Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities


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.

Author Biography

Madison Tuggle (they/them) is a graduating senior at Macalester College from Ames, Iowa. They will be graduating with a major in American Studies, and minors in Educational Studies and Music. They’ve spent the last few years drawing from and expanding on their studies through working in the world of adult education, and hope to continue this work into the future. In their free time, they enjoy playing violin and attempting other instruments (with varying success), starting knitting projects, and doing crossword puzzles. They extend gratitude to the constant and sustaining support and encouragement from family, friends, and professors, whose gentle pushing made this project possible.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.