A growing need for closeness is emerging across society in the wake of our experiences of lockdowns and social distancing during the pandemic. How can closeness best be expressed? By touching other people! However: if being protected from touch has become the greatest imperative in the pandemic, concepts like bodily integrity and identity take on new significance and are positioned against more open, fluid and multiple concepts of the self, sparking social and political consequences. Immunity becomes the inner boundary that cuts through each community. Empathy can hardly be related any longer to intimacy, tenderness and emotional connection. It is replaced by profoundly neoliberal concepts such as performance, competition, seclusion and self-care. And when it comes to touch, almost everyone's hair stands on end. Didn’t emancipatory theories from the 1970s already portray the exterior not as a rigid border, but as motile matter, animated by peristaltic movements, by folds and creases that form an interior: not as something different from the exterior, but precisely as the inside of the outside? Or do we need ontological reorientations in order to be able to touch each other again? Aspects of the reappraisal of touch are also tied to biopolitical and bioethical questions, as well as to critical materialism. In that light, touching and feeling would be viewed as what matter does, or rather what matter is: a condensation of the ability to react, to respond. Would this kind of reorientation of the relationship between matter and cultural representation include the manifold aspects of touching? As active participation in the dynamic becoming of the world? In this issue, springerin explores these and similar questions, along with the great longing manifested in many artists’ works: a yearning to touch the real.