hapticality, Kike España

narrator Kike España
term hapticality
published June 2020, Málaga, Spain
affiliated institution Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The concept hapticality comes from the Greek term haptikos, that means pertaining to the sense of touch, and it is developed by Fred Moten y Stefano Harney in the context of The Undercommons. If it is a matter of approaching the commons from, through and in solidarity, the touch of the undercommons seems like the perfect instrument to get and feel the most out of it. Traditionally, the commons have been theorized as a set of resources and relations that are created, protected and managed. What Harney and Moten point out is that this set of relations and resources – called commons – is presented as a state reached by individuals who decide to enter into relations through the commons. And this is the problem, that individuals-in-relation do not create “commons but states and nations.”[1] To break this, the authors propose the undercommons, working with what is underneath the processes of individuation, what does not need a moment of regulation, correction, settlement. Because the undercommons are already. “We’re already here, moving. We’ve been around. We’re more than politics, more than settled, more than democratic.”[2]


How is this already common solidarity? It is a feel, “a way of feeling through others, a feel for feeling others feeling you”. A feel that cannot be felt individually but neither collectively as a homogeneous feeling. It is a feel that cannot be fixed to a territory, state, nation, history. Hapticality is this feel, the capacity and the necessity to feel through others and for others to feel through you. It is the touch of the undercommons, because before any form of enclosure but also before any form of commoning, we are already in touch. “Thrown together touching each other we were denied all sentiment, denied all the things that were supposed to produce sentiment, family, nation, language, religion, place, home. Though forced to touch and be touched, to sense and be sensed in that space of no space, though refused sentiment, history and home, we feel (for) each other.”[3]


During the enclosure of the last few months, touching and be in touch – at least in person – was forbidden, but the feel for each other and the feeling through others was very present. Not in the war national discourses of unity against the enemy, neither in certain attempts of criminalization, vigilance and violence on those considered disobedient, but in every molecular gesture of solidarity, mutual aid, common care that was (already) sustaining enclosed social life. The exceptionality of the moment serves to be touched for a moment by the everydayness of exception. This exceptionality could help to touch and feel other enclosures that go beyond and beneath the Sate of Alarm; like the aggression of touristic industries, the financialization of housing as a mere asset, exclusion and murder of migrants, the violence against woman, the extortion of capitalist labor, the war against the poor or the massacre of ecosystems of the planet. So, to some extent, exceptionality could help to multiply hapticality, to touch the already common solidarity, to spread the undercommon feel of feeling through others, to flee while surround the everyday enclosures, to invent new devices of mutual care. The force of the common solidarity that could, at same point, antagonize capitalist commands over life, grounds in the power and the touch of this undercommon feel and living.


[1] Harney, Stefano & Moten, Fred, «Plantocracy or Communism». In: Hlavajova, M. & Maas, W. (eds.) Propositions for a non-fascist living: tentative and urgent. Utrecht: BAK. 2019, 52.
[2] Harney, Stefano & Moten, Fred. The Undercommons. Fugitive Planning & Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions. 2013, 19.

[3] Ibidem, 98.