Dogmatism and skepticism are not simply opposed. Contemporary expressions of cultural skepticism (e.g. towards vaccines or pandemic regulations) are often entangled with the dogmatic attitudes of those who cling to their right to come into touch with others and the world as they please.
Is it our right to touch and be touched? When is it our ethical imperative to doubt our right to touch or the rightness of our touching?
The pandemic requires each of us to suspend our practices of coming into touch. It also requires us to suspend our certainty towards our freedom to touch. The opportunity to doubt our touch in each instance is also an opportunity to grasp touch itself differently. Touching is not just a private matter but has global consequences.
And yet the international rise of conspiracy theories and science denialism suggests that cultural skepticism is itself a kind of pandemic. One of the dangers of radical skepticism is its tendency to betray itself. The activity of doubting or questioning what is presented as truth, gives birth to a theory, which itself becomes the new dogma that cannot be questioned.
Cultural skepticism can be identified as a global crisis. Yet, other expressions of skepticism challenge a dogmatic-skepticism that justifies recklessness and violence. How does haptic skepticism—the suspension of touch—hold open the ethical and political space of questioning?
This roundtable discusses the varieties of cultural dogmatism and skepticism that have emerged during the pandemic. The participants will specifically explore touch as the site of radical certainty and doubt, by analysing pandemic experience through the lens of their recent publication A Touch of Doubt: On Haptic Scepticism, ed. by Rachel Aumiller (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021, open-access)
Organized by Rachel Aumiller
An ICI event in cooperation with De Gruyter
Image credit © Veronika Pausova, Midnight Jacuzzi, Oil on Canvas (Detail). 15″ x 18″, 2017
Photographed by Laura Findlay