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Choreographies of Attention: Family Intersubjectivity in an Everyday Routine

Marjorie H. Goodwin


Eve Tulbert

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 82


This paper investigates the same activity--children brushing their teeth--across a number of different U.S. families. The basic physical gestures of teeth brushing are the same; what is notable is the wide range of ways that families organize this routine in household space and interactional time. By drawing together contrasting examples, this study reflects on the ways that children’s attention is not only verbally directed, but physically choreographed as family members participate in sequentially and spatially patterned sets of activities. The study draws on a multi-modal approach to communication, observing the ways that families draw on three aspects of choreography in their organization and performance of everyday routines: 1) rhythm, or the way that a rhythmic, embodied engagement in routine activity provides a field for the mimesis and training of others, 2) sequencing, or the way that talk in interaction breaks activities into seriated moments, and 3) topographies, or repeated ways of using household spaces and objects.

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