Desire, Commitment and the Transformative Power of Touch: The Posthuman femme fatale in Under the Skin

Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska, Joseph David Jenner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter unites the theories of posthumanism and psychoanalysis to put forward a new paradigm for conceptualising the transformative significance of touch. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013) registers a key shift in the narrative arc of the central character, when the nameless alien woman played by Scarlett Johansson encounters a man with neurofibromatosis living at the fringes of society. In her ploy to seduce him, the Woman invites him to touch her face and hands as she drives him to her lair. Within the narrative of the film, the touch brings about a kinetic movement, to paraphrase Jacques Derrida, and in this chapter we discuss the significance of this moment within the context of the film but also towards a theory of touch. We argue that in Under the Skin the key moment of touch overcomes the nonhuman and produces a posthuman subject position in this film.

This chapter combines Agnieszka Piotrowska’s work on embodied psychoanalysis and the importance of the touch, and Joseph Jenner’s research on posthumanism and science-fiction film. Our aspiration is to create a provocative encounter between areas of research that have not been sufficiently put into dialogue. Our work here aspires towards the space of the ‘inbetween’ and constitutes a metaphorical touching of different theoretical sites.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFeminism and Psychoanalysis
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jun 2019


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