Medical Imaging and the "Borderline Gaze of Touch and Hearing": The Politics of Knowledge beyond "Sense Atomism"

Karolina A Kazimierczak

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This article traces different devices and practices (i.e., ultrasound scan, fine needle aspiration and breast examination) involved in the clinical diagnostic practices for breast cancer and suggests that they might be productively considered as “visualization apparatuses.” Drawing on auto-ethnographic data and medical literature, it explores how these apparatuses make visible and help materialize a particular bodily configuration (e.g., a simple cyst as a benign breast disorder). In examining side by side the practices and devices commonly characterized as medical imaging such as ultrasonography and the more mundane apparatuses such as syringes or trained eyes and fingers, the article draws attention to the non-given nature of image and imaging, and to the equally non-given nature of the distinctions between vision, touch and hearing as modes of sensing and knowing. In doing so, it seeks to problematize the traditional partitioning of experience into separate and separable perceptual and epistemological modalities, while at the same time reclaiming vision, touch and hearing as metaphors for responsible and accountable knowledge-making. Bringing together feminist (Haraway, 1988; Puig de la Bellacasa, 2009; Barad, 2007; 2012) and post-phenomenological (Ihde, 2007; Ingold, 2000) work on knowledge-making and perception with the concept of synesthesia (Harris, 2016; Hayward, 2010; Marks, 2002), it argues for a certain knowledge politics beyond “sense atomism,” which helps us to rethink not only the apparent distinction in the different sensorial universes but also, more broadly, the questions of knowledge, politics, responsibility and accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalCatalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience
Issue number2
Early online date16 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank the editors of this Special Section, Bettina Papenburg, Liv
Hausken, Sigrid Schmitz and Natasha Myers, and the two anonymous reviewers for
their careful reading of my work and helpful suggestions on how to clarify its
arguments. I would also like to thank the participants of the Authors’ Workshop at 7th New Materialism Annual Conference “Performing Situated Knowledges: Space,
Time, Vulnerability”, Warsaw, Poland, 21-23 September 2016, and the participants at “New Materialisms and Politics” Workshop at the University of Aberdeen, UK, 21-22 September 2017, for their comments and reactions to the earlier drafts of this article.


  • Medical imaging
  • visualization apparatuses
  • knowledge politics
  • vision/touch/hearing


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