[xmca] Natural vs. Human Dialectics & Perezshivanija

From: Cathrene Connery <cconnery who-is-at ithaca.edu>
Date: Sun Sep 23 2007 - 14:31:32 PDT

        Hi Tony,

Yes, it is a challenge to keep up with the list serve, isn't it?! Sorry
I don't have a chance to respond to your request in a more personal way;
I have a colleague coming in from Australia that I need to host for a
few days. However, below you will find two sections from my dissertation
on perezhivanie. The first section outlines the concept itself and the
second discusses "the lived experience" as a unit of analysis. Hope this
Best wishes,

The Perezhivanie within the Zone of Proximal Development

A sociocultural theory of semiosis underscores the experience of the
meaning-maker within perezhivanie. Mahn & John-Steiner (2002) describe
this Vygotskian concept as “the affective processes through which
interactions in the zone of proximal development are individually
perceived, appropriated, and represented” (p. 49). On one hand,
perezhivanie involves how an individual experiences the social context
as an internal state. This phenomena includes “everything selected from
the environment and all the factors related to our personality and are
selected from the personality, all the features of its character, its
constitutional elements, which are related to the event in question”
(Vygotsky, 1994, p. 342).

Using the example of a school science experiment, a child’s inner
experience of perezhivanie might involve excitement at the prospect of
collaborating with friends, a need to please her teacher, and / or a
strong feeling of being engrossed in a topic of interest. In the exact
same situation, a different student might dread the possibility of
appearing foolish or incompetent by peers, hold reservations regarding
power dynamics between herself and the teacher, and worry about the
outcome of the experiment. These examples illustrate only a small
portion of the spectrum of possibilities a meaning-maker might
internally experience in perezhivanie.

At the same time, Vygotsky (1994) described perezhivanie as “a unit
where…in an indivisible state, the environment is represented” (p. 342).
This semiotic context simultaneously includes all that is selectively
experienced by the meaning-maker including the physical, emotional, and
intellectual realities of the immediate context. To return to the same
example, factors that are especially pronounced to the meaning-maker
might include the sensation of manipulating batteries and bulbs in the
science experiment, the tension among the group to follow the protocol
in a timely manner, and the challenge of advanced academic language
presented in the science textbook.

Larger school ethos or a teacher’s ideology might additionally
constitute situational factors encompassed in a child’s perezhivanie.*
*Because interpersonal relationships contextualize and compose the zone
of proximal development, issues of power and privilege, as well as
access and equity shape the nature of perezhivanie. Ultimately, both the
individual and environment are influenced within the two-way dynamism of

*Perezhivanie as a Unit of Analysis:*
Vygotsky (1994) noted that external influences, in and of themselves,
rarely have a direct impact on the psychological processes or
personality development of children. Instead, the emotional-intellectual
relationship a child formulates with and assigns to the environment
ultimately determines the profundity of its influence. As previously
discussed, Vygotsky (1994) used the Russian term /perezhivanie/ to
capture this integrated, experiential state of lived experience. Through
the unity of /perezhivanija/ (plural form of /perezhivanie/),
sociocultural research “investigates not just the environment and laws
regarding its [the environment] framework, but the role, meaning, and
influence on child development” from the standpoint of the child (p.
338). What is important is the integration of internal and external
states in this unity of analysis. Vygotsky (1994) summarized
/perezhivanie/ as “an indivisible unity of personal characteristics and
situational characteristics” at the forefront of the lived experience of
the child (p. 342).

As significant tools for sociocultural research, the concepts of word
meaning and /perezhivanie/ offer researchers two holistic units of
analysis. When considered in relationship to each other, word meaning
and /perezhivanie/ provide intersecting and interdependent means to
explore the developing mind. The two units also retain an intimate
connection: Mahn & John-Steiner (2002) point out the concept of word
meaning served as the foundation for Vygotsky’s investigations into
/perezhivanie/. While /perezhivanie/ presents a larger construct
reflecting the contextual system of the environment, word meaning offers
the means by which the lived reality of the participant might be
understood (Mahn, 1997).

In metaphoric terms, a child’s /perezhivanie /might be considered a
temporary house for their experience of a given event. Word meaning
provides the windows through which researchers might access the lived
experience of the child. Mahn (1997) affirms the “meaning that students
ascribe to their experiences can be analyzed by looking at the unity of
thinking and speaking in word meaning” (p. 368). Mirrors inside the
residence, seen through the windows of word meaning, might be said to
reflect external factors outside the home that ultimately influence the
development of the child.

Vygotsky’s emphasis on verbal language remains central to his theory and
methodological approach. His work in distinguishing meaning and sense
highlights the role verbal signs play in the meaning-making process. In
order to identify /perezhivanija /of participants, Mahn & John-Steiner
(2002) encourage the use of multiple data sources including student
work, journals, oral interviews, observations, and transcripts of speech.

Tony Whitson wrote:
> Catherine,
> Could you say more about this concept? (Sorry if I've missed it in
> previous posts -- I'm afraid I'm not able to read everything that
> comes over XMCA :-)
> On Sun, 23 Sep 2007, Cathrene Connery wrote:
> I like Vygotsky's concept of perezshivanie as it captures both sides
> of this dichotomy and places it into a dialectic.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Dr. M. Cathrene Connery
Assistant Professor of Education
Ithaca College
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Sep 23 14:36 PDT 2007

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