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Ethno-Graphics and the Moving Body

Brenda M. Farnell
Man
New Series, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), pp. 929-974
DOI: 10.2307/3033975
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3033975
Page Count: 46
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Ethno-Graphics and the Moving Body
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Abstract

The article opens with a brief comment on a photograph from Evans-Pritchard's work to illustrate a fundamental problem with Western ways of viewing human movement. I suggest that despite an upsurge of interest in `the body', an understanding of the person as a moving agent is still absent from cultural theory and ethnographic accounts. I argue that the new realist perspective on person and agency, and not the existential philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, offers the necessary philosophical grounding to accomplish an embodied definition of social actors. Once people are conceived as persons empowered to perform signifying acts with both speech and action signs, then the way is clear to develop strategies for the systematic investigation of embodied action. I discuss the adoption of a movement script (Labanotation) as a methodological resource adequate to this task and critically examine methods used to record (American) Plains Indian sign language. The article returns to Evans-Pritchard in recognition of his later interest in the idea of a literacy for movement.

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