ENSO Seminar Series

The Subject of Joint Speech

Fred Cummins

University College Dublin
May 19, 2016, 9 a.m. UTC // May 19, 2016, 5 a.m. in America/New_York

The topic of joint speech (chanting, speaking in unison) offers a rich empirical site from which to investigate the collective enactment of meaning and identity. It is easy to demonstrate that the practice of speaking-as-one plays a central and valued role in all societies, and in several distinct domains of activity (prayer, protest, education, etc). It is easy too to argue that this kind of uttering is not a peripheral kind of vocal behaviour, but a central example of languaging, integrated into practices that underpin many kinds of collective order.

The marked absence of scientific study of joint speaking is attributable in part at least to the absence of an appropriate vocabulary for addressing collective subjects and their perspectives. Joint speech confronts us with collective subjects, enacted through joint coordinated activity, that do not reduce to individual persons or minds. Enactive theory provides such a vocabulary, but it is still very much work in progress.

Some challenges to enactive theory that arise will be discussed. I will suggest that loose talk of "enacting a mind/world" needs to be subject to scrutiny, as it suggests outdated reliance on the notion of singular minds (enaction is not psychology) and meaningless worlds (this is a constructivist epistemology, not an objective framework). Despite the instability of the vocabulary, enaction provides the only framework I am aware of that allows recognition of different kinds of enacted subjectivities.

Event page: https://plus.google.com/b/107046608557849026523/events/ctfq7putapdf6ue4rl9fbsam2q0