Accepted Paper:

The formation of joint intentionality in the act of walking together  


Anna Christen (University of Basel, University of Konstanz)

Paper short abstract:

How is joint intentionality formed when people walk together? Drawing on my fieldwork in South Africa and the action theory of M. Gilbert, I explore how joint intentionality arises via Participant Observation and how a shift from mere observation to participation can be put into predication.

Paper long abstract:

"Walking together" has various connotations. It can be an act of mobility, a matter of security, a creation of private space in public or a ritual of commuting. On the basis of my fieldwork in Grahamstown, South Africa, I will investigate and compare the peculiarities of different acts of walking together that are habitual to the people I walked with, but not (yet) to me, the researcher. In this, the goal is to discover how joint intentionality comes into being through Participant Observation: What happens when the mere observer becomes a participant and how do these shifts differ, depending on the way a specific shared action is practiced? I argue that although anthropological methods and methodologies have repeatedly been scrutinised, challenged and refined in different ways, their phenomenological presuppositions are still more frequently taken for granted than questioned in their premises, conditions and functions. Drawing on the work of Michael Jackson, Tim Ingold and philosophical action theorist Margaret Gilbert, I aim to explore a plural subject theory with the explanatory power to illuminate how common practical knowledge can be built in ethnographic fieldwork. I depart from the premise that conducting ethnographic fieldwork is an act of bodily engagement, which is still in need of theoretical investigation. The overall objective of this paper is to investigate the conditions under which joint intentionality can emerge in a habitual shared action like walking together and how the shift from mere observation to participation can be put into predication.

Panel MB-AMS01
Between experiencing and ethnographizing in practice-based research