Re: [xmca] Fwd: social spaces

From: Jennifer Vadeboncoeur (
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 17:59:53 PST

Hi Steve,

Time flies between our back and forth. Thanks for hanging in. Thanks
for raising the issue of description versus explanation.

Your question about metaphor has me thinking, and it is an
interesting question to ponder: Is "social space" only a metaphor? [I
don't know what the answer to this is ...] Does social space help us
to describe, but not to explain? [Same here ...] Would I be satisfied
with it as a concept if it were only a metaphor? [I don't know the
answer to this ...] I'm slowly thinking this through around other
things. I'm not sure *where* I am with it, but here's a bit for now.

You connect social class with material entities and structures. Does
the connection with the material things make this concept
"explanatory"? Does materiality make the concept explanatory?

I think/feel that social spaces have material consequences, but does
social space have material entities and structures? It has
participants that constitute the space; social practices, discursive
practices. What we were trying to challenge, play with, was a notion
of the space, itself, as material.

I have been wondering if social space provides something more general
than concepts like social class, social capital, social practices,
and social relations provide. Maybe it doesn't, maybe it is too open,
maybe moving in the directions grounded by Soja, for example first
space, second space, thirdspace, are where we really need to go. And
thinking about it from this direction ...

The other direction, the one that Eliz and I were thinking through,
was, What does non-material space look like? What if space is
unbounded? What if boundaries are marked not by material markers
[walls] but by sound and time and ... then how would it be
constituted, how would it be recognized by participants, how would it
be identified?

I'm not responding to this well. I'm squinting lots, but it is not helping.

I am happy to think about this more. The issue for me is one of
viability, i.e., is it helpful to think social space this way? Does
social space lend itself to thinking about things differently? Can we
get to another place with this notion, concept, metaphor? Or are
there other concepts that are better for explaining, thinking these
ideas through?

Hmm ... Steve? Other Folks? What are your thoughts?

>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 discussion
>>>>>>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
>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

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