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[xmca] The Child's Conception of the Nation
Late last year there was a story on the evening news about a sixth-grader here in Seoul whose mother was Korean and whose father was a Russian immigrant. The child was visually striking in the way many Eurasian kids are; olive skinned with piercing blue eyes. For the most part, the other kids admired the way he looked, and he was well liked.
However, our unpleasant neo-Francoist government occasionally sees fit to try to whip up something they call "patriotism". Contrary to what outsiders often believe, this has nothing to do with the North; all Koreans agree that Korea is a single nation divided by meddlesome foreigners, unusually obtuse politicians, and a minefield whose victims are, thankfully, mostly wild pigs and an occasional sun bear.
Instead, the fits of patriotism have to do with two rocky outcrops in the East Sea (for we do not refer to it as the Sea of Japan) called Dokdo. I find it hard to get worked up about these islets since no actual Koreans live there, but sixth graders are taught a song that goes "Dokdo Uri Dang" (roughly, "Dokdo is our land"). The little boy with the olive skin and the piercing blue eyes sang lustily with his comrades, and he was quite surprised to be asked by his friends why he referred to the rocks as his, since they were indubitably Korean rocks.
Sixth graders are an unsentimental lot, and our little lad protested only mildly that he was a Korean too, but he wrote rather wonderingly about it in his diary, and his mother was moved to tears and an impassioned call to the local TV station. On Tuesday night, in connection with the child's transition to from visual-graphically based complexes to abstract concepts, we discussed where the children's idea of nationhood and citizenship comes from.
In the West, of course, the notion of nation comes from "country" and is always vaguely related to land. This is actually not true of Korean: the word for "nation" means simply "realm" or "polis", and anyway the accent is always on OUR nation or OUR polis. So in English we have a kind of ready-made reification of the nation in "land", but in Korean the child has to grasp, from the get-go, the concept of "our nation", within which the child must build a complex.
How does the child do this? It seems to me that the obvious way is visually, by extrapolation from "our community" and "our tongue", the collocutions that also contain the collective "uri", but above all from "our family". After class I speculated that this visual-graphic definition of the family, the community and the nation is particularly STRONG in sixth graders, who are just learning, for other reasons, a highly exaggerated attention to appearance.
This certainly explains why when my wife and I go almost anywhere and speak to almost anyone, people tend to address her rather than me, although this is a breach of manners since I am older and male. My wife looks more like their folks than I do, and there is a strong sense that although we are both foreigners, she doesn't look the part and I do. (Legally, however, I am more Korean than she is.)
I think we can see from this why our sixth grader with the piercing blue eyes was challenged when he asserted his de jure Korean-ness. It is, at bottom, the same reason why Republicans flirt with the idea that Obama is foreign born, and that there are "real Americans" who look the part and others who do not.
In most people's eyes, and certainly in those of the appearance-obsessed teenager, patriotism is constructed around a visual model, and by this model some of us have more of it than others. It is what Lakoff would call prototypical thinking, and what Vygotsky would call pseudoconceptual, but I don't think any of us would call it progressive.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Wed, 4/20/11, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 1:47 PM
I don't know, I think LSV makes it pretty clear that word-meaning is not the concept. He criticizes Ach, who:
"identifies concept and word meaning, and thus precludes any possibility of change and development in concepts" (T&S chapter 6, para 16).
On Apr 20, 2011, at 12:57 PM, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org wrote:
> Please explain to me how someone can "wield a concept"? I am not even
> sure about the expression "grasp a concept". When there is a word that is
> generalized to the extent of; hmmm....let's pick moon; it is not a
> decisive tool of distinction but rather, as LSV points out, "word meaning
> is the elementary cell that cannot be further analyzed. . . it is the
> unity between thought and word" We cannot say that our earth has THE
> moon. But in conversation we can state, "The moon is out and bright
> tonight." I can provide a crowd with my moon but perhaps get arrested and
> a smiling cherub of a child could display their moon of a face. IMHO
> moon's word meaning is the concept present in these thoughts and words.
> Not something weilded or grasped but perhaps active?
> what do other's think? bill blanton or bill borowy out there?
> From: Huw Lloyd <email@example.com>
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
> Date: 04/20/2011 12:32 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
> Sent by: email@example.com
> On 20 April 2011 10:43, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> I appreciate all the thoughtful good will going into the attempts to
>> common grounding and explore one's own thinking in this/these
>> I fear i violated Tony's reasonable 2 cents rule because I, too, have
>> too little time to write and the intermixing of pieces of threads and
>> added to the difficulties.
>> I believe that Andy identified one problem when he pointed out that Huw,
>> coming from a somewhat different (and relevant!) tradition(s) introduced
>> concepts such as activity as he understood them from, say, Maturana or
>> Bateson. So, for example, he pointed to Jim Wertsch's *Mind as Action*
> as a
>> source for explication of the concept of activity using the pole
> Kind of. I'm saying mediation and activity go together. In, for example,
> the scheme Wertsch provides (p204, VATSFOM):
> Activity -- Motive
> Action -- Goal
> Operation -- Conditions.
> A good place, it seems, to locate the use of concepts (i.e. those things
> gained during dual stimulation experiments) is in the regulation of
> However, I'd say that the concept used influences the dynamics, as it can
> change the situation.
> Consider this simplified account. A man is queuing at a supermarket. He
> only has 10 dollars (or some other currency), yet he needs the food to
> his family. He's got a number of items, all of which he needs, though
> might tally up to more than 10 dollars. Let's say they add up to 9.99. If
> he can confidently do the math and has done so, his whole experience will
> different to the circumstances he'd be in if he found those kind of
> conceptual operations difficult. He wields these concepts in the act of
> doing the math (the concepts mediate this act). But these circumstances
> will also mediate his activity as a whole as they influence his
>> But, Jim uses this example to talk about mediated action in
>> context, his preferred unit of analysis at the time (at the end of
>> and the Social Formation of mind-*- which you can find whole on the
>> but not download- he DOES discuss notions of activity following LSV).
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