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Title: Nervous hands, stolen kisses, and the press of everyday life : touch in Britain, 1870-1960
Author: Koole, Simeon
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 3246
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis provides a history of the sense of touch in modern Britain. Seeking out fugitive intimacies and incidental brushes of lover and stranger alike, it argues that far from being a natural constant, what, how, and why people touched, and what they felt when they did, has a history. Through five case studies of different domains - the mind sciences, visual impairment, public transport, law, and commercialized leisure - it explores how these uses changed, and how they transformed Britons' understandings and experiences of their bodies. Both as a practice and a metaphor, from making space on the bus to keeping 'in touch', touch established the distinctions that Britons made between their bodies and the world and themselves and others. In doing so, touch crucially shaped histories of law, labour relations, scientific experiment, education, and love in the early twentieth century. But it also reformulated the very distinctions of selfhood - distinctions of inner self and outer body, person and thing - on which our accounts of modernity are based. By tracing a history of touch, then, this thesis turns touch into a means of critique. It challenges histories of modernity for which selfhood is a substance rather than produced only through particular social relationships. But it also proposes a new way of thinking about selfhood as an immanent relationship the self has with itself through use of the body. Through historically specific ways of touching, early twentieth-century Britons shaped not only their experience of themselves as bodies, but also the boundaries defining them as selves. Their selfhood was, in short, what they did with the body through touch. By exploring the history of touch between 1870 and 1960, this thesis therefore offers an alternative account of British modernity and a way of re-examining histories of selfhood within and beyond modern Britain.
Supervisor: Houlbrook, Matt ; Whyte, William Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Senses and sensation ; Selfhood ; Modernity ; Governmentality ; Subjectivity ; Touch