The bracketing of presence: Dematerialization and disembodiment in times of pandemic and of social distancing biopolitics

Giovanni Stanghellini, Louis Sass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is to help us understand how and why the COVID pandemic, and its associated biopolitics of social distancing, may have affected our relationships with our own bodies and other persons, thus helping to accelerate what might be termed a bracketing of presence that was already well underway in our modern and contemporary social practices. We focus on 3 historical vectors, all rooted in specific technologies, that have profound implications at the levels of our social imaginary and prereflective ways of being: architecture, social media, and medicine. Architecture has progressively eliminated "porosity"between spaces by establishing clear borders between public and private spaces (also within the private ones), thereby contributing to our drive for social distancing. Social media have provided apparatuses that replace intercorporeal encounters with disembodied, virtual interactions mediated by images. Visual experiences that are more embodied, participatory, and "immersed"are replaced by passive forms of "seeing": the other becomes an image for me, and I for the other. The object of medicine has also recently dematerialized with the advent of the new "optical"and "digital"machines of modern medicine, which can operate remotely thanks to an increasingly powerful interface reliant on computational power and the resources of artificial intelligence, thereby dispensing with body-to-body interactions. We offer these reflections as routes to a better understanding of changes that have occurred and are occurring on the planes of both culture and individual psychological existence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-118
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Culture
  • Embodiment
  • Intersubjectivity
  • Phenomenology
  • Psychopathology


Dive into the research topics of 'The bracketing of presence: Dematerialization and disembodiment in times of pandemic and of social distancing biopolitics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this