Re: [xmca] subjectivity question

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Thu Nov 10 2005 - 18:12:04 PST

   I agree Mary, that for an understanding of the meaning of subjectivity
   in today's context, poststructuralists like Judith Butler and Michel
   Foucault (and Cavarero ?I think?) are indispensable, as they are the
   main critics of subjectivity still today. But I really do think at
   least a health warning needs to be attached to such a recommendation,
   viz., that for these writers "subjectivity" means what I at least
   would call "subject position", and not anything like what either Anna
   Stetsenko or I, for example, would call "subjectivity."
   Poststructuralists claim to have "deconstructed the subject", for them
   it is an illusion. To Judith Butler's credit, she does indeed claim
   and promote the capacity of individual people and groups to change the
   discourses and narratives (structures) which determine them, but as I
   see it at any rate, this possibility, open to an individual to
   intervene in the structures which determine their consciousness is not
   so much an afterthought - to say that would be missing the point - but
   it is at the margins. (Much like those kind of leftists who say that
   the state control everything, but still envisage the possibility of
   overthrowing the state.)
   I think poststructuralism is a powerful theory, but don't you find it
   very "objectivist" as well, Mary?
   I wish I could offer an alternative reading list, but I find that
   those writers who are currently promoting subjectivity (e.g. Frank
   Ferudi, James Heartfield, Charles Taylor) I cannot recommend without
   "health warnings" either.
   PS. Everything people on this list have to say about *how* to discuss,
   I always read with the greatest attention, because XMCA is really the
   most outstandingly successful and productive list that exists. I will
   try to do better.
   At 08:32 AM 10/11/2005 -0800, you wrote:

     Two short books would, I think, provide an excellent overview of
     contemporary thinking about this vexed matter of "self",
     and the relationality of self and others, and of course, self as
     Other to
     Judith Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself, 2005, Fordham
     University Press
     Adriana Cavarero, (1997), Relating Narratives: Storytelling and
     But for the sake of completeness, I would have to add, Michel
     later work, The Hermaneutics of the Subject, 2001, Palgrave -- kind
     fascinating because, published posthumously, these are literally
     transcriptions of Foucault lecturing at the University.
     A little contemplative reading is, I think, more helpful here than
     trying to
     summarize about 300 years of work in an email -- and actually, if
     you just
     read the Butler text, which is less than 150 pages, you will get it
     Mary K. Bryson, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, ECPS,
     of Education, University of British Columbia
     Research Profile
     On 11/9/05 8:52 AM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:
> Mary-- I found the message where I raised questions about the use
     of the
> term,
> 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
> different
> places/times.
> 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.
> mike
> ------------
> Second, and on a very different tack. I would really appreciate
> understanding warrants for claims about another person or group's
> "subjectivity."
> 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
> studies more broadly. But, perhaps because of my training as a
> or perhaps because of my training as a student of Alexander
     Luria's, many
> uses
> of the term make me nervous, and that extends to Anna's paper and
> 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
> laboratory in the 1880's-1990's came to be called "the subject,"
     the person
> whose
> psychological states/perceptions/elements of
     consciousness/....... his (it
> was all hims at the time) research-partner was, in collaboration
     with the
> subject,
> trying to obtain "scientific evidence" about. In simple terms, it
     was the
> problem of how you could know what someone else was
> Luria writes about his disillusion with various attempts to solve
> problem. He specifed, in The Nature of Human Conflicts, and again
     in his
> autobiography,
> 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
> actions, the researcher introduces a highly selected change into
> situation and
> determines if this change results in a change in the coordinated
     actions of
> the "subject." ONLY when there is selective, predictable,
> 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
> remediation of reading difficulties of children with, I believe,
> success. Bruner and
> others used it, without acknowledgement or recognition of its
> 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
> introduced
> 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
> 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
> Malagasy
> 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
> 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
> written?
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> [2]
     xmca mailing list

    Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61)
                                03-9380 9435
             Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006


xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Dec 01 2005 - 01:00:07 PST