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Embodying Empathy in Everyday and Institutional Settings: On the Negotiation of Resources, Rights, and Responsibilities in Comforting Actions

  • Maxi KupetzEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

This paper investigates the multimodal resources used by participants for doing being empathic. Extracts from three different settings are discussed: mother-child play, elementary school, and a public political debate. The sequences consist of a display of physical or emotional discomfort and a responsive comforting action. In terms of resources deployed, the bodily dimension is particularly stressed: In specific sequential positions, comforting is achieved by reducing physical distance, establishing close body positions, and bodily contact. Comforting is then ‘embodied’. Such sequences bring larger activities to a halt: When physical or emotional distress is brought up in interaction, the business of ‘treating the participant’s distress’ seems to become ‘the main job’. Only when this job is jointly treated as accomplished can the overall social activity be pursued.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Jörg Bergmann, Geoff Raymond, Margret Selting, Xiaoting Li, the members of the DFG Network ‘Multimodality and Embodied Interaction’, as well as two InLiSt editors for important comments on earlier versions of the paper. I am indebted to Gene Lerner for encouraging me to take a slightly different route. Remaining shortcomings are my responsibility.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Martin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

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