Walter Benjamin Kolleg


Bodies in Interaction

Over the past 35 years, studies of embodiment have come to play an increasingly prominent role in theorising across the humanities and social sciences. Eschewing a simplistic mind-body dualism, scholars in fields as diverse as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, history and linguistics have argued that we must go beyond viewing the body as a stagnate object on which social and cultural meanings are inscribed. Instead, research has drawn heavily on both phenomenology and practice theory to argue for a focus on bodily “being-in-the-world” – one that explores how meaning is grounded in embodied experience and action as well as how these actions themselves emerge within (and respond to) a broader field of social constraints, expectations and dispositions.

Purpose of the research platform

Bodies in Interaction brings together a cross-disciplinary groups of scholars with a shared interested in embodiment. To date, there exist two parallel strands of research focused on embodiment in social interaction (i.e., in the mundane everyday activities that bring people together). One of these strands is within conversation analysis and interactional sociolinguistics. Research in this tradition has examined how individuals coordinate speech, gesture and other bodily actions in the course of situated social practice and how meaning emerges as a product of multimodal and multisensorial integration across semiotic channels. The other strand of research focusing on embodiment in interaction is within psychology and cognitive science. In that body of work, scholars aim to move beyond representationalist views of perception and social cognition to explore the ways in which sense-making is the result of a participatory process defined by the inter-enaction of multiple individuals.

Despite the overlapping interests in embodiment and interaction, there is a striking lack of dialogue and cross-fertilization among scholars across these two research strands. The primary aim of Bodies in Interaction is to foster this kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration, allowing scholars to share perspectives on issues of embodiment, perception, action and meaning in both co-present and mediated contexts, and to explore methods for investigating embodiment and intercorporeality, including techniques for identifying, measuring and coding action across visual, acoustic and haptic channels.

Goals of the research platform

As an exploratory research platform, our goals are twofold: 1) to create a space for the exchange of ideas to identify points of synergy and overlap and 2) to host training workshops on methods for studying embodiment across disciplines. Through platform activities, we hope to elaborate a new cross-disciplinary approach to questions of embodiment and intercorporeality, which could be utilized in subsequent collaborative research projects.

Platform Members

Prof Dr Erez Levon (Sociolinguistics, Platform Coordinator)
Dr Matthew Hadodo (Sociolinguistics)
Prof Dr Tobias Hodel (Digital Humanities)
Dr Janek Lobmaier (Psychology)
Prof Dr Fred Mast (Psychology)
Dr Elisabeth Militz (Geography)
Dr Christoph Neuenschwander (Sociolinguistics)
Prof Dr Crispin Thurlow (English Language & Communication)
Prof Dr Wolfgang Tschacher (Psychiatry)