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Re: [xmca] Refugees and Conception

Larry, I don't believe I used the word "merely," just "some kind of" and emphasised that I was just responding to the first few pages of one article. Valsiner is a huge figure in our tradition and I should have been more measured in what I said anyway.

It is not so much anything that Valsiner said that I was reacting to. It is just that philosophy and science is today pretty much ruptured between the Analytical and Continental traditions. You are one of the few, Larry, who reads across both traditions. Vygotsky read everything too, but broadly speaking he is part of the "Continental" tradition, his own ideas derived from Goethe, Hegel and Marx. The American Pragmatists are another group that tends to span the gap, but mostly - and this was my point - mind in the Analytical tradition, and mind in the Continental tradition are such different conceptions that discussions across that gap usually take the form of "cross purposes" or other forms of noncommunication.

The examples I mentioned were Rudolph Carnap and the Logical Positivists. For these writers a pseudoconcept is a concept. The most you will find is Locke's distinction between ideas derived from sensation and ideas derived from the mind's observation of itself, or some correlate distinction. Concepts in the sense Vygotsky is talking about are not on the horizon. That is my view. In the Englist speaking world, anyone working in the "continental" tradition is marginalised.

So my impatience was not with Valsiner but with the entire two centuries of analytical philosophy.


Larry Purss wrote:
Thank you for this article explaining Valsiner's 4 levels. I also find it a
very interesting framework for trying to understand emotions.
I'm also aware of Andy's comments that Valsner is "merely" articulating a
"cognitive perspective" of generalization/abstraction and am trying to
remain reflective.
What I particularly find interesting is the recognition that at the "higher"
4th level of generalization the process of differentiation and reflection of
affect becomes DE-differentiated and abstracted [and implicit]
This "higher" level is the level of VALUES which have an IMPLICIT
constraining determination on the emergence and generation of affect and
meaning.  This model also offers an explanation of why it is so difficult to
have a DIALOGUE about level 2 emotions and meanings. At the level 4
de-differentiation of value constructions persons have a
generalized/abstracted orientation which is "just a feeling" which is
difficult to put into words and articulate.

I'm reading the other articles within this thread, but I'm hoping Andy and
others add their thoughts on Valsiner.  His writings are helping me to
understand abduction, pseudoconcepts, and stage/layer accounts of
development.  His perspective also has significant implications for how we
"observe" or "recognize" our relations with others.


On Fri, Aug 13, 2010 at 6:46 AM, Paula M Towsey <paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za>wrote:

Dear Deniseitive

I've been trying to track down Valsiner's "Levels of semiotic mediation",
mentioned to you in his email, to get an idea of how and why he views
pseudoconcepts as being at "Level 4".  I have so far only managed to come
with the excerpts attached here - apologies for the size.  (Being at
distance from one's place of learning, and at the antipodes too, makes
accessing texts a long-winded affair: Valsiner's 2007 book isn't available
on Googlebooks preview and the ILL takes forever...)

And as I started to read these excerpts, though, your latest post arrived,
and my immediate reaction was to send the excerpts to you now
a) because I wasn't sure if you'd read/seen this element of Valsiner's work
or not and it seems pretty interesting to me, and
b) because of the questions you ask about the CL and thinking modes and the
whole question of pseudoconcepts.

I am excited about the possibility of this bringing together the real life
experiences of your CL and Valsiner's work and the whole question of the
differences between pseudoconcepts, everyday concepts, and
systematised/academic/scientific concepts - in fact, conceptual modes in a
variety of cultural situations, as Mike draws attention to (and asks about)
in the video.

Are you familiar with this aspect of Valsiner's work or not?  Do you think
it may be relevant?  Please do let me know - and thank you for these


Paula M Towsey
PhD Candidate: Universiteit Leiden
Faculty of Social Sciences

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Denise Newnham
Sent: 13 August 2010 12:31
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
 Subject: RE: [xmca] Refugees and Conception

Dear Mike,

Two things to situate and I reply for the wider network as well: The Change
laboratory methodology (Engestrom, 1987) was called for by a group of
specialized teachers and a voluntary NGO group called Suisses Immigres (N+
10). They had designed a project called Accompagnateur Mere-Enfant (Mother-
child facilitator).These were the subjects of the Change laboratory and the
activity was the project. There were (at the time of the CL) 10 voluntary
facilitators who were mostly retired teachers or retired persons. These
people worked in a dyad with a mother and a child. The triad worked on "how
to do homework with a child". The facilitator was there to help the mother
to take over the role of guiding her child in homework tasks. After several
months problems began to surface within the meetings between the two
The designers of the project or project holders decided to run a CL under
guidance on this group of people so there were two going on at the same
time.The one on the project itself and the other on the facilitators. The
hidden agenda of this project was to "get the mothers out of their homes"
a form of integration. Mothers were the targets as they are, in the host
population as well, the people that are largely at home in order to help
with the task of children's homework. Children come home for an hour and a
half at midday in this region until the age of 15. It is presumed that the
refugee mothers do not get out of their homes.

The difficulty that I had is similar to what you mention. The situation of
the refugee mothers. No prior investigation was done into what they really
live and how they think. There were many value laden judgments going on and
were translated into paternalistic attitudes towards the mothers and
families at large by the facilitators.

The CL is over and micro shifts were achieved. However the perceptions of
the foreign mothers was difficult to overcome. And now this is where I have
a gap in the explanation of possible reasons as to why. Obviously at the
time I would not have been able to run these tests and actually the idea
not enter my mind then. What I did do was begin with a group of mothers
volunteered) to work through what integration meant to them and in their
everyday problems what could be found as solutions in order to break the
vicious circle in which they lived. The socio-political environment for
these people is much the same as you described from the book The spirit
catches you...No they are not entirely isolated this is impossible but
minds are still very much in the past.

Three of the mothers would reason in the same way as the person encountered
by Luria. However they are not lacking in reasoning as the groups within
project would say. They were simple reasoning in another manner. There way
of thinking reflected their socio-cultural environment of origin. That is
why I would like to have had an article where you expose this possibility.

Many thanks to you all

-----Original Message-----
From: Denise Newnham [mailto:dsnewnham@bluewin.ch]
Sent: 13 August 2010 10:13
To: 'Denise Newnham'
Subject: FW: [xmca] Refugees and Conception

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: 13 August 2010 00:43
To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
Subject: [xmca] Refugees and Conception

I am responding here to Denise's note about her work with refugee women. I
have started a new
thread because her message came trailing a mile of previous messages (we
need to find some way
to not include every previous message with a new one; its a special burden
when we get very long threads and the archive has all the prior messages in
a thread anyway).

Denise wrote (in part):

I (one of my hats) work with refugee mothers and the concept
of "foreign mothers" for the local population. I ran a CL [Change
with a group that is working on integrating refugee mothers so that their
children can perform
better at school. The subjects of this CL had relatively little or no
knowledge of what happens in foreign mothers lives or world on a daily
basis. This I attempted to introduce through mirror data and models etc.
What remains as a question is to me is if these persons minds where
constructed within their environment and they are relatively isolated
their new environment what kind of mind is there? The question that you put
forward at the end of the video is of great interest to me and an important
argument for involuntary displaced adults.
Your note raises dozens of questions for me, Denise.
First of all, I would love to read a description of your Change Lab
experiments. The first
question your note brings up is "who initiated the intervention?" A central
principle of
the Development Work Research Change Lab methodology, as I understand it,
focal participants are the ones to decide what is a problem in their lives
(at work in the work that
I have read). Are the moms the one's who are concerned about their kids'
performance in school?
Or is this some govt agency's concern?

If it is the mom's concern, what is revealed about the history and current
state of their problems as they
see them in the mirror?

What sort of intermediate solutions do they come up with?
Is it difficult for them to use the theoretical model?

I think that just starting with data generated by the conversations that
meant to be evoked by the
mirror part of the methodology would reveal a lot about how these women
think about the world. Anyway, I would start there (and for sure would give
them Vygotsky blocks to find out how their minds work!).

I understand what you mean, in common sense terms, by saying that they lead
isolated lives here. But it is not literally true, is it? From the little i
know about domestic refugee situations, the world around them impinges on
them from every side. For example, in the book
*The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American
Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures *by Anne Fadiman, the Hmong
people who are her subject matter could easily be said to live in isolation
from the life around them in the Central Valley of California, but it is an
odd sort of isolation as they struggle to reconcile the two worlds they
experienced. And its odd for those around them who seek to be helpful. And
many around them are actively seeking to isolate them even as they seek to
isolate themselves from "those alien creatures."At present I am working in
an African American community which is, so to speak, isolated in a housing
project in southeast san diego. After a few years of involvement with these
folks, the main thing i have learned is that there is so much I do not
understand that I am constantly suspending judgment and seeking deeper
understanding by engaging with them in activities that they think are good
for their kids, all the time trying to understand the discrepancies from my
expectations/values, the choices they make, their selective appropriation
the advice that rains down on them, and so on.

I am really interested in the problem you raise, but I almost certainly
little to contribute with so little knowledge of the particulars.
Tell us more!
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*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Videos: http://vimeo.com/user3478333/videos
Book: http://www.brill.nl/scss

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