This article situates recent attempts to regulate the end-of-game handshake in youth team sports within a broader context of the troubling of touch within pandemic culture. It suggests that the end-of-game handshake is most productively understood as simultaneously: embodied ritual, form of intimate touch, and legal gesture. The analysis invites readers not only to understand the handshake as a complex and meaningful quotidian ritual, but also to see it as an increasingly unstable mode of handwork. The end-of-game handshake, in particular, highlights the clash of values between sport’s imperative to re-establish the normative hetero-masculine haptic order between players at the conclusion of the match, and pandemic culture’s framing of the skin of the palms as dirty and its corresponding requirement, asked of all prudent subjects, that we hygienically manage our everyday haptic contact. In this way, the contested fate of the end-of-game handshake in pandemic culture highlights the multiple ways that touch is understood as a volatile practice demanding regulation.

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Keywords Handshake, Haptic, Pandemic, Sport, Touch
Persistent URL
Journal Senses and Society
Hamilton, S. (2017). Rituals of intimate legal touch: Regulating the end-of-game handshake in pandemic culture. Senses and Society, 12(1), 53–68. doi:10.1080/17458927.2017.1268821