Re: [xmca] my new questions

From: Elinami Swai <swaiev who-is-at>
Date: Sat Feb 09 2008 - 14:02:28 PST

Dear David
Thank you so kindly for picking up my question.
As Vygotsky have argued, participation in social activities "leads to
a restructuring of social relationships and to a displacement of all
the systems of behavior" (Vygotsky, 1983, p. 63). In the study that I
did, which was looking into the development of 'manhood and
womanhood,' research participants reported participating in manly and
womanly activities from the time they were quite young. Back to your
question of a child listening to his mother, I think by listening, the
son is engaging an activity of knowing, which will help him to assume
his role as a son, different from a daughter. From my study for
example, a daughter continued to participate in womanly activities as
they grew up, but in each stage, they participate in them in different
degrees and levels. While initially they were assigned to hold a child
only, as they grew up they also to fed the babies, changed their
diaper, etc. Their socio-historical context, made up these specific
sets of activities (womanly) in increasingly allows their competency.
When they were able to participate in more complex activities, they
did not necessarily leave the simple activities, but could delegate
them if necessary, or carry them along so that they concentrate on
more complicated activities. Here is where (I think) they are
identified through their activities and expertise as they assume a
particular role -- a mother, father, son, daughter (which I see a
collapse of activities and role here), etc. Jean Lave and Etienne
Wenger's (1991) 'Legitimate peripheral participation' comes to
mind--the idea of peripherizing simple activities to engage in more
complex ones, while in the process moving to the center and affirming
competency (identity?). These are my fuzzy ideas on transformation of
human activity (labor) into a role, and to human identity and how we
can describe this transformation -- of an activity to a role to an
identity (their similarities/differences) is what I am trying to make

On 2/9/08, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> Dear Elinami,
> I'm really VERY grateful for this question, but unfortunately it's not because I have anything remotely resembling an answer. I It's just because it allows me to post something that has always puzzled me and ask other people (YOU, for instance!) to comment.
> The source of my bepuzzlement is on pp. 103-104 of Leontiev's book, "Activity, Personality and Consciousness". It goes like this:
> "Each of us, it is understood, assumes one set or another of social (for example, professional) functions and, in this sense, roles. The idea, however, of a direct reduction of personality to a collection of roles that a person fills is, notwithstanding every possible reservation of the followers of this idea, one of the most monstrous."
> Yes, I suppose it is. But then the idea of a personality is pretty monstrous too. Why should something as complex as David Kellogg be reducible to one of the two shortest words in the English language? And why should it be 'I' and not 'a'? Leontiev continues:
> "Of course, a child learns, let us say, how he is supposed to behave with his mother, that it is necessary to listen to her, and he listens, but can it be said that in this way the child plays the role of a son or a daughter? It is just as absurd to speak, for example, about the ¡°role¡± of the polar explorer ¡°accepted¡± by Nansen: For him it was not a role, but a mission."
> I must be missing something. This doesn't seem absurd to me at all, particularly not the bit about the role of son or daughter. What the devil is he getting at?
> "Sometimes a man actually plays one role or another, but nevertheless it remains for him
> only a role regardless of the extent to which it is internalized. A role is not a personality but rather a representation behind which it hides. If we are to use the terminology of P. Janet, the concept of a role corresponds not to the concept of personality (personnalite)
> but to the concept of personage (personnage)."
> I get it! The analogy is something like "glove-hand", "mask-face", "personnage-personality". But doesn't this kind of analogy assume a "personnage" which is merely a social tool (a glove or a mask) and a "personality" (a hand or a face) which is in some sense not?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
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Dr. Elinami Swai
Womens' and Gender Studies
University Hall 4220-A
The University of Toledo
Toledo, OH, 43606
xmca mailing list
Received on Sat Feb 9 14:06 PST 2008

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