Accepted Paper:

Reflexivity, experiment and ambiguity in the semiotic orchestra of ritualized everyday life  


Chloe Nahum-Claudel (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

Enawenê-nawê everyday life is analysed as a series of intercalated patterns of directional movement, tempo, touch, vision, voice and sound. The play of visibility and invisibility, silence and speech, noise and melody, touching and distanced bodies, achieves a social and cosmic orchestration.

Paper long abstract:

Enawenê-nawê everyday life is carried out in and around a panoptic arena that serves as theatre and auditorium. Working, living and relating are musicalized, aestheticized and choreographed to take on poetic qualities. I consider the twofold efficacy of the orchestration of intercalated patterns of directional movement, tempo, touch, vision, voice and sound through the ethnography of routinized ritual activity and carnivalesque festivals.

Firstly I argue that Enawenê-nawê mastery of multi-modal communication creates communitas and participation, by drawing people's senses centripetally inward and synchronising and collectivizing their embodied, sensory experience. This occurs, for example, when a woman grating manioc in her house is absorbed in a bodily nexus of breath, movement and sound, and receives auditory feedback to evidence the synchronicity of her work with that of others hidden in separate houses. Over the course of each day, and over an annual cycle, the changing village soundscape provides a tangible realisation of the synchronicity and shared temporality of people's lives.

While multiple semiotic modalities may be orchestrated to enlace people in a stable, controlled and predictable lifeworld and temporality, reflexive code switching also provides the technology for risky but powerful experiments with the social and ontological order, for example when an activity that is usually audible but hidden (although it occurs in the hours of daylight) is made into a night-time spectacle. When many code switches occur at once, transfiguring the patterns of intercalated sensory stimuli, social and ontological boundaries are crossed and blurred.

Panel Lang01
Semiosis as orchestration