Re: [xmca] my new questions

From: Carrie Lobman <lobman who-is-at>
Date: Mon Feb 11 2008 - 13:58:27 PST

Dear David,

I share your discomfort with "I" as the
definition of who Carrie is. Monstrous is a really good word for it.

I (but its also pretty difficult not to use it)
find the distinction between "role-playing" and
"performance" very helpful in understanding how I
think about who human beings are and how we
develop. Performance as I see it is the ongoing,
improvisational, social creation of who we are
becoming. When a three year old is pretending to
be "mommy" she is not role-playing, she is
performing. She is creatively imitating--not
mimicking, nor is she acting out a societally
pre-determined role. She is as I understand it
being who she is and who she is not. That's what
I think performance is and it is what allows for human development.

Role-playing, is something different. As we grow
older we become able, through performance
(ironically), to play out societal
roles--performances that were fluid and creative
at age 4 become rigid and stultified by age 10.
We become a certain kind of person--"the shy
girl," the "good son." These are the roles that
we and those around us begin relating to as our
personality or "who we really are." In my opinion
they are neither--but the fact that they are
related to that way is particularly conservatizing and even monstrous.

Part of why I love teaching people to improvise
is that it re-initiates our experience of
ourselves as performers rather than role-players.
By creating improv scenes socially with other
people we get a sense of what it means to be who we are and who we are not.

Hope that makes some sense--I found your
impassioned response to personality and
role-playing very compelling and wanted to respond.


At 02:45 PM 2/9/2008, you 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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Received on Mon Feb 11 13:59 PST 2008

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