Embodied Family Choreography: Practices of Control, Care, and Mundane Creativity, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Embodied Family Choreography

Practices of Control, Care, and Mundane Creativity, 1st Edition

By Marjorie Harness Goodwin, Asta Cekaite


290 pages | 236 B/W Illus.

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Embodied Family Choreography documents the lived and embodied practices employed to establish, maintain, and negotiate intimate social relationships in the family, examining forms of control, care, and creativity. Making use of the extensive video archives of family interaction in the US and Sweden, it presents the first investigation of how touch and interaction between bodies, in conjunction with talk, constitute a primary means of orchestrating activities through directives, thus creating rich relationships through supportive interchanges, and engaging in playful explorations of the world. Through close investigation of the sequential and simultaneous engagement of bodies interacting with other bodies, this book makes visible the important role touch plays in the context of contemporary Western middle class family life and is pioneering in its analysis of how the visual, aural, and haptic senses (usually analysed separately) mutually elaborate one another. As such, Embodied Family Choreography will appeal to scholars of child development, the sociology of the family and ethnomethodology and conversation analysis.


"More than a book, Embodied Family Choreography offers a multi-media, stop-motion view of how touch, gaze, and language entangle parents and children in comforting attunement and struggles for control. This landmark study brings theory to its knees, as it distills the experience of living, learning, and building intimacy with others." - Elinor Ochs, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UCLA, USA

"Embodied Family Choreography is an immensely dense web of vignettes of truly mundane family life: brushing teeth, saying good night, sheperding the children to their bedroom. Each scene is analyzed so as to brilliantly reveal the multiple ecological, socio-historical, relational, and semiotic practices and constraints shaping it, and the interactional ‘machinery’ by which patterns of close relationships and personalities are formed comes into clear relief. Rarely has family life been presented with so much vivid precision and depth of observation." - Jürgen Streeck, The University of Texas at Austin, USA

"Exploring the rich life of American and Swedish families, their routines and their creative improvisations, Marjorie Goodwin and Asta Cekaite offer a fascinating book that both revisits classical interactional topics - like directives in social interaction - and introduces innovative perspectives – especially regarding tactility and embodiment in everyday practices. That the multiple uses of touch are not only for care and intimacy, but for controlling and socializing bodies represents a strong originality of the book." - Lorenza Mondada, University of Basel, Switzerland

"In Embodied Family Choreography, Goodwin and Cekaite provide an in-depth view into everyday family life in the United States and Sweden. In doing so, they turn what they call "the mundane" into anything but, showing how the kinds of ordinary activities and practices that constitute "doing" being a family (like bedtime routines and managing homework) are densely packed opportunities for researchers to understand many of the core features of cultural experience that concern psychological anthropologists." - Sonya E. Pritzker, Ethos

"Marjorie H. (Candy) Goodwin and Asta Cekaite’s analysis of interactions between parents and children in daily life provides an excellent contribution that will extend the discussion [on multimodality and (inter)sensoriality in Conversation Analysis], and it does so from a more than cursory interdisciplinary perspective. […] [It] provides an outstanding possibility to see in detail how parent-child or sibling-sibling interactions take place, especially as embodied, haptic, spatially occurring routines that are calibrated in situ. It combines in one edition the two authors’ research into child rearing, and especially the role of intercorporeality (touches and hugs). The book is a goldmine of close to 200 exemplary analyses and a wealth of themes (with a thorough set of references to the literature) that pertain to family interactions." - Pirkko Raudaskoski, Journal of Pragmatics

Table of Contents

Introduction: Our Materials and Perspectives for the Study of Human Interaction

1. Capturing Family Interaction in Situ: Fieldwork and Theoretical Points of Departure

2. Frameworks for the Study of Human Interaction

Part I: Control: Directive/Response Trajectories

3. Directive Response Sequences

4. Control Touch in Directives

5. Negotiation within Directive Trajectories

6. Metacommentary in Directive Sequences

Part II: Care: Intimate Tactile Intercorporeality

7. Engagements of Care Entailing Touch

8. Constituting Relationships of Care Through Boundary Intertwinings

9. Alternative Trajectories and Attunements to Requests for a Hug

10. Intimacy in Good-Night Routines

Part III: Mundane Creativity: Improvisation and Enskilment in Family Interaction

11. Improvisation and Verbal Play

12. Socializing Enskilment

13. Sibling Caretaking, Teaching, and Play

14. Conclusion

About the Authors

Marjorie Harness Goodwin is Distinguished Professor Emita of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles, USA. She is the author of He Said She Said: Talk as Social Organization among Black Children and The Hidden Life of Girls: Games of Stance, Status and Exclusion.

Asta Cekaite is Professor in Child Studies at Linköping University, Sweden and co-editor of Children’s Peer Talk: Learning from each other. She is editor for Research on Children and Social Interaction.

About the Series

Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis are cognate approaches to the study of social action that together comprise a major perspective within the contemporary human sciences. Ethnomethodology focuses upon the production of situated and ordered social action of all kinds, whilst Conversation Analysis has a more specific focus on the production and organisation of talk-in-interaction. Of course, given that so much social action is conducted in and through talk, there are substantive as well theoretical continuities between the two approaches. Focusing on social activities as situated human productions, these approaches seek to analyse the intelligibility and accountability of social activities ‘from within’ those activities themselves, using methods that can be analysed and described. Such methods amount to aptitudes, skills, knowledge and competencies that members of society use, rely upon and take for granted in conducting their affairs across the whole range of social life.

As a result of the methodological rewards consequent upon their unique analytic approach and attention to the detailed orderliness of social life, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis have ramified across a wide range of human science disciplines throughout the world, including anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, communication studies and social studies of science and technology.

This series is dedicated to publishing the latest work in these two fields, including research monographs, edited collections and theoretical treatises. As such, its volumes are essential reading for those concerned with the study of human conduct and aptitudes, the (re)production of social orderliness and the methods and aspirations of the social sciences.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General