindness. Drawing on Goldstein’s interpretation of these bodily movements as kinaesthetic reactions, the present article advances a symmetrical conception of tactility that relocates the bipolarity of the sense of touch within the human body. In line with this symmetrical approach, the kinaesthetic reactions will be construed as tactile self-activation or self-touch of the body and conceptualized, following Michael Polanyi’s epistemological notion, as the ‘tacit dimension of touch’. Combining neuropathological aspects with a media theoretical and epistemological trajectory, this article aims at re-evaluating the centrality of the registers of the sense of touch as the fundamental ground for grasping the world in its concrete encounters as well as in its symbolic abstractions.



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