Monday, May 2, 2011

Holland et al. (1998) Identity and agency in cultural worlds

Holland, D., Lachiocotte, W., Skinner, D. and Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

+ People tell others who they are, but even more important, they tell themselves and then try to act as though they are who they say they are. These self-understandings, especially those with strong emotional resonance for the teller, are what we refer to as identities (p. 3)
+ They emphasize that identities are improvised (p4)
+ A key premise is that indentities are lived in and through activity and so must be conceptualized as they develop in social practice (p5)
+ Holland et al. conceive of persons as composites of many, often contradictory, self-understandings and identities
+ The culturalist position emphasizes that people's actions are driven by internalized cultural logic; e.g., how one speaks (saying "please" when asking for favors) as reflecting precepts learned in childhood about conducting oneself as a moral person
+ The constructivist position emphasizes the social positioning that goes on whenever people interact (i.e., it depends on maneuverings, negotiations, etc., of relations of status and entitlement)
+ Dialogic perspectives (e.g., Bakhtin) claim that individuals and groups can hold more than one perspective at the same time
+ "egocentric contractual" and "sociocentric organic" concepts of the person. "egocentric contractual" - "Western" perspective that social relationships are viewed as derivative of the autonomous and abstracted individual. "sociocentric organic" - non-Western, context dependent, concrete, and socially defined (p21)
+ social constructivists emphasize that our communications with one another not only convey messages but always make claims about who we are relative to one another and the nature of our relationships (p26)
+ Old debate: is there an essential self - a durable organization of mind/body?
+ Practice theory of the self: (1) culturally and socially constructed discourses and practices' (2) the self is treated as always embedded in (social) practice; (3) sites of the self - loci of self-production or self-process (p.28)
+ Codevelopment - the linked development of people, cultural forms, and social positions in particular historical worlds
+ Activity systems - p38

+ Holland et al. believe identify formation must be understood as the heuristic codevelopment of cultural media and forms of identity p45

Urrieta (2007): According to Holland et al. figured worlds have four characteristics:
(1) Figured worlds are cultural phenomenon to which people are recruited, or into which people enter, and that develop through the work of their participants.
(2) Figured worlds function as contexts of meaning within which social encounters have significance and people's positions matter. Activities relevant to these worlds take meaning from them and are situated in particular times and places.
(3) Figured worlds are socially organized and reproduced, which means that in them people are sorted and learn to relate to each other in different ways.
(4) Figured worlds distribute people by relating them to landscapes of action; thus activities related to the worlds are populated by familiar social types and host to individual senses of self.

Brad: Figured worlds are constellations of interpretations, resources, encouragements to action, social history, possible actions, particular realitites, etc.

Figured worlds are socially situated, and are "peopled by the figures, characters, and types who carry out its tasks and who also have styles of interacting within, distinguishable perspectives on, and orientations towards it" (p. 51).

Old debate: agency vs. structure (a.k.a. free will vs. determinism)
New: examining how people create the structures that influence people's actions, perceptions, beliefs, etc., which then reinforce or change structures, and so on, in a dialectic relationship (dynamic interaction)

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