Article published in:Anthropology of Gesture
Edited by Heather Brookes and Olivier Le Guen
[Gesture 18:2/3] 2019
► pp. 142–172
Gesture and anthropology
Notes for an historical essay
This essay is a (necessarily selective) historical review of some contributions to the study of gesture (in all its varieties) from an anthropological perspective. Reasons for an interest in gesture by the authors considered are varied. Some are interested because it seems a simpler form of communication which might throw light on language emergence, others see it as interesting as a form of communication in its own right. In the early days of ethnography attempts were made to describe all aspects of “primitive”or “savage” life and if gestures were noticed an attempt would be made to describe them. Later on, especially as we get into the second half of the twentieth century, much study of gesture was motivated by the idea that it might serve as a “window” on mental processes, rather than how it works in communication, but in recent years the role of gesture in communication has once again received more emphasis and its study from an anthropological viewpoint has, accordingly, again gained in importance.
Keywords: gesture, anthropology, communication, history of gesture studies, ethnography, sign language, origins of language
Published online: 17 February 2021
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