Achieving Competitive Hardness: The Preference for Hard Touch as Practical Accomplishment in Professional Handball
This paper examines institutional touch in the case of institutionalized professional high-class sports where touch constitutes an intrinsic, required, and desired component of the institutional task. Specifically, it focuses on handball where hard forms of touch are used in the context of a highly bodily competition about dominance on the field. In order to acquire the ‘bodily hardness’ necessary for this, athletes need to slowly maneuver themselves before the match into a state of body and mind that allows for the required hardness in the competition with opponents. Drawing on ethnographic research and video-recordings of handball matches as well as activities in the locker rooms and during the warm-up, we reconstruct the sequential progression and transformation of touching activities within this institutionalized setting. In the course of the preparation for the match, the role of touching changes its character from avoidance (preference for non-touch) to its active pursuit (preference for touch), ending in a normative standard of hard touch.
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