, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 3-25
Date: 13 Mar 2011

Reading the State as a Multi-Identity Formation: The Touch and Feel of Equality Governance

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How does a sense of touch, figuratively and practically, get deployed within equality governance, and to what questions and ways of thinking about the state does this direct us? Taking 2009–2010 as a snap-shot moment in the development of British equality reform—the year leading up to passage of the Equality Act 2010—this article explores the relationship between touch (the haptic) and equality governance from three angles. First, how have governmental bodies used touch language and imagery, including in geometrical representations of disadvantage? Second, what other, more challenging encounters and actions are imaginable; specifically, can touch mobilise the feeling state as a critical form of active citizenship? Third, what re-conceptualisations of the state does the touching, feeling state invoke, and with what effects? Specifically, does conceiving of the state as a multi-identity formation reframe the risks associated with a haptic state, thereby opening up new strategies for political action?

This article was initially presented as a keynote lecture at the interdisciplinary Beyond Citizenship Conference, Birkbeck College, 1 July 2010; organised by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research. The article benefits from questions and comments of participants, as well as feedback from Brenna Bhandar, Emily Grabham, Didi Herman and anonymous referees for Feminist Legal Studies.