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[Xmca-l] Re: IRECE special issue on perezhivanie and subjectivity



Martin,

I don’t use the term nor concept of “subjectivity” in my own work, so my
knowledge is only cursory at best, but i’ll have a go at answering your
question as best I can. Perhaps others with more expertise in this area can
weigh in?

Although the contributing authors have drawn on each others work in one way
or another (either directly or through our discussions), there are subtle
differences—comparing the authors from Australia and those from Brazil—in
the way terms are used and understood. The best person to read is probably
Fernando González Rey; his 2009 article in Outlines (“Historical relevance
of Vygotsky's work: Its significance for a new approach to the problem of
subjectivity in psychology”) puts the two terms in the same discussion (as
does a lot of his recent work in Spanish and Portuguese). He does the same
in his contribution to this issue and his students and colleagues draw on
his work heavily. So too, does Marilyn Fleer, who builds on the term with
“double subjectivity” in her research into children’s play—consequently, so
too do her students and colleagues. You can see examples of both kinds of
discussions in this issue.

I understand the study of subjectivity to be the question of “what is the
self” in psychological terms. Who is the subject? The traditional
essentiallist conception is that an individual possesses this subjectivity
that, if only we had the right tools, we could adequately access and
study—it is understood as a kind of cognitive function. González Rey
believes Vygotsky to be approaching this issue in his later years, when he
begins writing about sense (in Thinking and Speech) and perezhivanie (in
“The problem of the environment”, and “The crisis at age seven”). These
terms are understood to represent a new understanding of the mind
(Vygotsky’s “second moment”) that Vygotsky begun sometime before 1932. I
say he *approached* this issue, because González Rey argues that this was
never completed: the terms were never adequately integrated into the rest
of his theoretical framework.

So, perezhivanie—the discussion has come up on this mailing list several
times in the past decade, but for now, let’s just call it the lived
experience of a situation. Importantly, it recognises that there is both
something to be experienced and someone doing the experiencing. And so two
people in the same situation can experience it differently; the same person
in the same situation but at different times can experience it differently;
and the same person in different situations of course experiences them
differently. These are banal observations, but take on more significance in
the context of discussing development, and once you fully engage with the
epistemological and theoretical consequences of this conceptualisation.

González Rey argues that the concepts of sense and perezhivanie can be used
to support a new, cultural-historical, understanding of subjectivity. The
argument is that, rather than being an inherent quality of a person,
subjectivity is instead a psychological reality that emerges from one’s
lived experience (perezhivanie) of their environment at each moment and is
thus a kind of dynamic expression of this system. In the same way, things
like fantasy and imagination are understood not as cognitive functions in
themselves, but emergent products of certain concrete configurations of the
individual and their environment.

That's about all I know. The issue of subjectivity is a broader project
than that of perezhivanie, so no, not synonymous. I could be way way off,
however, so don't take my word for it.

- Nelson



> Nelson, can you tell us more about the relationship between subjectivity
and perezhivanie, as you and your authors understand it? Are they synonyms?