Comfort : bodies and their boundaries

Culley, Sheena (2015) Comfort : bodies and their boundaries. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The original contribution of this work is its engagement with the conceptualisation of modern bodies and the impact of the bounded body on our understanding of the idea of comfort. The way in which modern bodies are constituted as bounded, immune entities, differentiated from their surroundings, is of paramount importance in defining comfort as protective, compensatory and passive - a zero grade feeling or avoidance of stimuli. Taking a definition of comfort from John Crowley's influential work on the topic as 'a self-conscious satisfaction between one's body and its immediate physical environment' as its point of departure, this thesis interrogates this in-between space to argue for comfort as an affective and intensive experience. Approaching the theme from an interdisciplinary perspective, a genealogical method combined with inspiration from new materialisms challenges dualisms such as nature/culture, body/mind, inside/outside, body/environment and comfort/discomfort. Following the trajectory of work from Nietzsche to Foucault to Deleuze, phenomenological and psychoanalytical ideas of boundedness and identity are displaced with a theory of bodies as fortuitous and dynamic compositions of forces, where affirmative difference replaces negative difference. As a result, the comfort zone, comfortable numbness and sitting comfortably are transformed from states of indifference to intensive events of difference whereby boundaries and borders are reconstituted as thresholds and spaces of transformation.

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