Vincent Battesti - |
English → Works/ publications → In progress and forthcoming

Repertoire of gestures of Cairo [temporary title]

Vincent Battesti , Thierno Youla Sylla

Repertoire of gestures of Cairo [temporary title].
Répertoire des gestuelles du Caire [titre provisoire].

 It is a project in its very early developmental stage, but comes after two important beginnings in studying Arabic gesture:

  1. The research led in Yemen and its publication. See article An Outline of a Yemeni Body Language (Taiz and Sanaa).
  2. The observation of urban behaviours in Cairo, done for a wider work on the public spaces (see the research space Urban anthropology), and the long term frequenting of Egyptians of different social classes for more than three years.

The objective is to establish a first repertoire of gestures in use nowadays in Cairo, excluding, as I did it in Yemen, the ritual gestures purely religious (of Muslim or Christian rites for instance).

This work should be illustrated and also lay on photographs and videos. This would justify possibly a publication in a journal like Visual Anthropology Review.

Probably that the gestures will be classified according to their intentionality. Indeed, more than an anthropology of the body which would present the body piece by piece, and the gestures and the dependent gestures (that becomes singularly complex when several parts of the body are used in the same gesture, as it is often the case), I prefer to underline the communication function of this language of the body. That had already been my point of view for my work in Yemen. It is possible to thus distinguish, for example, between the gestures used “to be in relation to somebody” and the gestures used “to describe a person, a state or a thing”.

These gestures, which are elements of a language (often non-autonomous) of the body, then make sens in situations of enunciation (if I then to say). A first definition of criteria allowing situating the multiplicity of gestures could distinguish between, for example, these couples of oppositions:


young old
woman man
urban rural
popular bourgeois
educated non-educated


domestic public
downtown suburb
professional nonprofessional


static circulation
everyday exceptional
near far


Research done with the assistance of Mr. Thierno Youla Sylla, student, graduate in Literature in the Cairo University.

Update (July 2006):
The corpus of the article is completed since March 2006. I still have to video-record all these gestures (and to seize the occasion to reverify this repertory). That will have to await nevertheless a forthcoming mission in Cairo… At the beginning of 2007?

Update (March 2010):
Still not have bought a video camera and work in situ to record them: it’s bad! I still have to.

This article has been read 1784 times.

Post a message / Comment on this article

This page was last updated on Sunday 21 March 2010 at 11:22:55. //// -----> Quote this page?
Vincent Battesti , Thierno Youla Sylla , "Repertoire of gestures of Cairo [temporary title] " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 8 July 2005 (consulted 20 May 2024), available on: