A More Proximate Form of Theory: Tracing New Interdisciplinary Ground through Discourses of Diaspora and Haptic Aesthetics


  • Nicole Birch-Bayley




Cultural geographers Nigel Thrift and Stephen Pile have asked, “how is it possible to make sense of our selves, if the boundaries that tell us who ‘we’ are are incoherent, or fragmented, or fuzzy[?]” (1995: 179). One promising answer to this question has been to deconstruct the otherwise stable sense of identity that has marked the body in discourses of culture and transnational geography. The emerging interdisciplinary field of haptics (referring to the study of the sense of touch) offers a new way of investigating the boundaries that mark the body in the contexts of culture and literature, specifically exploring who is touched, who touches, when touch begins, and when it ends, in order to creatively examine boundaries of culture, which although fragmented, shifting, topographically uneven, offer unique and productive ways of re-conceptualizing transnational identity. Tracing the expanding the field of haptics to the discourses of diaspora and cultural studies, this paper will discuss haptic aesthetics in the shifting terrain of cultural studies and diasporic theory, for what this emerging field suggests about the incoherent nature of cultural boundaries and alternative possibilities for transnational community formation.