Last Update: 18 June 2004

• • •

A live symposium, held May 6-8, 2004, at the University of Toronto (Victoria College) inaugurated this new symposium online. The original program with some of its position papers and abstracts can be found in the archives of the Virtual Symposia section of the The final versions of all the papers will be put online as they become available. Anybody interested in submitting a new position paper or some critical comments are invited to submit their texts to the editor.

To communicate with the authors via email click on their names.

The Evolutionary Socioecology Of Communication *New (June 18, 2004)
Marion Blute(University of Toronto at Mississauga)

How brain organization supports and constrains memory for gestures and rituals across generations and across cultures.
Marcel Kinsbourne (New School University, New York)

Gestures in evolutionary perspective
Paul Bouissac (University of Toronto,Victoria College)

Modes of continuity and change in action sign systems
Drid Williams (University of Illinois)

Locating Gesture: Leroi-Gourhan among the Cyborgs
Michael Chazan (University of Toronto)

Rituals as language: the archaeological evidence
Andrea Vianello (University of Sheffield)

"Language in their very gesture": Shakespeare's Actors and the Body.
John H. Astington

Gesturing at nature: the rhetoric of gestures, ritual and memory in cross-cultural perspective
Robert Yelle (University of Toronto)

Handing down by means of speech: gesture and Memory in the exegesis of Religion
Peter Jackson

Papers are in PDF format

Gestures, Rituals and Memory: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Patterned Human Movement across Time.

The ways humans express themselves and interact with each other and with their environment through gestures have been extensively studied from a synchronic perspective. The description of patterned human movement  in skills, rituals and every day life transactions has been an important part of ethnography  since its inception. Various recording methods have been created to meet the challenge of translating these flowing patterns into repertories of body postures, hand and head motions, and modes of perambulation, often in relation to verbal utterances. Attempts have been made to construe such dynamics as systems expressing the technological level and cultural ethos of social groups. However, little is known about how these neuromuscular processes and their meanings have evolved, how they have been preserved or transformed over time, and how they relate to changing cultural norms.

The purpose of this symposium is to explore the possibility of studying gestures and rituals across time, and to probe the memory resources of the human brain which can account for their continuity and change. The symposium will address the issue of how technical skills and communicative gestures, rituals and magic, theatrical acting and dances, for instance, are transmitted vertically from  generation to generation  and often spread horizontally from population to population. Particular attention will be paid to the transformations which occur during this process not only in the forms of the movement but also in their symbolic meanings. A full understanding of these processes, which are at the core of the  cultural specificity of humans, requires the inputs of a wide array of disciplines, from the cognitive neurosciences to cultural anthropology, and including the history of religions, the study of manual techniques and social gestures, the ethnography and history of rituals and dramatic performances, the psychology of face-to-face interactions, and the representation of such behavior in literature and the visual arts. This symposium will endeavor to explore some of the directions mentioned above and to lay the basis for a large-scale conference on this topic to be organized in 2005.

Information: Paul Bouissac   
Design by: H. Harris
Copyright ©2004. All rights reserved