Gestures: new meanings for an old word

Call for Conference

Over the past few years, the concept of gesture has been discussed in numerous scientific and philosophical fields. The concept promises an overcoming of hyper-intellectualist conceptions of the human being, and its ascendancy has reaffirmed the importance of the pragmatic, relational dimension in human experience and cognitive processes. The contemporary focus on the concept has developed either by explicitly employing the vocabulary of gestures (Kendon 2004; Sennett 2009; Maddalena 2015; Agamben 2017; Tversky 2019) or by means of alternative terminological choices that are theoretically consistent with the same conceptual framework (Deacon 1997; Archer 2000; Rizzolatti-Sinigaglia 2006; Tomasello 2008; Ingold 2010; Donati 2009; Sennett 2009; Ferraris 2017).

The theoretical and practical implications of this new centrality of gestures have yet to be assessed, especially if we consider gesture as being involved in the cognitive, pedagogical, and sociological paths forged by the digital revolution. The absence of such an assessment is unfortunate in light of the fact that the concept of gesture might be crucial for understanding the forms of knowledge being created and the transitions of meaning occurring in this new cultural landscape. More in general, many questions arise from various points of view when we focus on the cognitive role of gesture. Does the idea of gesture entail highlighting the preeminence of bodily experiences at the expense of intellectual and rational processes? Does the focus on gesture lead to the thinning of the distinction between humans and nonhuman animals, or do gestures help us to rethink and reconceptualize the allegedly higher human capacities without reducing them to epiphenomena of underlying biological and neural processes? Does the gesture involve reasoning? Does it have a meaning in itself, or is it merely a means of conveying meaning? Is it a purely external action or are there also internal gestures? Does it serve to communicate, or is all communication a form of gesture? What kind of pedagogy is connected to gesture? What kinds of relationships does gesture require? What kind of social relations are involved in the concept of gesture?

The conference aims to inquire into the possibilities opened up by and the problems attending a philosophy of gestures. Both contributions aimed at reconceptualizing the above questions and at providing answers to these questions are welcome. The conference has an explicitly multidisciplinary orientation. In accordance with this, the program of interventions will be organized according to field of study as follows: sociology, pedagogy, philosophy; psychology and anthropology, and communication and technology.

The conference will take place September 16–19, 2020 at the University of Molise (Campobasso, Italy).

The deadline for submitting abstracts is Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Abstract proposals (min. 400 – max. 500 words) should be sent to:

Confirmed speakers: André De Tienne (Indiana University, Director of the Peirce Edition Project), Pierpaolo Donati (Università degli Studi di Bologna), Maurizio Ferraris (Università degli Studi di Torino)

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