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Periodical article Periodical article
Title:Tactics and Tactility: A sensory semiotics of handshakes in coastal Kenya
Author:Hillewaert, S.
Periodical:American Anthropologist
Geographic term:Kenya
Discipline:Anthropology & Ethnology
Abstract:In this article, I approach hand greetings in coastal Kenya as both a form of embodied social action and an everyday tactic used in the presentation of self, the assessment of others, and the negotiation of interpersonal relations. Looking beyond the assumption that a handshake is a simple social performance subject to strategic manipulation, I draw attention to the significance of the felt bodily contact associated with this gesture in order to propose that meaning is generated not only in the dichotomous acts of offering or refusing a handshake but also in utilizing the gesture's tactility. In particular, I argue that women in coastal Kenya negotiate changing understandings of heshima (respectability), and the social positions to which it is tied, by manipulating the sensory details of hand greetings. This article contributes to recent discussions in sensory anthropology while also providing an ethnographic illustration of an embodied theory of social interaction. (Journal Abstract).