The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology

The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology: The Contextual Emergence of Mind and Self

Suzanne R. Kirschner
Jack Martin
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology
    Book Description:

    The sociocultural turn in psychology treats psychological subjects, such as the mind and the self, as processes that are constituted, or "made up," within specific social and cultural practices. In other words, though one's distinct psychology is anchored by an embodied, biological existence, sociocultural interactions are integral to the evolution of the person.

    Only in the past two decades has the sociocultural turn truly established itself within disciplinary and professional psychology. Providing advanced students and practitioners with a definitive understanding of these theories, Suzanne R. Kirschner and Jack Martin, former presidents of the American Psychological Association's Division of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, assemble a collection of essays that describes the discursive, hermeneutic, dialogical, and activity approaches of sociocultural psychology. Each contribution recognizes psychology as a human science and supports the individual's potential for agency and freedom. At the same time, they differ in their understanding of a person's psychological functioning and the best way to study it. Ultimately the sociocultural turn offers an alternative to overly biological or interiorized theories of the self, emphasizing instead the formation and transformation of our minds in relation to others and the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51990-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology: An Introduction and an Invitation
    (pp. 1-28)
    Suzanne R. Kirschner and Jack Martin

    In recent years constitutive sociocultural perspectives have become increasingly visible and influential within psychology. Such perspectives envision psychological processes, such as the mind and the self, as phenomena that are socioculturally constituted—that is, actually made up within, as opposed to merely facilitated by, culture and society. These constitutive approaches to psychology understand cognition, emotion, memory, identity, personality, and other psychological constructs as relational entities that emerge out of interactions with others within a sociocultural context. Moreover, the perspectives included under this rubric all have a cultural-historical aspect that moves consideration of the sociocultural beyond the immediate interpersonal and social...

  5. Part I: Discursive and Constructionist Approaches
    • 1 Public Sources of the Personal Mind: Social Constructionism in Context
      (pp. 31-44)
      Rom Harré

      Social constructionism has emerged as the generic name for a cluster of ways of conceptualizing the projects of psychology and sociology. It includes certain recommendations about the methodology appropriate to attaining an understanding of the mental and social lives of human beings, by human beings. While it shares some insights with postmodernism, there are important ways in which the social constructionist viewpoint is very different. Two, in particular, stand out. It is no part of the social constructionist approach to deny that there are any universal aspects of human life, or that, in a certain sense, there are some essential...

    • 2 Inside Our Lives Together: A Neo-Wittgensteinian Constructionism
      (pp. 45-67)
      John Shotter

      This book is concerned with the degree to which sociocultural surroundings, which we grow into as we grow up, affect the constitution of the psychological processes and structures occurring in us as individuals. Although I think their impact is considerable, a major difficulty arises in identifying precisely in what such influences might consist, and the spheres of human activity within which they might be exerted and their impacts expressed. In line with the image of the river and the riverbed outlined by Wittgenstein (1969: nos. 95, 96, 97) above, I think that it is in “the inherited background against which...

    • 3 Beyond the Enlightenment: Relational Being
      (pp. 68-87)
      Kenneth J. Gergen

      We look back today to the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a period during which the Western world shifted from faith to reason as its core value. Interestingly enough, both faith and reason are quintessentially psychological concepts. In this sense, the transformation from the medieval to the “modern” world was dependent upon a radical reconstruction of the concept of the person. In the place of spirit or soul, the capacity for rational thought became the focal ingredient of the self. This shift from a sacred to a secular conception has been accompanied by enormous changes in the...

    • 4 Sociocultural Means to Feminist Ends: Discursive and Constructionist Psychologies of Gender
      (pp. 88-110)
      Eva Magnusson and Jeanne Marecek

      Feminist psychologists in many nations—the United Kingdom, the Nordic countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States—have been in the forefront of developing a number of the approaches presented in this book. As feminist psychologists explored the complexities of “identity,” “gender identity,” “masculinity,” “femininity,” and gender relations in everyday life, they confronted the inadequacy of the simplified and determinist models typical of mainstream psychology, whether the determining agents were seen to be biological or sociocultural. Everything to do with gender, they came to see, defied simple determinism, monocausality, universalism, linear cause-effect models, and static categorizations. Theorizing gender...

  6. Part II: Hermeneutic Approaches
    • 5 Hermeneutics and Sociocultural Perspectives in Psychology
      (pp. 113-136)
      Frank C. Richardson and Blaine J. Fowers

      The chapters in this book wrestle with the question of what it means to view psychological processes and human action as not just facilitated by culture and society but actually constituted by them. In our view, raising and trying to answer this question takes social inquiry to a new and long overdue level of seriousness and maturity. We will address this question from the point of view of philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer 1989; Guignon 1991; Heidegger 1962; Taylor 1989) and interpretive social science (Bishop 2007; Richardson, Fowers, and Guignon 1999; Slife and Williams 1995). In the hermeneutic view, there are subtleties...

    • 6 The Space of Selfhood: Culture, Narrative, Identity
      (pp. 137-158)
      Mark Freeman

      My primary interest in this chapter is to call attention to the myriad ways in which “my story”—the narrative one tells about one’s life—is permeated by “secondhand” sources ranging from others’ stories all the way to the vast array of cultural media that indeed mediate experience. This does not necessarily make my story any less “mine”: whatever the sources of selfhood might be, there remains an irrevocable “my-ness” about the story I come to tell about the movement of my life. It does, however, suggest that what is “mine” is, at one and the same time, permeated by...

    • 7 Agentive Hermeneutics
      (pp. 159-180)
      Jeff Sugarman and Jack Martin

      This chapter summarizes a sustained program of work over the past decade that has attempted to draw the contours of a psychology of personal existence and to advance arguments for the ontological uniqueness of its form (Martin and Sugarman 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2001a, 2002, 2003; Martin, Sugarman, and Thompson 2003). The importance of this project resides in the fact that unless features of human psychology can be shown to be ontologically exceptional (i.e., irreducible to material, organic, or sociocultural properties) then psychology has no subject matter genuinely of its own and must relinquish its status as a distinct...

  7. Part III: Dialogical Approaches
    • 8 The Dialogical Self as a Minisociety
      (pp. 183-204)
      Hubert J. M. Hermans and João Salgado

      In the course of history, various philosophical thinkers have arrived at the insight that the human mind is not visible to itself in one single inclusive glance. Instead, the mind needs itself to reach a decision, to arrive at a conclusion, or to develop an innovative plan. When the mind presents a thought to itself, it is rarely perfect, finished, or ready-made. Rather, it serves as a moment in a process that we usually call “thinking.” The mind is used to react not only to the outside world, but also to its own lack of completion. As Gadamer said, “the...

    • 9 Theorizing Cultural Psychology in Transnational Contexts
      (pp. 205-228)
      Sunil Bhatia

      In her memoir Meena Alexander, a poet of South Asian origin, reflects on her ethnicity as an Indian-American and states that she is a woman “cracked by multiple migrations,” with many selves born out of broken geographies (1993:3). Her narrative foregrounds the struggles with self and identity that many transnational immigrants face as they try to find a place in contemporary U.S. society. Transnational practices and diaspora communities have become important sites for the reconstruction of culture, identity, diversity, and difference. In these sites, personhood acquires hybrid, creolized, hyphenated cultural properties and is transformed into an “other” with multiple, shifting,...

  8. Part IV: Neo-Vygotskian Approaches
    • 10 Cultural-Historical Activity Theory: Foundational Worldview, Major Principles, and the Relevance of Sociocultural Context
      (pp. 231-252)
      Anna Stetsenko and Igor M. Arievitch

      In this chapter, we outline the foundations and the major principles of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT)—a theoretical perspective that suggests a unique way to conceptualize human development and has much to offer for finding solutions to the conundrums of today’s social sciences. While many of the debates in these sciences remain stalled between the two extremes of naïve positivism on the one hand and laissez-faire constructivism and relativism on the other, CHAT represents a well-grounded alternative (in both the natural sciences, such as biology and physiology, and critical-humanistic perspectives) that capitalizes on the social and relational nature of human...

    • 11 Vygotsky and Context: Toward a Resolution of Theoretical Disputes
      (pp. 253-280)
      Michael Cole and Natalia Gajdamaschko

      The publication of English versions of a large portion of Lev Vygotsky’s writings, supplemented by a number of excellent scholarly examinations of both his ideas and their relationship to antecedent and contemporaneous thinkers, has enormously expanded the horizons of our knowledge about the work of Vygotsky and his immediate colleagues (Vygotsky 1987, 1997, 1998; van der Veer and Valsiner 1991; Wertsch 1985). Simultaneously, there has been a rather broad recognition of the pitfalls of the intercultural appropriation of Vygotsky’s ideas. The resulting difficulties require a critical approach to all claims of authenticity about adherence to presumed originals or fidelity in...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 281-286)
  10. Index
    (pp. 287-302)