|Author(s)||Julia Katila, Yumei Gan, Marjorie H. Goodwin|
|Title||Interaction rituals and ‘social distancing': New haptic trajectories and touching from a distance in the time of COVID-19|
|Tag(s)||EMCA, Conversation Analysis, COVID-19, embodiment, greetings, haptic interaction rituals, social interaction, touch|
|Publisher||SAGE Publications Ltd|
Previous research in the social sciences has shown that haptic interaction rituals are critical for maintaining social relationships. However, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ‘social distancing' was encouraged in order to avoid the spread of disease. Drawing on data from self-ethnography as well as publicly available resources, in this study we explore some new, locally negotiated haptic trajectories to accomplish interaction rituals in the time of coronavirus. First, we present self-ethnographic observations of distancing in face-to-face encounters from our everyday lives. Second, utilizing methods of microanalysis of naturally occurring interaction, we investigate video recordings of the embodied negotiation of space and touch among politicians. We analyze three different ways in which politicians negotiate transitional moves in this haptic ritual when one party initiates a handshake: repairing, declining and apologizing. Our analysis shows that politicians adapt their entire bodies in conjunction with talk, gestures and laughter not only to accomplish the greeting but also to remedy the potentially face-threatening situation of not getting the greeting right. This research has implications for better understanding the spontaneous ability of human beings to invent new ways of engaging with each other. Moreover, it adds to our knowledge of how the materiality of human bodies can impact forms of sociality.