Re: [xmca] ISCAR - Sevilla 2005 -- 1. Marx and dialectics/ discourse/identity and 2. ractice/activity

From: Julian S Williams (
Date: Wed Oct 05 2005 - 09:16:10 PDT

Date sent: Mon, 03 Oct 2005 15:19:15 -0400
From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane <>
To: Xmca <>
Subject: [xmca] ISCAR - Sevilla 2005 -- Theoretical Concepts in CHAT and
        their connestion to physical concepts and knowledge
Send reply to: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>


I will try two concepts: each seems to mark a conceptual

1. One concept that seems to divide the ISCAR/socio-cultural
community is its relation to Marxism.

For some of the Marxists (or maybe for some eg michael Roth? -
the dialectics is the crucial 'line') , the version of AT known to the
West through Yrjo Engestrom's account is regarded as not Marxist
(or maybe not Marxist enough).

I felt myself drawn towards this critique of Yrjo's site/approach
when I saw it being 'applied' in fairly routine (non-dialectical) way to
an 'analysis' of the directors of sports-and-drug centres. There was
no critical analysis of why sports-people use drugs, the
commodification involved in the Olympic industry etc.

The theme was there also in David Bakhurst's (and others) talks in
a different way: he and others suggested that many of the users of
the (CH-) AT literature (Yrjo got criticised again) are not faithful to
the originators: eg Hegel, Ilyenkov, Bakhtin, Leont'ev ...

(But then I was not impressed by his example of a meaningless
'object' of activity: I believe he worried about the sense in which
there was an 'object' of the Russian Revolution. I found this
extraordinary for a philosopher who has read all this Marxism.)

On the other hand I was struck by the readiness of Yrjo in his own
paper/symposium to abandon the familiar model of the AS
(triangles) when the need arises (I hope I understood that right- I
mean when he talks of wildfire activity).

2. There seems to be a division between those concerned mainly
with identity (and discourse/positioning/subjectivity) and those
concerned more with practice (and activity/system). Some of us
are focussing on working out the dialectics/relations between the
two (see also Harry Daniels' and other papers).

We (some of my colleagues here in Manchester and I) are working
on the theme of discourse-and-practice (you can find our papers to
sevilla at

and would like to hear from others similarly interested in this.


Also BTW some more papers from the Sept Manchester
conference on the themes of community, identity and transition are

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> ISCAR in Sevilla, September 2005:
> In a conference of this scope, where one cannot hope to have attended=20
> even one 10th of all the presentations, it is hard to give any overall=20
> evaluations or even impressions. But, XMCA members who did not come to=20
> Sevilla, ought to have some notion of what went on there for 5 days in=20
> September 2005. So those of us who were there really need to put our=20
> thoughts together and give some descriptions of what went on. That is=20
> not easy. There are different aspects one can write about, different=20
> themes that ran through presentations, different aspects of=20
> organization. I will be working from my notes -- taken in haste during=20
> the workshops, from the abstracts we received and from some other=20
> sources people gave us (handouts, web pages). It would be very useful if=20
> someone at the XMCA headquarters could put the abstracts in pdf format=20
> on the server so that everyone could have an access to them. (Mike, is=20
> it possible to organize it?).
> The conference was held in 3 buildings of the Department of Psychology,=20
> Sociology and Philosophy, at the University of Sevilla. Those are new=20
> buildings (not part of the University main venue in the old Tobacco=20
> Factory), built with inner balconies and great visibility, so they were=20
> easy to navigate. The workshops were held in auditoriums, most of which=20
> had a classic layout: a podium with a blackboard and projection screen,=20
> and then rows of seats and desks. Everything fixed -- unmovable. There=20
> were just a few rooms without fixed benches -- with panels and chairs.=20
> They were used for Poster sessions. My first fear was that the first=20
> part of our session was assigned a room with fixed benches. We would=20
> have to move it -- since it was an interactive drama workshop where=20
> people have to have space to move, group and regroups and play!!=20
> Fortunately, it was not: we were given one of the poster rooms!!
> We usually don't consciously think of the space and its qualities when=20
> we participate in activities with intellectual content. But it is=20
> important. If our beliefs about the mediated quality of intellectual=20
> growth and functioning are true, then we have to think about the space=20
> as mediated and mediating. European universities (at least three of them=20
> I know, and now Sevilla) are still mediated by another paradigm about=20
> intellectual processing and education. A paradigm that Vygotsky started=20
> to question 100 years ago. It takes much more to have this understanding=20
> of ourselves trickle down to those who plan and build schools and=20
> universities.
> Participants came from many parts of the world. But not from everywhere.=20
> I was happy to see people from Africa -- some of them from Rwanda! There=20
> were not many Africans in the previous ISCRAT conferences. Participants=20
> came from all continents. There were many people known to us on the XMCA=20
> discussion list in the conference: N. Ares, D. Bakhurst, S. Chaiklin, M.=20
> Cole, M. de Haan, J. Derry, Y. Engestr=F6m, S. Gaskin, A. Goncu, P.=20
> Hakkarainen, L. Holzman, V. John-Stainer, E. Lampert-Shepel, C. Lee, E.=20
> Matusov, D. Robbins, W-M. Roth, A. Stetsenko, A. Surmava, J. Valsiner,=20
> B. van Oers, N. Veresov, G. Wells, J. Wertsch..., There were many more=20
> we have to learn about.
> The conference program listed two main themes with lots of sub themes:
> THEME A.- Theoretical and Methodological Issues
> THEME B.- Acting in changing worlds
> Each workshop was classified within one of the two themes and within one=20
> of its subtopics. What was hard on the conference organizers and on the=20
> conference attendees was to separate workshops that tackled similar=20
> problems in time: there were many workshops I wanted to go to, but they=20
> were held at the same time. I always had to choose between, at least two=20
> competing workshops and more often between three or four. That was very=20
> hard to juggle. I ended up running from one to another, missing chunks=20
> from each workshop that I wanted to hear, or just worrying that I was=20
> missing something else.
> Before the conference, I made my own selection of workshops which have=20
> something to do with play and imagination. That was my personal program=20
> guide, I am attaching here. However, I ended up changing it to=20
> accommodate other talks which were also important to me. [Other=20
> participants in Sevilla: Please send your own selection of the=20
> workshops!"]. In my next postings, I will discuss some of the=20
> presentations I attended. I invite you who went to Sevilla to discuss at=20
> least one of the presentations: one paper, one concept you heard=20
> discussed, one thought you found important in Sevilla. Each one of us=20
> has a special "pet" interest, and sometimes, special ways to understand=20
> or to "objectify" this interest through different selection of topics=20
> and different people. Maybe you want to connect the questions we asked=20
> before the Conference with your experience in the conference? Or maybe=20
> you would want to mention just something unexpected, something that made=20
> you think?
> Until later.
> Ana
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