On the Social Constraints of Having a World

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    Notions like ‘The World at Your Feet’ and ‘having a grip on the world’ or ‘grasping the world’ have the inbuilt assumptions that there ‘is a world’, that one ‘has or inhabits a world’, that there is a ‘one’, and that that one ‘shares a world’ with other ones. This paper points out that one cannot take all of that for granted. In order to discuss, within an Ethnomethodological Conversation Analytic (EMCA) framework (Garfinkel and Sacks 1970), how human ‘bodied individuals’ (Howe 2008) organize bodily conduct, we start from Merleau- Ponty’s (2012) understanding of the relation between the physical body and the material world. It is argued that part of the organizational work consists of typifying behavioural activities and embodied action for interaction along ‘normal/typical’ vs. ‘abnormal/atypical/deviant’ scales. If the conduct is categorized as ‘abnormal’, this may have serious consequences for the bodied individual and his or her possibilities in life. The paper then proceeds to carry out an EMCA analysis of a face-to-face interaction. The aim is to demonstrate how bodied individuals, as participants in interaction, may orient to a commonly established, i.e. known, relation between types of ‘engagement with the world’, ‘having a world’, and ‘being part of this world’ in the concrete details of face-to-face interaction; this analysis constitutes the main part of the paper. We conclude that socially (re)established ordinary knowledge, of and about engagement with the world, constrains everybody. It takes ascribed membership in this ‘World’ to have it ‘at Your Feet’. Moreover, individual or existential choices that are made when ‘grasping the world’ are embedded in, and thus ultimately constrained by, this world
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalRASK – International journal of language and communication
    Pages (from-to)79-107
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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