Title

Mead and Merleau-Ponty: Gesture as a unit of analysis in occupation.

1

Location

Studio 1

Start Time

21-10-2017 9:30 AM

End Time

21-10-2017 11:00 AM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Intent: The purpose of this paper is to examine how the philosophical perspectives of George Mead and Maurice Merleau-Ponty contribute to our understanding of occupation. These philosophers ground our analysis of action in gesture. Gestures, I will argue, are not simply vocal actions or movements of the body, but are context-driven, embodied, social actions which comprise occupations.

Argument: Occupational science has focused its analysis of occupation using a top-down approach. By starting from the top (occupations) we have biased ourselves towards the occupations with which we are familiar (e.g., eating, sleeping, playing sports). This paper argues that gestures (and indeed movements) are relational actions in which a body and environment join into one harmonious action. These actions can both be minor movements (such as a twitch in the eye) to large movements (such as throwing clothes into a laundry hamper) and it is in this composition of both minor and major movements through which we see occupation. Understandably, our analysis of occupations has focused on the occupations which contain gestures with which we are most familiar. However, this limited perspective has yielded an incomplete understanding of occupation. By applying Mead’s philosophy of action with Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of embodiment, our focus shifts to looking at the organization of gestures in individuals. This provides a point of departure to discover and understand new occupations that extend beyond our own limited perspectives. Further, this understanding of gesture bridges current paradigms of occupation that derive from individual and social perspectives.

Importance to Occupational Science: Many disciplines have theorized and debated the nature of gestures. However, these fields have failed to appreciate how gestures comprise our everyday doings. Specifically, a grounded, embodied, and relational study of gestures will provide occupational scientists with a refined analytic tool to conceptualize new and meaningful occupations. These occupations, such as those of individuals with a disability, will build our understanding of occupation and provide new theoretical tools.

Conclusion: This analysis of gestures expands on current theories of occupational science by exploring action as embodied and relational. The contributions of both Mead and Merleau-Ponty provide a unique perspective to suggest action is relational arising through both the social and physical contexts.

Questions to Facilitate Discussion:

  1. I have argued that all relational movement is a gesture. However, this brings into question what movements (if any) are not gestures. Using this framework, how do we conceptualize tremors? Are they gestures because they arise out of a relational body?
  2. What research methodologies are implied using this method of inquiry?

Keywords: gesture, embodied, action

References

Mead, G. H. (1912). The mechanisms of social consciousness. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 9, 401-406. https://doi.org/10.2307/2012643

Mead, G. H. (1913). The social self. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 10, 374-380. https://doi.org/10.2307/2012910

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. C. W. Morris (Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). The phenomenology of perception (C. Smith, Trans). T. Honderich (Ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD 1962.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The visible and the invisible (C. Lefort, Trans). C. Lefort (Ed.). USA: Northwestern University Press.

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Oct 21st, 9:30 AM Oct 21st, 11:00 AM

Mead and Merleau-Ponty: Gesture as a unit of analysis in occupation.

Studio 1

Intent: The purpose of this paper is to examine how the philosophical perspectives of George Mead and Maurice Merleau-Ponty contribute to our understanding of occupation. These philosophers ground our analysis of action in gesture. Gestures, I will argue, are not simply vocal actions or movements of the body, but are context-driven, embodied, social actions which comprise occupations.

Argument: Occupational science has focused its analysis of occupation using a top-down approach. By starting from the top (occupations) we have biased ourselves towards the occupations with which we are familiar (e.g., eating, sleeping, playing sports). This paper argues that gestures (and indeed movements) are relational actions in which a body and environment join into one harmonious action. These actions can both be minor movements (such as a twitch in the eye) to large movements (such as throwing clothes into a laundry hamper) and it is in this composition of both minor and major movements through which we see occupation. Understandably, our analysis of occupations has focused on the occupations which contain gestures with which we are most familiar. However, this limited perspective has yielded an incomplete understanding of occupation. By applying Mead’s philosophy of action with Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of embodiment, our focus shifts to looking at the organization of gestures in individuals. This provides a point of departure to discover and understand new occupations that extend beyond our own limited perspectives. Further, this understanding of gesture bridges current paradigms of occupation that derive from individual and social perspectives.

Importance to Occupational Science: Many disciplines have theorized and debated the nature of gestures. However, these fields have failed to appreciate how gestures comprise our everyday doings. Specifically, a grounded, embodied, and relational study of gestures will provide occupational scientists with a refined analytic tool to conceptualize new and meaningful occupations. These occupations, such as those of individuals with a disability, will build our understanding of occupation and provide new theoretical tools.

Conclusion: This analysis of gestures expands on current theories of occupational science by exploring action as embodied and relational. The contributions of both Mead and Merleau-Ponty provide a unique perspective to suggest action is relational arising through both the social and physical contexts.

Questions to Facilitate Discussion:

  1. I have argued that all relational movement is a gesture. However, this brings into question what movements (if any) are not gestures. Using this framework, how do we conceptualize tremors? Are they gestures because they arise out of a relational body?
  2. What research methodologies are implied using this method of inquiry?

Keywords: gesture, embodied, action