Volume 18, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN 1568-1475
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9773
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Current anthropological studies of gesture give extensive attention to communities of study from a synchronic perspective while also focusing on semantic, cognitive, and linguistic analyses of gesture. However, less well explored is how the uses and meanings of gestures can change over time within societies and the role of gesture in social interactions. In addition, individual, interpersonal, and societal level politics can also influence what gestures mean and how they are strategically used. This paper uses careful analysis of European missionary reports and trader accounts written in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to focus on shifting power relations in the pre-colonial era Kongo Kingdom in West Central Africa. Larger social transformations will be used to contextualize three key incidents where gestures were at the center of complex negotiations about meaning and power. The paper argues for gesture studies scholars to consider deep, contextual, and historically grounded examinations of gestures and the role they play in shaping relationships and societies.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Africa; gesture; power; religion; time
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