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Re: [xmca] Taking culture into account/Doing harm?

Brief note on Shweder's cultural psychology, although he is open to the
possibility of intra-cultural critique, he is very reticent about the
possibility of inter-cultural critique - which you might say he actively
Two notable examples:
I remember hearing about Brigitta Hauser-Schaublin's dissertation work on a
culture in Papua New Guinea where women were beaten bloody around the time
of menstruation. As she presented and expressed sympathy for these women,
Rick was quick to push her to interrogate those feelings as if they were
not necessary or appropriate. Among my colleagues who were young grad
students, it created a sense of shock and awe.
I had the opportunity to meet Fuambai Ahmadu who wrote a very compelling
paper on "female circumcision" (aka "female genital mutliatioin" as
described by the Western feminist movement) that argued that it was
actually a feminist practice. Fuambai actually had the procedure done as an
initiation ritual when she was 21 years old. (interesting that this becomes
a way of taking a cultural practice of an Other culture and rendering it
intelligible in our own culture - as a ritual of feminist practice).

So when you read Rick's work, he will always be pushing against cultural
critique. This is partly due to his training as an anthropologist and
partly b.c. he is a skeptic whose personal dicta is "if others confirm it,
deny it; if others deny it, confirm it."

So if others are pushing for a critique of hegemonic power structure in
Other cultures, then you can bet that Shweder will be taking a (very
reasonable) position against those in particular who assume that our
culture has "higher" values than others.

I would add that a Marxist perspective could go either way on this matter.
Marx thought that although the unique values provided by capitalism were
indeed a step forward (e.g., "equality,"), but they also missed the boat in
many ways. But following Hegel, it is hard to deny a narrative of the arc
of progress and a sense of forwardness of our own culture and
"backwardness" of other cultures (notwithstanding an occasional potentially
kind word about Others like the Quashees). So I do think that Shweder's
push-back is extremely useful in this case (in precisely the ways that the
author of this piece seems to think Vygotsky-inspired cultural psychology
is bad - but I haven't read that piece...).

Rushing off to AERA submissions...


On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 8:04 AM, Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>wrote:

> You know I read the article and I don't see a Vygotskian approach and the
> type of cultural psychology/educational approach to be as antithetical as
> the author supposes.  I guess the first thing I would say is Vygotsky is
> not necessarily as much of a dialectical materialism and/or Hegelian as the
> author proposes.  I think that was in his background, but from my point of
> view I don't think his goal was to develop a dialectical material
> educational approach or even psychology.  I don't think he ever had time to
> develop an overarching goal that organize all his ideas.   People keep
> saying why is Vygotsky so popular and I think the reason is that while he
> says some amazingly interesting things he is also something of a Rorschach
> test - what people see in him is deeply colored by their own backgrounds
> and goals.  Just a tangent for a second.  Many writers consider "The Great
> Gatsby" one of the two or three greatest American novels.  Many of us in
> the US read it in high school.  One day my brother told me, "Read Great
> Gatsby again, it is a completely different book when you are forty than
> then you are eighteen."  I resisted but I did, and it was a completely
> different novel, with different meanings.  Great writer can do that, almost
> form canals through which change course as the rivers of your lives take on
> different flows.  I know you are not supposed to say this, but I have read
> Vygotsky at different times and some of his work has had completely
> different meanings for me depending on what I was thinking about and who I
> had read recently.  Part of it is because it was in many ways theoriy on
> the run, sort of like Spinoza to whom Vygotsky is often compared (although
> I still don't see the strong ties).  Spinoza is just a bunch of short
> aphorisms which can be interpreted in a number of different ways.  But he
> was writing philosophy while he was trying to survive the inquisition.
>  Vygotsky was writing theory while trying to survive the rise of Stalinism
> maybe?  It gives his words a dynamic, fluid feel maybe.  Who knows.
>  Anyway, all this is to say that I think the author takes a very limited
> view of Vygotsky.
> But there is perhaps a bigger issue and why I think the author makes a
> mistake is posing cultural psychology against something like CHAT or Dewey.
>  It is something that has been bothering me since I read Jonathan Hiaidt's
> book.  I read it as part of a class and pretty much all of my students were
> unhappy with the book (as was I) and challenged his conception of cultural
> psychology.  I went back and read Richard Shweder, who was sort of Haidt's
> mentor and I found I wasn't as happy with his idea of cultural psychology
> as I had been.  Indigenous cultures can help you establish a foothold in
> learning, a way in I think, but many cultures are not that great
> (especially in the ways they treat women, female children, and historically
> oppressed groups).  Historical culture is not an absolute good and perhaps
> an important part of education is teaching members of a community, children
> and adult, that they are not trapped by their cultural history, they get to
> choose what they want to keep and what they want to let go of.  I am
> thinking at this point this is what Vygotsky may have been after in his
> views on education - that it is supposed to move the locus of control to
> the community as it is, not as it has developed.
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of mike cole
> Sent: Sun 7/22/2012 12:15 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
> Subject: [xmca] Taking culture into account/Doing harm?
> The attached article has been hanging around my desktop for some time now.
> It
> is critical of people like myself who had sought ways in ways to assist
> kids from
> non-mainstream cultural communities when they encounter standard schooling.
> At least one of the shoes provided seems to fit. Seems worth reflecting on
> the critique
> as a whole.
> Anyone interested?
> mike
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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