Re: [xmca] Fwd: social spaces

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sat Feb 24 2007 - 21:09:45 PST

Thanks Jen, your response helps me grasp your perspective. My own
experiences with racism, gender discrimination and class exploitation
have been weighted by working in factories for, believe it or not (I
don't, somehow!) about 30 years, an experience which in turn has been
influenced by my coming of political age in the US youth
radicalization and antiwar movement in the late '60's and early
'70's. I like much of what you say because I like the side you
implicitly take, the side of the oppressed.

I essentially agree with your starting point, to see social spaces as
structured by social class relations. But I find myself wanting to
go a step further, or perhaps, resolve down to a finer level of
detail, and ask what kind of "structures" are we talking
about. Contrasting the two concepts and thinking them over a bit, I
am leaning toward suggesting that the descriptive concept of "social
space" is more of a metaphor for how things appear than it is a
reference to an actual structure. I would contrast the descriptive
concept or metaphor of "social space" to the explanatory concept of
"social class," which does refer to material entities and
structures. I am thinking that a "social space" is more of a useful
abstraction than something tangible, historical, concrete, such as a
social class. In trying to think of "social space" historically and
culturally, I am becoming inclined to see it as more of an analogy
than an entity.

I like the way you use the social space metaphor in your paper to
describe young people that have been marginalized and pushed out of
the school system: "(dis)placed". In general, the geophysical
imagery of "spaces" seems to have the advantage of evoking the
motions of many social entities at once, perhaps competing for the
same "spaces" or "places" in a society, perhaps forcing others to
vacate spaces. As long as it is used carefully, as a form of imagery
and analogy - as a description - the concept "social space" seems
like a useful tool to depict events and behaviors and other social
processes, particularly on the individual level.

The distinction between description and explanation I am making
attempts to follow Ilyenkov's theory, following Marx, of rising from
the abstract to the concrete - that descriptions are abstractions
(specific, particular, phenomenological), while scientific
(explanatory) concepts aim at being concrete (general, historical,

I am not at all suggesting that description is inferior to
explanation, by the way - the two are mutually essential, in my
view. But they are also not the same. Perhaps I could turn my
thoughts here into a question for you - do you see the concept of
"social space" more or less as a metaphorical description of lived
experience - comparable, for example, to the metaphor of being
marginalized - or do you see it as an explanatory concept referring
to a material entity - comparable, for example, to the concept of
social class? Or as something else ... ?

~ Steve

At 10:36 AM 2/23/2007 -0800, Jen wrote:
>Hi Steve,
>Thanks for your note. It is a luxury to think this through; to think
>through what I take for granted and to think about what others think
>in relation to the words I use. [Can you sense that I have been
>drowning in administrative tasks that are sucking the life out of me?]
>As I think/write this through I begin with my own experience: social
>spaces like material spaces are classed. They are structured by
>social class relations, expectations, dispositions, assumptions, and
>hierarchically, with values attached to certain positions over
>others. They are gendered as well, interpreted broadly to include a
>range of gendered identities, and raced, although I use this term
>out of laziness because I don't believe in races though I do believe
>in racism. Perhaps ethnicity is a better term for the latter, though
>I don't think it adequately captures the experiences of some
>Americans who were enslaved and brought to the US against their will.
>I personally feel that social class is primary of class/race/gender,
>but I say that because of my own position. I am white and a luxury
>of being white is that I can choose when and where I "tune in" to
>issues of ethnicity and racism. As a heterosexual woman I am also
>privileged, and though I have experienced gendered conditions that
>were outrageously oppressive, i.e. in a southern university
>engineering school, I have gotten to the point where I can raise the
>issue of gendered relations with colleagues and put my weight
>behind battles that might advance an awareness of sexist practices,
>i.e. I have been known to say to a room full of men, "My goodness,
>you need some estrogen!" I guess feel that class is primary,
>perhaps, not because it is the most important or the most
>fundamental, but because it is -- I am qualifying this again in my
>own life -- the one that is the easiest to hide and to hide from.
>Hmmm ... not sure if this makes sense. And this is probably more
>idiosyncratic than we really want to go.
>So, I'll return to what I wrote earlier: Social spaces are
>structured by social class relations, expectations, dispositions,
>assumptions, and hierarchically, with values attached to certain
>positions over others. When I say structured I am thinking a
>flexible structure, rather than a rigid one. Social spaces are
>constituted by participant structures that are populated by people,
>who are both themselves and positioned by others and positioned as
>others, who are constitutive of and constituted by cultural
>assumptions, patterns, activities. This changes over time, no
>question, and I like your final idea: perhaps what drives the change
>over time is the influence of social classes on each other within
>social spaces?
>Steve, I'd like to hear what you think. How do you see the
>relationships between these concepts?
>Best - jen
>>Hi Jen,
>>Yes, as you suspect, my question is more along the lines you
>>suggest at the end of your response. I am thinking of social
>>classes - and social spaces, a relatively new concept to me - as
>>entities that develop historically and culturally. Some questions,
>>playing off your words, to try to tease out how you see their
>>relationship ... Which (if either) do you see as primary in a
>>genetic sense? Do you see one as a component of the other? How do
>>you see social classes and social spaces as influencing each other
>>developmentally over time?
>>- Steve
>>At 09:35 AM 2/20/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>Resending this, Tuesday, not posted Monday.
>>>Hi Steve,
>>>Social class shapes the structure of economic rationalist
>>>discourses and, more particularly, of what we refer to as the
>>>chronotope of new managerialism. Within this discourse, this
>>>chronotope, social class dispositions are ranked hierarchically
>>>and privileged accordingly. Not simply in terms of what the
>>>students begin school with, but also in terms of the positions
>>>that they can obtain after school; positions within a particular
>>>labour market that is oriented toward preserving social status
>>>(class) divisions, rather than overcoming them. Economic
>>>rationalism drives new managerialism toward accountability, the
>>>production of certain kinds of students and teachers, and the more
>>>general production of consumers.
>>>I see this discourse, this chronotope, having a profound impact on
>>>schooling in Australia, and elsewhere, and social class shaping
>>>them. Hmmmm...okay, I'm still thinking/writing this through. I'm
>>>not sure if I addressed your question. Are you asking which is
>>>primary? Which is a component of which?
>>>Let me know if I've misread your note - best - jen
>>>>I enjoyed reading your article, Jennifer and Elizabeth. I have a
>>>>question somewhat like Mike's. Where does the concept of social
>>>>class fit into your concept of social space?
>>>>- Steve
>>>>At 08:38 AM 2/14/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>>>Interesting questin, Jennifer. We are reading Mind as Action for
>>>>>in seminar today. I will ask my students to read your artice,
>>>>>your note, and
>>>>>to contribute their ideas.
>>>>>I have written on this subject enough. Time for other voices.
>>>>>On 2/13/07, Jennifer Vadeboncoeur <> wrote:
>>>>>>Yes, thanks for that query. In this piece we began with the physical
>>>>>>and were writing/thinking through what other forms of "space" might
>>>>>>look like. Space that is constituted by or produced in human
>>>>>>activity, social practices, and discursive practices, for example,
>>>>>>that would help us describe and explain our research.
>>>>>>The concepts that are central to our work - social, cultural, and
>>>>>>historical - are in my mind, though I have taken up and used "social
>>>>>>practices" more than "cultural practices" or "historical practices,"
>>>>>>perhaps out of force of habit. I see this tendency in Harvey,
>>>>>>Lefebvre, and Soja's work - that is, to talk about the social moreso
>>>>>>than the cultural, though in saying that, I pause, because Harvey, in
>>>>>>particular, emphasizes the historical alongside the social production
>>>>>>of space.
>>>>>>So, when I read the term "social," as in "social construction of
>>>>>>knowledge," I read it as a process that is at once social, cultural,
>>>>>>and historical. I read it as mediated, semiotic, embodied. I
>>>>>>appreciate your point; that others may not read it this way.
>>>>>>Sociocultural, cultural historical, sociohistorical, cultural? How
>>>>>>are other folks managing this?
>>>>>>Best - jennifer
>>>>>>>Hi Jennifer--
>>>>>>>For those who have not gotten the article, you can start at
>>>>>>>the following
>>>>>>>url, then go to the journal and down on the right
>>>>>>>hand side you will see the last article in the series. That is
>>>>>>>the one on
>>>>>> >spaces that Jennifer is referring to.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> >Good luck hunting and reading!!
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> >Jennifer-- How come the term, culture, does not figure in your brief
>>>>>>>On 2/12/07, Jennifer Vadeboncoeur <> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 14:04:29 -0800
>>>>>>>>>From: Jennifer Vadeboncoeur <>
>>>>>>>>>Subject: social spaces
>>>>>>>>>Dear XMCA Folks,
>>>>>>>>>Hope this note finds you well!
>>>>>>>>>On Monday, Mike attached the piece entitled, Hirst, E. &
>>>>>>>>>Vadeboncoeur, J. A. (2006). Patrolling the borders of Otherness:
>>>>>>>>>Dis/placed identity positions for teachers and students in schooled
>>>>>>>>>spaces. Mind, Culture, and Activity: An International Journal,
>>>>>>>>>13(3), 203-225.
>>>>>>>>>I am mindful of busy schedules and not sure who may have gotten the
>>>>>> >>>chance to read it yet, but I thought I would throw out a a bit of a
>>>>>>>>>beginning piece and see if I can generate some discussion. Elizabeth
>>>>>>>>>Hirst, at Griffith University in Brisbane, will contribute as she
>>>>>>>>>can around her traveling schedule.
>>>>>>>>>As I think about this piece, two interests of ours were: an interest
>>>>>>>>>in understanding social space, as distinct from material or physical
>>>>>>>>>space; and an interest in exploring the intersection between
>>>>>>>>>government - federal and state - policy and the lives of teachers
>>>>>>>>>and students. For example, if we attempt to work beyond the "space
>>>>>>>>>as container" metaphor, how do we describe, define, exemplify social
>>>>>>>>>space? What constructs social space? How is it constituted? And from
>>>>>>>>>a research perspective, what sorts of data would need to be gathered
>>>>>>>>>to provide evidence of social space? Both theoretical and
>>>>>>>> >methodological issues surface here and for the second area of
>>>>>>>> >interest. In terms of links between policy and practice, how do we
>>>>>>>> >map across policy initiatives and what occurs at the level of the
>>>>>>>>>school and/or the classroom? How do we link policy with the lives of
>>>>>>>>>young people outside of schools?
>>>>>>>>>Just some thoughts here. As you think about this piece, what stands
>>>>>>>>>out for you?
>>>>>>>>>Best - jennifer
>>>>>>>>>[Eliz, please jump in when you can, and add to the above, vibes for
>>>>>>>> >safe travels!]
>>>>>xmca mailing list
>>>>xmca mailing list
>>>Dr. Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur
>>>The University of British Columbia
>>>Faculty of Education
>>>2125 Main Mall
>>>Library Block 272B
>>>Vancouver BC V6T-1Z4
>>>phone: 1.604.822.9099
>>>fax: 1.604.822.3302
>>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
>Dr. Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur
>The University of British Columbia
>Faculty of Education
>2125 Main Mall
>Library Block 272B
>Vancouver BC V6T-1Z4
>phone: 1.604.822.9099
>fax: 1.604.822.3302
>xmca mailing list

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