Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection

Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection

Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection

Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection


In Communicating , the anthropologist Ruth Finnegan considers the many and varied modes through which we humans communicate and the multisensory resources we draw on.The book uncovers the amazing array of sounds, sights, smells, gestures, looks, movements, touches and material objects which humans use so creatively to interconnect both nearby and across space and time - resources consistently underestimated in those western ideologies that prioritise 'rationality' and referential language.


As I sit here tapping into my computer I have memories of story-telling in West Africa with its songs, movements, and actively performing audiences, of the calls, colours and scents from sparkling displays of produce laid out to entice buyers in a Fijian market, and of the shared experiences, somatic and visual not just acoustic, of musical performances in England. I think of the gestures and unspoken signals of everyday living and of contacts across distance through telephones, letters, presents; also of those variegated family heirlooms, material contacts with earlier generations. I cannot forget either the experiences of reading authors from the long past, Homer's rhythms and cadences as well his words, and the body-stirring excitements of Greek dramatic metres, with their dances and choruses.

All these, it seems to me, are ways that human beings interconnect with each other - modes of communicating. And yet so many accounts seem not to take on this full multisensory range, presenting instead a thinner more parochial view of communicating, as if it is limited to words or, at best, to recent expansions in visual images and the ramifications of currently expanding information technologies. Words are indeed wonderful, and my personal and scholarly life has been imbued with them - but there is so much else too.

This book developed out of such reflections. Looking back at my own experiences, I felt the need for a wider view of communication. There seemed a place for a book which could draw together something of the many current insights into the importance of all the senses in our human interconnecting, of material objects, contacts across space and time, and the significance of experiential dimensions of human life, not just the cognitive. Too many of our assumptions and analyses have been logocentric or unidimensional, cutting out the dynamic processes of gesture, movement, dance, often even sound itself.

The book also grows out of my earlier research. In studying first story-telling in Sierra Leone, then oral poetries and performances in Africa and elsewhere, processes of literacy and orality, Fijian and English music-making, and urban tales, I have for long, I now realise, been involved not just with the anthropology of expressive art and performance but also, in the broad sense, with communication. Going in the same direction too, perhaps, was my initial training in the beautiful

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