The Philosophy of Skin – It’s a wrap. (Thanks, Heidegger’s Verstehen!)

SkinA great deal of academic research has focussed on skin. Indeed, skin regularly features heavily in several specialist scholarly  journals – not only covering its behaviour and its problems, but also its aesthetics. But less weight has been afforded to inquiries regarding what might be called the the ‘philosophy’ of skin.

The balance may have shifted, though, with the publication of ‘Reflections on Skin‘ in the Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices, Volume 2 Issue 2, where author Jennifer-Lynn Crawford MA (Lecturer in Release Technique at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds, UK) explores the phenomenon of our outermost wrapping.

“The exploration that follows takes up the phenomenon of our outermost wrapping, skin, and considers it as a horizon that both separates us from and puts us in touch with the world.

The first part takes up skin phenomenologically, articulating the unique significance of skin as experienced in a somatic movement practice and exploring the potential of embryology as a narrative ground on which to re-interpret and flesh out touch and movement.

The second part draws these two strands together in positing a thinking skin, or tactile cognition. Such a thinking is unfolded through Heidegger’s Verstehen, his particular construal of understanding as situated and existence as fundamentally interpretive, as well as Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s seminal writings on animate life.”


[1] For a simplified overview of Heidegger’s Verstehen, see this page hosted by the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

[2] For an alternative viewpoint on the nature of skin see this video featuring Allan Sherman: