This paper examines the societal norms of touch aversion in the United States, including an example of how touch deprivation is used as a form of carceral violence, and raises questions on the shifting of these norms in the face of worldwide social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By using the work of psychologist Tiffany Fields, the paper begins by discussing the physical and mental necessity of touch, and the negative consequences that come with its deprivation. This discussion is then grounded in historical factors that continue to contribute to the formation of these norms, including Aristotle’s teachings, enduring Puritan moral values, neoliberal individualism, and preventative sexual assault litigation. Following this background, Joshua Price’s concept of social death is applied the complete ban on touch between inmates in a Minnesota women’s prison as an unseen and homophobic form of violent control over incarcerated. And as we’ve all experienced extended social isolation in 2020, the paper ends with a discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects we’ve seen and haven’t yet discovered, and a conclusion that both offers space for hope and future avenues of research.
"Kept in the "Anonymous Dark": An Exploration of Touch and Isolation in the United States,"
Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities: Vol. 10
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/tapestries/vol10/iss1/6
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