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The Age of Distance: On an Ancient Hand Gesture

In: Research in Phenomenology
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  • 1 Associate Professor, Department of Human Sciences, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
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Abstract

In light of the mandate of social distancing imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent disruption in habitual practices involving physical contact, the essay explores the ancient gesture of the handshake with reference to both its cultural codifications and its iconography, widespread especially in Mediterranean and Near Eastern areas. While involving manifold semantic and symbolic significance, the handshake is taken into account especially as a gesture implying a tactile exposure to another, hinting at the possibility of joining radically discontinuous worlds (mortals and immortals, dead and living). Ancient Greek funerary art is considered and a few final remarks return to the experience of isolation we lived on a global scale in recent years.

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