On Touching: The Alterity Within

Karen Barad


When two hands touch, there is a sensuality of the flesh, an exchange of warmth, a feeling of pressure, of presence, of a proximity of otherness that brings the other nearly as close as oneself – perhaps closer. And if the two hands belong to one person, might this not enliven an uncanny sense of the otherness of the self, a literal holding oneself at a distance in the sensation of contact, the greeting of the stranger within? So much happens in a touch: an infinity of others – other beings, other spaces, other times – are aroused.

Karen Barad is Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy, and History of Consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Barad's Ph.D. is in theoretical particle physics and quantum field theory. Barad held a tenured appointment in a physics department before moving into more interdisciplinary spaces. Barad is the author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (2007) and numerous articles in the fields of physics, philosophy, science studies, poststructuralist theory and feminist theory. Barad’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Hughes Foundation, Irvine Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. Barad is the Co-Director of the Science & Justice Graduate Training Program at University of California, Santa Cruz. Barad received an honorary doctorate from Gothenburg University in 2016, and is on the faculty of the European Graduate School.