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Thinking Allowed: Kissing & The British Hitman

Updated Friday, 28th March 2014

The power of the romantic kiss, and the banality of hitmen in real life.

When and where

Wednesday, 2nd April 2014 17:00 - BBC Radio 4

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A couple kiss in a montage of Polaroid-style photos Creative commons image Icon Juan Filipe Rubio under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license Every week, BBC Radio 4 and The Open University team up to bring you the best of social science research.

In this programme, Kissing - a cultural history. How do we make sense of the kiss and why did it become a vital sign of romance and courtship?

Laurie Taylor talks to Marcel Danesi, Professor of Linguistic Anthropology about his new book 'The History of the Kiss' which argues that kissing was the first act of "free romance" liberated from the yoke of arranged unions. When the kiss first appeared in poetry and songs of the medieval period, it was as a desirable but forbidden act. Since then it has evolved into the quintessential symbol of love-making in the popular imagination.

From early poems and paintings to current films, its romantic incarnation coincides with the birth of popular culture itself. They're joined by Karen Harvey, Reader in Cultural History at the University of Sheffield, who has studied the meaning of the kiss across different cultures and periods.

Read a transcript of the kiss discussion

Also, hitmen for hire: David Wilson, Professor of Criminology, examined 27 cases of contract killing committed by 36 men (including accomplices) and one woman. Far from involving shadowy, organised criminals, the reality of killing for cash turned out to be surprisingly mundane.

Read a transcript of the hitmen discussion

This edition of Thinking Allowed is first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on April 2nd, 2014. For further information, and to listen again where available, please visit





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