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Corporeal remains: vulnerability, proximity, and living on after the end of the world

  • Social Sciences


This paper offers a sustained reflection on the nature of corporeal vulnerability as an inherent and noneliminable aspect of corporeal existence. One of the many remarkable things about the recent interest in embodiment, emotion, practice, and performance, in the body-in-action, in the social sciences is the general lack of thought that has been given to the fact of vulnerability. The paper suggests that thinking through the nature of vulnerability could have a considerable effect on how we think about embodiment as well as on wider processes of subjectification, signification, and sociality. However, because of the persistence of a primary role being given to intentional or auto-affective action in the theorisation of embodiment across a number of theoretical perspectives, vulnerability remains largely unthought of within much current work on the body within Anglo-American social science. Drawing on the writing of Emmanuel Levinas and reflecting on experiences of corporeal expropriation such as insomnia and exhaustion, I suggest how we may begin to think sensibility and the sensuous beyond their almost exclusive interpretation in terms of comprehension, purpose, or intention while retaining the irreducibility of corporeal life to a matter of social construction or contextual epiphenomenon. Thus, the paper develops an account of corporeal life as inherently susceptible, receptive, exposed, as inherently open beyond its capacities, and reflects on the implications of this realisation for thinking about the genesis of meaning and signification and the social relation.

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