The feel of a recurrent gesture : Embedding the Vertical Palm within a gift-giving episode in China (aka the ‘seesaw battle’)

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254–284
Journal / PublicationGesture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


The inner workings of recurrent gestures can now be distilled from almost three decades’ worth of fine-grained studies into gesture form variants, kinesic organization with speech, core semantic themes, and discourse-interactive functions. Yet several questions about this gesture category have remained in the background. How do such gestures relate to the behavioral activities within which they occur, their wider embodied and intercorporeal context, and the relations between the people performing them? These questions are addressed by adopting an enactive approach to cognition and by analysing how the Vertical Palm gesture form materializes during an episode of gift-giving between two friends in China, where the practice involves elaborate embodied maneuvers resulting in a visibly affective ‘seesaw battle’. Treating gift-giving as a situation for participatory sense-making spun from a complex web of sensorimotor schemes, this seesaw battle provides a natural ecology for exploring understudied dimensions of the Vertical Palm recurrent gesture as embodied, embedded, and enacted during a practice with culturally-specific dimensions.

Research Area(s)

  • gift giving, China, recurrent gestures, Vertical Palm gesture, the enactive approach, participatory sense-making

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Research Unit(s) information for this publication is provided by the author(s) concerned.