Intimacy and the face of the other: A philosophical study of infant institutionalization and deprivation. Emotion, Space, and Society.

Emotion, Space, and Society 13:80-86 (2014)
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The orphans of Romania were participants in what is sometimes called “the forbidden experiment”: depriving human infants of intimacy, affection, and human contact is an inhuman practice. It is an experiment which no ethical researcher would set out to do. This paper examines historical data, case histories, and research findings which deal with early deprivation and performs a phenomenological analysis of deprivation phenomena as they impact emotional and physical development. A key element of deprivation is the absence of intimate relationships with other human beings. However, the absence of intimacy impacts not only the social/emotional abilities of infants, but their very ability to perceive the world. Philosophically and from a radically Merleau-Pontean perspective, the intimate face of the other appears to be a world opening event for the child. Its absence has a profound impact on the child’s experience of embodiment, coexistence, spatiality, temporality, and language. When seen through early deprivation, intimacy appears as a necessary foundation for establishing the transcendence of the world beyond perceptual presence, and it provides the possibility for language, culture, and history.

Author's Profile

Eva Maria Simms
Duquesne University


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