Normaal. A performative design research that explores how the handshake - a simple social gesture - has become coded with immense nationalistic meaning and examines how our definition of normal influences our suspicions of others.

In the current climate of terrorism, fear mongering and populist politics suspicion have become an arena for manipulation and control. Our rigid suspicions - riddled with prejudice and bias - clouds our minds and limits our engagement with the world. As our environments become more complex and our interactions increasingly isolated, it is questionable if our suspicions are evolving fast enough to confront with the challenges of our modern world. Through our uncertainties we start to retract to smaller and smaller groups we can trust – retracting to cultural identities and to family – until we find ourselves alone and suspicious of everyone and everything around us.

Suspicion is often constructed in opposition to what we consider ‘normal’, stigmatising abnormal and strange manifestations as suspicious. Our dependence on the ‘normal’ to define suspicion can restrict our engagement beyond our cultural and social boundaries. We can start to challenge our notions of the ‘normal’ by exploring the absurd and abnormal through the lens of suspicion. By means of designing these abnormal interventions, the thesis looks to develop tools to explore and disrupt our suspicions.

The handshake can be defined as a negotiation between trust and distrust. A ‘normal’ cultural gesture so ingrained in our daily lives that by abstracting the handshake we start to challenge our existing social norms and constructed identities. The handshake becomes a potential tool to investigate suspicion. Through disrupting the interaction of shaking hands we confront our definition of ‘normal’.