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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gestural Resonance: The Negotiation of Differential Form and Function in Embodied Action

  • Author(s): Warner-Garcia, Shawn
  • et al.

Many scholars have shown that gestures may be used to organize interactive engagement, including such things as turn-taking, participation, and narrative structure (e.g., Goodwin, 1984; Haddington, 2006). More recent work has shown that gestures may also serve as a type of dialogic embodied action (Arnold, 2012), connecting and relating utterances to one another and promoting engagement among speakers. However, within the research tradition that looks at the ways in which gestures resemble each other within interactional sequences, less attention has been given to examining how gestures are not simply reproduced but are actively negotiated as a crucial part of the meaning-making process. In this article, I will examine the ways in which participants negotiate the relationship between sequences of focal and iconic gestures that are formally and/or functionally related to each other. Similar to dialogic resonance in speech (Du Bois, 2007, 2010b), gestural resonance involves the activation of affinities across utterances—and here I take an utterance to be the interactionally gestalt boundaries of both speech and bodily behavior. While much previous work has focused on the ways in which gestural resemblance can promote agreement and understanding, here I investigate the relation of gestures by analyzing the differentials between gestures—that is, the degrees to which across-turn gestures are and are not the same. The defining feature of gestural resonance is that gestures are actively reformulated to varying degrees in order to achieve a variety of interactional functions. That is, participants are—through embodied action—actively commenting on the semantic content of a prior gesture and, where present, its accompanying talk.

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