Gesture beyond conversation

Bezemer, J. (forthcoming 2013), in Jewitt, C. Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis

Gesture has received ample scholarly attention, some of it dating back to Classical Antiquity. Most of this work is focused on the use of gesture as an accompaniment of speech in conversational interactions. For instance, some of the most widely cited contemporary scholars of gesture, including Adam Kendon and David McNeill, have looked extensively at gestures produced by story tellers in informal gatherings or in interviews with a researcher. In this chapter I look at the use of gesture in a different type of social encounter, namely in the interactions between health care professionals during surgical operations. In Goffman’s (1981) terms, surgeons not only engage in ‘conversations’ but also ‘coordinated task activity’. The chief concern of participants in a conversation is ‘talk’; in coordinated task activity it is a ‘practical’ task. Goffman uses the example of mechanics fixing a car and that activity is very similar indeed to what surgeons do in an operating theatre.

Read the full draft chapter on NCRM Eprints