Spatialities of Skin: The Chafing of Skin, Ego and Second Skins in T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Body and Society 17 (4):57-81 (2011)
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Abstract

This article explores the relationship between skin, ego and second skins. It does so conceptually by re-examining Freud’s suggestion, in The Ego and the Id, that the ego is first and foremost a bodily entity, while also being a projection of a surface. Drawing upon Anzieu, a dynamic model of inter-weaving surfaces can be seen to underpin an understanding of the ego — and skin ego. This model is fundamentally spatialized. Even so, an appreciation of the spatialities of skin and ego can be developed further. To illuminate these spatialities, this article examines two key experiences of T.E. Lawrence during his military service in Arabia, as he describes them in his autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In a meeting with British military police, and in the notorious Deraa rape incident, what is at stake is Lawrence of Arabia’s skins. Reading these experiences using Freud and Anzieu, the article argues that these events re-present an ongoing chafing of Lawrence’s skin, ego and second skins, which can be called his ‘skin of suffering’.

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