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Vol. 5 No. 1 (2022): Pandemic Politics and Phenomenology

Disrupted Intercorporeality and Embodiedness in Dementia Care during the COVID-19 Crisis

  • Ragna Winniewski
February 9, 2023


In this paper, I address the effects of social distancing for embodied lived experience in relation to dementia care and experiences of dementia. From a critical phenomenological perspective, I focus specifically on the safety measures of physical distancing and face-masking in pandemic times, asking whether they might risk marginalizing and disembodying people with dementia, especially in isolated healthcare settings. As much as these measures offer physical protection against spreading the virus, I consider how they might disrupt intersubjective processes (e.g., calming social or therapeutic touch) and contribute to “an alienated bodily communication” (Dolezal 2020). From Husserl and Merleau-Ponty’s philosophies of embodiment and enactive theories of intersubjectivity, to more recent phenomenological work on illness, many authors argue that our existential being-in-the-world is embodied in multimodal and intersubjective ways (Fuchs and De Jaeger 2009; Carel 2016; Ratcliffe 2008; Kontos 2011). For this reason, our lived bodies need to stay in touch and positively interact with other lived bodies. Based on empirical studies of multisensory and interactive therapy in nursing homes before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, I emphasize the effects of distant socializing for patients, care, and carers. My aim is to address the broader structures and discursive practices, which have undergone dramatic changes due to the spread of COVID-19.