Accepted Papers:

Drawing gestures: body movement in perceiving and communicating the underwater landscape  


Cristián Simonetti (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Paper Short Abstract:

Underwater archaeology is an interesting case for understanding perception and communication. This paper shows how archaeologists use gestures to draw the underwater landscape once they have resurfaced. The idea of gestures as drawing challenges any representational notions of meaning.

Paper long abstract:

Underwater archaeology is a very interesting case for studying perception and communication in situ, especially considering the characteristics and limitations of the work, which is related to a field under the water. This medium puts several limitations both on visual perception and interaction. As a result underwater archaeologists (U.A.) rely mainly on communication on the surface to share relevant knowledge and accomplish their work. Interestingly, they manage to do so always diving in pairs silently, therefore never having all together "the landscape in sight". This brings several questions about how U.A. are able to reenact the landscape in its temporal dimension and how are they able to communicate knowledge about it.

This paper presents ethnographic work with a team of Chilean U.A. Audio-video data is analyzed with a special focus on meaningful interactions. I show how archaeologists rely, most of the time, on gestures to communicate about the underwater landscape. Challenging mainstream research on gesture, I argue that U.A. do not convey mental, self-contained representations but open movements that are part and parcel the constant flow of their thoughts. As they perceive the underwater landscape from a limited perspective they draw it gesturally for others, once they have resurfaced. This invites us to understand thinking as embodied movement, and to draw attention to the open-ended, emerging and dynamic side of gesture. I argue that this approach contrasts fully with the well-established representational notion of cognition, which is inadequate to provide and account of how U.A. work.

panel P27
Seascape: anthropological and archaeological approaches to the human habitation of the sea