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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: January 2010

Part 1 - Gesture in action

Summary

Broadly speaking, the phenomenon of gesture can be viewed in two seemingly opposite ways. On one of these views, it is a ‘window’ into the mind, and is regarded as part of the individual speaker-gesturer's ongoing mental life. The second part of the book embodies this view. Gesture in the initial, Action, part highlights the other approach, that of gesture as part of the social interaction in which the person participates. Part of the story of gesture is the role that it performs in inter action: gestures as something engaged in our social lives. The chapters in this part explore the social context of gesture and the contributions to action that gestures perform in these contexts. The emphasis is on gesture as a communicative resource, how gestures affect ongoing interactions, and how interactions affect it. The opposition of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, however, is superficial. There is no deep conflict between the inside and outside views, and both views must be taken if gestures are to be properly explained. The individual speaker is surely affected by his or her social context. This effect might extend to altering the thought processes of the individual to accord with the socially induced changes in the context. Indeed, one chapter undertakes to test this very hypothesis with positive results (Özyürek). At the same time, social interaction is not independent of the individuals participating in it. The participants are – mutually, jointly, but also individually – constituting an interaction within the constraints of cultural norms. Several of the chapters elucidate this social–individual nexus.