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[Xmca-l] Re: Two worlds, Urie Bronfenbrenner


Bronfenbrenner was born in Moscow, just two weeks after Lenin returned to
Russia and read the April Theses to the Bolshevik Party, preparing them to
take state power within six months. Historical coincidence?

Of course it is. A more important fact about Bronfenbrenner's life is that
he had to make a career in American academia at the height of the
McCarthyite purge. Which does make the papers that Jonathan pointed to all
the more remarkable and all the more courageous. True, they were not
published until the sixties and seventies, but then they probably COULDN'T
have been published before then.

To me, what is most Marxist about Bronfenbrenner is his recognition that
the most important ecosystem in the development of the child is one that
the child never even lays eyes on: what Daddy (and more rarely Mommy) have
to do for a living. This was a very unpopular thing to say, and it still
is, because it is not only Marxist but Durkheimian: it implies that the
social and the interpersonal really are two qualitatively different levels
of being requiring two qualitatively different kinds of analysis (part of
the recent discussion on drama touched this point: the kind of freedom
espoused by the Matusov/Marjanovic-Shane school of development is largely
concerned with the interpersonal and not the social).

But how do the social and the interpersonal get so thoroughly
inter-connected by the time the child is an adolescent? In my country, it
is depressingly straightforward: I remember how the "Head Start" programmes
which Bronfenbrenner (and Labov) worked indefatigably to create were almost
exclusively made up of kids from the other side of a chain-link fence which
ran right down the centre of Prospect Park in Minneapolis, separating the
homes of the overwhelmingly white University of Minnesota professors and
their kids (including me) from the overwhelmingly black housing project
where we learnt, by sixth grade, not to play.

What I am re-reading right now is the second volume of Ruqaiya Hasan's
Collected Works, "Semantic Variation" (something she told me to read the
last time I met her and I wanted to talk about her first volume). Ruqaiya
insists throughout that we distinguish between the "material situational
setting" of talk (the sort of thing that shows up on the child's purely
visio-graphic analysis of context) and the semantic context (the sort of
things which are selected as worthy of processing into language). It's not
that the child has to imagine what Mommies and Daddies do for a living;
it's that they have to imagine what kinds of things Mommy and Daddy select
as worth talking about.

These semantic orientations are not the same for different classes of
people, and Ruqaiya's (and Bronfennbrenner's) great insight and great
courage lay in tirelessly telling us so. But for me, growing up, there was
a clear visographic clue which infallibly linked any potental friend to
which side of the chain-link fence a potential friend played on, namely
skin color. Tragically, I had mastered this clue by sixth grade.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 9:41 PM, Jonathan Tudge <jrtudge@uncg.edu> wrote:

> Dear Ulvi,
> Bronfenbrenner wrote a fair number of papers about Soviet child-rearing
> practices in the 1960s, as well as papers describing the "mirror image"
> (the way Americans see Russians and vice versa).
> Even more interesting, from my point of view, is the fact that he wrote in
> the 1970s papers in which he argued that American child-rearing efforts
> would be significantly improved by incorporating some aspects of Soviet
> approaches.
> Cheers,
> Jon
> ~~~~~~~~~~~
> Jonathan Tudge
> Professor
> Office: 155 Stone
> http://morethanthanks.wp.uncg.edu/
> Mailing address:
> 248 Stone Building
> Department of Human Development and Family Studies
> PO Box 26170
> The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
> Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
> phone (336) 223-6181
> fax   (336) 334-5076
> http://www.uncg.edu/hdf/facultystaff/Tudge/Tudge.html
> On Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 7:14 AM, Ulvi İçil <ulvi.icil@gmail.com> wrote:
> > I am reading this wonderful work of Bronfenbrenner, it is my second,
> deeper
> > reading just after the first.
> >
> > As far as I know he did not have any particular political inclination
> > towards Soviet Union, Marxism etc.
> >
> > But it is interesting that the Part I of his book (and it seems this is
> his
> > first book)
> > is selected to have the title of "The making of the new soviet man".
> >
> > I highly appreciate if any other such cross-cultural including Soviet (or
> > solely on Soviet child upbringing) is proposed.
> >
> > Ulvi
> >