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[Xmca-l] Re: bildung and obuchenie

I was thinking much the same, Gregg.
Stephens presents bildung as being a fundamentally social process - the self is built out of relationships with others and as we engage with others we also come to know more about who we are. I would argue that all understanding is essentially social (having a feeling for how what we know is known and felt by others) but that this is particularly central to our understanding of our 'self'. From this perspective we can only understand ourselves by building our awareness of how we are experienced by others and playful interactions (social chat, hanging out) is more effective for this than more remote forms of study. I learned about obuchenie in the course of a wonderful (VERY hot) summer school near Moscow which focused on Vygotsky's concept of play. I learned that Russian understandings of education have a much wider, tanglier connection into the persons teaching and learning than is common in the UK and the USA - which may be why Russians are more likely to describe themselves as students of someone who was a student of someone who was a student of Vygotsky (for example) - being someone's student means you have had an opportunity to get to know more of the person than just what is contained in published works. I think the same is true of 'character building' (though I share Gregg's reservations about the history of this) in English public schools where people pay for the company their children will keep as much as for the quality of the teaching - and the products of particular schools can be quite distinctive and recognisable!

I am impressed by how much is packed into such a short article!

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
Sent: 16 June 2014 06:25
To: xmca-l@ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] bildung and obuchenie

In reading the article I just mentioned (in Anthropology and Education Quarterly), I got to thinking that bildung seems very similar to obuchenie.
I asked a Russian professor who happened to be in a classroom before a class I was teaching and she described a concept that seemed very similar to bildung. From what I could gather, obuchenie has the same sense of "cultivation" that seems to be at the heart of bildung. And of course I don't mean "cultivation" in the high cultural sense of being a "cultivated"
person (although this might have been part of what the early authors writing about "bildung" had in mind) rather I mean the idea of a full development of the human, not merely the dumping of information into the individual.

Anyone have any sense about overlap between these concepts?
Are they as similar as they seem to me?
If different, then how so?

And I wonder how people would feel about the term "character education" as an English analogue to the German bildung and the Russian obuchenie?

Yes, yes, yes, I know that this aligns with politics that make many people sick to their stomach, but frankly, I'm interested in imagining a politics that isn't so provincial as the American Left and Right so I'm always looking for politically polyvalent concepts. What do you think? Could this be a concept that can work in politically polar opposite communities?


Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

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