Transformative onto-epistemology and its implications for expanding, revising, and renegotiating Vygotsky’s project: The relevance of subjectivity and intersubjectivity
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
10:51 AM, Friday 1 Sep 2017 (27 minutes)
Convention Center - 205 B
Ever since the second wave of revisions of Vygotsky’s theory undertaken within his research project in the late 1980s and early 1990s (e.g., works by Asmolov, Bratus, Vasilyuk, Zeigarnik, Zinchenko, among others; the first way referring to Leontiev’s reformulations along activity theory lines), spurred in no small part by the zeitgeist of perestrojka, the calls have been for more emphasis on subjectivity, personality, and the self. Broader, and not unrelated, calls to reinsert dimensions of emotions, creativity, and novelty into cultural-historical theory constituted another line of these revisions. Research on perezhivanie belonged to this line of works. As has been discussed in detail (see Stetsenko, e.g. 2004, 2005, 2009, 2016; Stetsenko & Arievitch, 2004, 2010; Sawchuk & Stetsenko, 2004), the historical trends in sociopolitical changes played a significant role in shaping the shifts (one could say, pendulum swings) in the dynamics of Vygotsky’s project – from a freedom seeking and revolutionary gist of its first formulations advanced within the crucible of the revolution which unleashed unprecedented agency and transformative potential, through decades of increasingly stifling top-down bureaucratization of the Soviet society, to invigorating changes during the short time of perestojka. The key conundrum is that to do revisions of Vygotsky’s project requires first defining its major contours, grounding assumptions, and leading tenets including at the level of ontology, epistemology, methodology, and ethics. However, the philosophy and worldview at the core of Vygotsky’s work have not been fully appreciated and this shortcoming has affected the way his ideas have been understood and applied (cf. Derry, 2004; Stetsenko, 2010, 2016). One suggestion to remedy this situation (in a series of works since the early 2000s) is to reveal how Vygotsky’s project, through the years of its expansive developments, has struggled to integrate the notion that material production, intersubjective exchanges, and human subjectivity form a unified three-fold dialectical system. Focusing on the constant manifold transitions among components of this system as its modus vivendi helps to reveal (a) subjectivity and intersubjectivity processes as being interrelated and co-evolving levels of social practice, and (b) the practical relevance of human subjectivity alongside the human relevance of social practice. In this paper, I will further elaborate on this expanded view that posits human subjectivity on a continuum of the dynamics of historically emerging, contextually situated, collectively coordinated, and culturally mediated social practices in their manifold transitions. I will discuss implications of this position for a transformative onto-epistemology that can be employed to grasp the core of Vygotsky’s project in order to move on with its critical elaboration.