Hear, look, touch. Stories about self-transforming experiences in proximity of, and encounters with other bodies

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Gustaaf F. Bos
Belonging 'Inside-Out

Willem van den Bergh Chair for Social Integration of People with ID, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

All authors:

Gustaaf F. Bos

corporality, verbality, nonverbal knowledge, reversed integration


The Dutch policy of ‘reversed integration’ – reshaping (parts of) residential care facilities into neighbourhoods for people with and without intellectual disabilities – aims at stimulating encounters and social relations between stakeholders in safe and structured neighbourhoods. Stakeholder stories are analyzed in an attempt to: 1. gain insight in (their perspectives on) daily interactions in their neighbourhoods, and 2. compare these interactions and perspectives with the aims of policy makers. 


Participant observation, interviews, narrative inquiry, data-triangulation (member checks, focus groups, peer reviews (Abma, 1998; Abma, Bos, Meininger, 2011). Each stakeholder’s perspective was constructed and discussed on multiple moments, in varying environments, and by different stakeholders – in an attempt to get the most relevant, credible, and recognizable themes. Themes are input for further analysis and discussion. 


In joining in (and evaluating) daily human interactions, much of our conscious attention is aimed at verbal aspects. Remarkably often, people tend to consider the prospects of inter-neighbour communication as the equivalent of the prospects of sharing spoken language. Extensive bodily participant observation and a lot of doubtful (spoken) conversation outcomes in neighbourhoods for ‘reversed integration’ stimulated partaking in an ongoing search for meaningful nonverbal interaction alternatives between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Preliminary conclusions

Attention for non-verbal aspects of communication enables people to explore previously unknown possibilities for interaction spaces between self and others. By reflecting on this, people construct new knowledge not only about the other and the self, but also about ways self and other are able to connect (‘selfother’, Heshusius, 1998).


Abma, T.A. (1996). Responsief evalueren: discoursen, controversen en allianties in het postmoderne. Delft: Eburon.

Abma, T.A., Bos, G.F. & Meininger, H.P. (2011). Perspectieven in dialoog. Responsieve evaluatie van beleid voor mensen met verstandelijke beperkingen en hun omgeving. NTZ. Nederlands tijdschrift voor de zorg aan mensen met een verstandelijke beperking. 37(2), 79-87.

Heshusius, L. (1994). Freeing ourselves from objectivity: Managing subjectivity or turning toward a participatory mode of consciousness? Educational Researcher, 23(3), 15-22.