Rhythm in social interaction: some detailed aspects of action-in-interaction

Convenors: Emanuele Bottazzi (C.N.R.) & Chiara Bassetti (University of Trento – C.N.R.)

Humans are hard-wired to get caught in a mutual focus of intersubjective attention, and to resonate emotions from one body to another in common rhythms. (Collins, 2008, p. 27)


Rhythm is not important merely in music, it is crucial in every activity we engage in with others. But it is far from easy to give an account of what rhythm is and how it is apprehended, manipulated and used is everyday social interaction. One of the most comprehensive attempt to do so is Lefebvre’s, but the study of the situatedness of rhythm in interaction is just at its start. Appealing to its etymology, it has been often highlighted that rhythm is flow, a dynamical entity grounded in human body and movement. It also seems that the very sense of sharedness is connected to synchrony, and more generally eurhythmics, and linked with empathy and well being among interactants.

Systematic research is nowadays conducted on rhythmic synchrony in interaction by disciplines as diverse as ethnomusicology, music psychology, psycholinguistics, social psychology, neuroscience, kinesics, gesture studies, and interaction analysis. However, interdisciplinary studies attempting to build an embodied account of rhythmic synchrony are still few. There are evidences, for instance, that being caught together in rhythm in interpersonal interaction entails a pleasurable dimension, a sense of enjoyment – and this is difficult to resist. This, as Durkheim noted through the bodily-grounded notion of collective effervescence during rituals, is one of the bases of sociality and everyday life. What about daily rituals and, at a micro level, situated interaction? What is the role of rhythm in such contexts? What are its social consequences and effects? Rhythm allows intersubjective motor and affective resonance, and this is a bodily, mostly non-verbal form of meaning-making and knowledge sharing that, though not being necessarily conceptual or propositional, is crucial not to miss by ethnographers. Can rhythm be an asset in researching such topics? Moreover, what the above mentioned form of social sharing in interaction can reveal on the relation between conceptual and non conceptual knowledge?

The workshop invites contributions that, by drawing on ethnographically-founded empirical material, consider one or more of the following topics and its/their role in social interaction as well as in doing ethnography:

• body and rhythm, embodiment of/and rhythm;
• intercorporeal rhythms, interaction rhythms;
• rhythm as culture;
• rhythm and (everyday) rituals;
• urban rhythms;
• rhythm and rules, rhythm and normativity;
• problems in rhythm (rhythmic incongruence, interruptions of rhythm);
• other related topics


Chiara Bassetti is supported by the VisCoSo project grant, financed by the Autonomous Province of Trento through the “Team 2011” funding programme.

VisCoSO – Detection of crisis in socio-material systems via VISual-COgnitive-SOcial processes


Emanuele Bottazzi is supported by the STACCO project grant, financed by the Autonomous Province of Trento through the “Postdoc 2011” funding programme.

STACCO – lo STAto Civile della COntraddizione

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