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Attention, ritual glitches, and attentional pull: the president and the queen


© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht This article proposes an analysis of a ritual glitch and resulting “misfire” from the standpoint of a phenomenologically informed anthropology of human interaction. Through articulating a synthesis of some of Husserl‘s insights on attention and affection with concepts and methods developed by anthropologists and other students of human interaction, a case is made for the importance of understanding the social organization of attention in ritual encounters. An analysis of a failed toast during President Obama’s 2011 State Visit to the United Kingdom is used to illustrate how attention is directed toward certain participants, actions, and objects – as opposed to others. Affect-loaded empathic reactions are explained by the protracted temporal unfolding of an action whose successful conclusion – or “repair” - is ostensively and publicly delayed.

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