The Touch of the Present

Educational Encounters, Aesthetics, and the Politics of the Senses

By Sharon Todd

Subjects: Philosophy Of Education, Aesthetics, Art Theory, Process Philosophy, Body, The
Series: SUNY series, Transforming Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Studies in Education
Hardcover : 9781438492179, 230 pages, February 2023
Paperback : 9781438492186, 230 pages, August 2023

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Table of contents


Introduction: Why Encounters?

Part One: Theoretical Framings

1. The Present Tense Incarnate: Education as Encounters/Encounters as Education

2. Senses of Encounter

3. Enculturation, Regimes of Perception, and the Politics of the Senses

4. Forms and Formations of Encounters

5. Becoming as a Time of Unfolding

Part Two: Encounters in/of Education

6. Digital Encounters: Online Education and the Space-Time of the Virtual

7. Encounters with Climate Change: Teaching in the Presence of Climate Sorrow

Afterword: The Touch of the Present and Education as Social Justice


Explores the importance of the body and the senses in educational encounters, drawing out the aesthetic and political dimensions of educational practices.


How are educational encounters understood, experienced, and lived? How are they conceptualized? How do they shape our being in and of the world? In this time of apparent distance and disconnect, this volume emphasizes the role of contact and connectedness in education, above all by understanding education as encounters, as embodied, sensory experiences. Drawing on a range of theoretical positions that highlight our profound interconnection with things and other bodies—from feminism to Buddhism to new materialism and beyond—Sharon Todd argues that educational encounters are formations of "touching" and "being touched by." They are singular in their eventfulness and yet bring us into relation with our environment. Focusing particular attention on two key issues for teachers and students today—the climate emergency and online education—The Touch of the Present offers unique insights into the aesthetics and politics of educational practices, seeing them as embodied processes that not only contribute to how one is socialized into a given order but also carry the transformative potential for "becoming" beyond the cultural scripts we are given.

Sharon Todd is Professor of Education at Maynooth University in Ireland. Her many books include Toward an Imperfect Education: Facing Humanity, Rethinking Cosmopolitanism and Learning from the Other: Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education, also published by SUNY Press.


"Sharon Todd invites readers into a robust reimagining of the sensory, sensuous, and embodied nature of teaching and learning … Her generous offering comes at a crucial time in education: amidst the lingering, deeply felt impacts of the pandemic, questions of young peoples' developing subjectivities and relationality—especially regarding touch—are a widespread concern for researchers and educators. Todd offers a thoughtful, reinvigorating book that reminds us of what it means to live in the world with others as interdependent, sensing, and feeling beings." — Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies

"The Touch of the Present offers a vocabulary for articulating what many educators have long experienced: that there is 'more' to their encounters with students than parents, researchers, and school leaders either expect or acknowledge. Todd revitalizes pedagogical encounters as phenomena to be experienced, explored, and articulated, nourishing educators' imaginations and offering a fresh antidote to the 'cruel optimism' of our times." — Anne M. Phelan, coeditor of Reconceptualizing Teacher Education: A Canadian Contribution to a Global Challenge