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Porous skin: Breathing through the prism of the holey body

Nieuwenhuis, Marijn

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The skin is a body's largest organ and both a metaphor and a materiality. It constitutes a person's exteriority through which and on which social meaning is negotiated and constructed. My contribution challenges the modern idea of the skin's imagined solidity and fixity by returning to an older set of ideas that approach the body as porous, relational, ambiguous and atmospheric. The thought of a body that is open, holey from both the inside and the outside, atmospheric, strikes against culturally constructed and carefully policed myths and norms of groundedness and boundedness. Porosity, however, has not always been feared in that way. My paper explores the ways in which older, speculative thought celebrated the skin's ability to mingle corporally with air, wind and world. This radical openness affectively and materially ‘ungrounds’ seemingly familiar feelings and expectations of order, sense and stability. I wish to retrieve some of this original thinking, which approaches the body not as surface but through its glands, crevices, pores and holes that blur dichotomies of inside and outside. The purpose is to offer an embodied and relational politics that starts from a breathable skin that makes emotion and affect more contingent on the body's holey relationship to air and atmosphere.


Nieuwenhuis, M. (2019). Porous skin: Breathing through the prism of the holey body. Emotion, Space and Society, 33,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 1, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 16, 2019
Publication Date Nov 1, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2021
Journal Emotion, Space and Society
Print ISSN 1755-4586
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33


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