Re: [xmca] Stetsenko paper

From: Mary K. Bryson (
Date: Fri Oct 28 2005 - 13:03:32 PDT

"Second, the self as a leading activity captures well that the self is not
something that comes on top of an individual¹s engagement with the social
world, but is this very engagement. That is, this notion conveys that social
productive activities in the world are not reifications of the self but the
Œreal work¹ in which the self is born, constructed and enacted. Therefore,
to conceptualize the self as a leading activity is to emphasize that it is
constituted by the ways in which we Œdo¹ and perform, rather than have, a
self, and, moreover, by what we do about the world (thus transcending
ourselves), as we engage in activities that contribute to changing something
in and about the world. In this sense, the self can be also described as an
embodiment of a meaningful life project (or of a search and, sometimes, even
a lack thereof) that reflects and also organizes the most significant
aspects of one¹s life." <underlining added>

The Self in Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Reclaiming the Unity of
Social and Individual Dimensions of Human Development
Anna Stetsenko and Igor M. Arievitch
Theory & Psychology Copyright © 2004 Sage Publications. Vol. 14(4): 475­503

I have just returned from a Cultural Studies conference. The scholarship
that circulates in those circles to engage questions about subjectivities
and our unruly relations with artifacts overlaps hardly at all with what
CHAT folks know as ³sociocultural² scholarship. The only two folks in common
might be Marx and Bakhtin. And actually, CHAT people tend only very
sparingly to address the work of either of these two in comparison with say,
the work of Vygotsky. I find Stetsenko¹s work enormously valuable and quite
exciting. She is focusing on objects and relations, an on interanimation and
interactivity, rather than mentalism or reductionism. In my work, a clear
articulation of what Katherine Hayles refers to as the ³posthuman² entails
clarity about how our relations with objects abundantly populate our
iterative construction and reconstruction of a ³self², and that this ongoing
set of self-making practices ­ subjectification - <asujetissement> is
profoundly relational and contingent.

So, who does this email list, for example, recognize as a ³subject² and how
does the list as object both construct and constrain subjectivities and
communicative practices? This is where Bakhtin¹s socio-political analysis of
voice and subjectivity adds significantly to what is often neglected in the
CHAT world of triangles, which would be the fact of difference/s and power.

So yes, when Nancy wrote that the: ³future is likely to continue to be
largely shaped by white men, as it has been to this point. The scholarly
work of women (and people of color) hasn't been treated as central to the
direction, nor in that panel was it treated as central to the future, of
this Community² -- that is where all of these discourses come together in a
useful way.

Subjectivity is a particular kind of human material social accomplishment
and Stetsenko¹s work gets us part of the way towards unhinging this
construct from its mentalist origins. And a careful analysis of the
constraints on practices and contexts of subjectification, like an email
list, a classroom, a school ‹ all useful units of analysis ‹ allow us a
particular purchase on advancing knowledge concerning the ways in which
historically and culturally contingent practices of power impinge on the
social matrix within which subjectivity takes on a particular relationality.


On 10/26/05 7:12 AM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> this word "subjectivity" now does mean exactly as Ana uses it, as a
> synonym for consciousness understood in individualist, mentalist
> terms. I think it is an important concept and it would be a real pity
> if CHAT ditched the concept of subjectivity and used it as a synonym
> for mind.

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