Division of Touch: Distinct and Avisual in Jean Luc Nancy
Aleksandar Mijatović (University of Zagreb)
Touch is the key figure in the philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy. However, Jacques Derrida in his Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (2000) assigns an ambivalent status to touch in Nancy. On the one hand, according to Derrida, Nancy’s thinking on touch is still associated with what Derrida calls haptocentric metaphysics, which privileges presence and immediacy over absence and distance. On the other hand, Derrida claims that Nancy radically breaks with such “haptology.”
Nancy’s conceptualization of touch opens with phenomenology foregrounding the intertwining and the chiasmic of touching bodies. In his philosophy, however, touch is at the same time a re/dis/figuring figure of the unity, proximity, and continuity of touching bodies. Touch opens up a rupture, draws a dividing line across any contact. Where touch appears, all intimacy and unity evanesce. In contrast to the phenomenological tradition, touch appears at the same time as the contact between the touching bodies disappears.
The aim of this paper is to show that this irreducible excess of distance within the contact becomes more salient in Nancy’s writings published after Derrida’s Le Toucher. While in his rethinking of the Christian incarnation in Corpus (1992) Nancy still retains haptological touching of the untouchable, in Noli me tangere (2003) he argues for the undecidability of the touching and the untouchable. Undecidability resides in the very injunction not to touch the body that incarnates the untouchable. If this body gives the face to the untouchable, then one must not touch it precisely in order to keep in touch with this faceless quality.
This ultimate (post)deconstructive move in Nancy’s thinking relies on the concept of touch devoid of the phenomenological dimension of palpability. The figure of touching without touch will be shown to culminate in the dense introductory essay of Au fond des images (2003) entitled L’Image – le distinct. What Nancy calls “the distinct” is the line of the image (le trait de l’image) that divides the order of touch from the order of the palpable. The distinct of the image allows invisibility to present itself without being represented. In such a way it introduces distance into proximity preventing the palpability of the image