[xmca] subjectivity question

From: Mike Cole (lchcmike@gmail.com)
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 08:52:09 PST

Mary-- I found the message where I raised questions about the use of the
subjectivity. The question I am raising is one that I have brooded about for
a long
time without ever seeking to bring the discourses where subjectivity is a
key term
and discourses that use terms like psyche, mind, etc. that tend to come from
 This may not be productive for people to discuss if others are clear on it
but I am not
so would benefit from such a discussion.
Second, and on a very different tack. I would really appreciate help
understanding warrants for claims about another person or group's
I am a member of modern academic culture, so of course I have a general idea
of what the term means from its uses, as in Anna's paper, but in cultural
studies more broadly. But, perhaps because of my training as a behaviorist,
or perhaps because of my training as a student of Alexander Luria's, many
of the term make me nervous, and that extends to Anna's paper and your
discussion with Martin (for whom the term is more comfortable, I believe --
Please, Martin, Anna, Andy, Mary, and others join in here).

Danzinger recounts how it came about that a researcher in a German
laboratory in the 1880's-1990's came to be called "the subject," the person
psychological states/perceptions/elements of consciousness/....... his (it
was all hims at the time) research-partner was, in collaboration with the
trying to obtain "scientific evidence" about. In simple terms, it was the
problem of how you could know what someone else was thinking/feeling.

Luria writes about his disillusion with various attempts to solve this
problem. He specifed, in The Nature of Human Conflicts, and again in his
a method in which the researcher created a situation where s/he and the
"subject" were coordinated in a cultural medium. The behavior of both was
voluntary, not reflexive. Once they achieve highly coordinated joint
actions, the researcher introduces a highly selected change into the
situation and
determines if this change results in a change in the coordinated actions of
the "subject." ONLY when there is selective, predictable, DIS-coordination
of the coordinated joint activity is there a warrant for a claim about the
other person's thought/feeling.

Peg Griffin and I sought to extend this idea into the diagnosis and
remediation of reading difficulties of children with, I believe, reasonable
success. Bruner and
others used it, without acknowledgement or recognition of its general
importance so far as I know, in studies where, for example, infants are
first habituated
to a series of stimuli while their "signature" rhythmic sucking is recorded
and then a small change of interest (phoeme, visual configuration...) is
to see if the suckig is disrupted.

I can give other examples from rare, but naturally occuring events I have
participated in.

But in general, what are the warrants for claims about another person's or
another people's subjectivity? Last night on National Public Radio I heard a
Palastinian and other people writing "in diaspora" speak of the fence as
huge influence on his feeling of being walled out of his own country. The
people from various parts
of Africa rioting in Paris are clearly outraged over their treatment by the
French and I see their anger in their actions. But what can I claim to know
about their
subjectivity (their anger is objectively visible to me)? What can my
daughter, who has lived in Eastern Madagascar at various periods in her
life, gotten
extraordinarily ill from helping grow rice in swamps, participated in cattle
sacrifice, grieved at the death of her Malagasy ancestors, know about
subjectivity? Behind my back,the BBC is showing anyone who will watch the
subjectivity of Latin Americans outraged at American policies. What can I
know about their subjectivity other than its external manifestations?

This is not a known answer question. I would appreciate help in coming to
terms with the use of this term. I believe it must be used with great care
and the
possibility of claims being incorrect. Luria wanted to be able to
distinguish what people said from what they "felt." In Anna's paper, the
terms subjectivity
and intersubjectivity are central. What is being meant by what is being
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