touching (sb radio edit)

"the gesture is, in this sense, communication of a communicability. it has precisely nothing to say because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as pure mediality." — giorgio agamben, means without end, p.59

"what is it to touch one's own limit thus? it is also not to touch, not to touch oneself enough, to touch oneself too much: impossible sublimity of tact, the diabolical machination of love when it dictates infinite renunciation." — jacques derrida, on touching — jean-luc nancy, p.111

"from one singular to another, there is contiguity but not continuity. there is proximity, but only to the extent that extreme closeness emphasizes the distancing it opens up. all of being is in touch with all of being, but the law of touching is separation; moreover, it is the heterogeneity of surfaces that touch each other." — jean-luc nancy, being singular plural, p.5

"can i touch without violence? can i think of transformation without being jolted by the violence of change? can i even consider the reciprocal relationship that exists when i reach out to touch you (when i become other through touch) without being aware of the violence induced by my recognition of myself as other?" — erin manning, politics of touch, p.50

* * *

in pickup basketball there is one gesture that stands above all others. whether one wants to acknowledge a great play, send encouragement, demand hustle, give thanks for a pass received, apologize to a teammate for making a mistake or to an opponent for poor sportsmanship, the gesture in question is a touching of hands.

we are not describing here the complex signifiers of the handshake, those scripted patterns of digit and movement that serve on the one hand to create a linguistic exterior, and on the other to provide a password for passage.

rather, we want to articulate a simple touch — a pat, really — just enough to be felt given and received by both individuals. this one form of content (or contact) may communicate many things given the proper context, perhaps while looking in the other's eyes, or perhaps not.

(oh, sweaty palms!)

of course, when we play pickup basketball (or any other form of physical culture, for that matter), we sweat. this is the fact of our very being-in-the-world as athletic bodies.

sweat bears a paradox, though: it is at once a positive form of olfactory writing or inscription that signifies our athletic poiesis, and a liquid-haptic vector of waste, filth, toxin, or contagion.

this does not prevent us from touching the other, however, in our sweaty athletic-becoming. the abjection secreted by this paradox commingles-with and washes-through those bodies one comes into contact with during production and passage. so long as both of us are sweaty, it doesn't matter. this is as true in sport as it is in labour as it is in sex.

but what if one's hand was dry? would the desire to touch the other player's sweaty palm remain?

would such a gesture be an act of love?

or, difference and repetition, would such an act be a gesture of love?

or would it be a gift of power-burden, a risk taken but in the absence of an appropriate negotiation and approximation?

or is the metaphor just slightly out of reach, proximal yet distant?

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6 responses to touching (sb radio edit)

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