Levinas and the impact of mask wearing on intersubjective relationships

Andreas Lind*, Bruno Nobre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, pictures of people wearing masks in public spaces, especially images coming from polluted cities such as Bangkok or Tokyo, were generally perceived within contemporary Western democracies as a kind of “obsession” incompatible with its values and ways of living. However, after two years since the beginning of the crisis, mask wearing has become a common habit also in the West. Despite the success of vaccination, it is not yet clear whether this precautionary measure will cease altogether in the near future. It is even possible that mask wearing may end up being assimilated as an ordinary practice. As such, it is important to understand the impact of mask wearing in intersubjective relationships. Emmanuel Levinas offers consistent philosophical tools that one may use in order to describe the opportunities and dangers associated with mask wearing. By appropriating notions such as “face” and “proximity, " it is our goal to show how Levinas’ philosophical approach suggests that mask wearing, which may certainly be regarded as a manifestation of “responsibility” towards the other, may also entail the danger of reducing him or her to a mere being in the world, deprived of the dimension of mystery and completely at the disposal of human reason.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMasks and human connections
Subtitle of host publicationdisruptive meanings and cultural challenges
EditorsLuísa Magalhães, Cândido Oliveira Martins
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783031166730
ISBN (Print)9783031166723
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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