Wednesday, September 21, 2005

refleciveness in Understanding Practice

I found the conlusion of Understanding Practice extremely interesting, especially in terms of our previous discussions of thought collectives. Chaiklin's final section aims to "formulate some ideas about future directions for developing a social scientific study of individual practice" (377). Because all the people collaborating on this conference/book are from disparate fields, they have to find some common ground on which to stand. They have to lay out some criteria for their thought colletive. Whereas we could find this problematic - since thought collectives do create certain mechanisms of constraint - I think it's more useful to see this as a way of reflecting on practice. More fields might want to step back and think more carefully about what makes it a "field." Rhetoric might be one of those fields.

Then again...

There's no way to get away from the idea that communities/thought collectives/fields define themselves against that which they are not. There's no getting away from it - community is exclusive. Now matter how often the researchers in Understanding Practice position themselves on the margins of their own fields, they still participate in multiple communities that create ranges of "what can be thought." The ethos of this book is interesting to me, and Chaiklin's conclusion is the most explicit statement of it - we are marginal, but we have important things to say.

With all of this being said, the most significant (and useful) part of this conclusion by Chaiklin is it's reflectiveness. If we can't get away from the exclusiveness of community, we can at least acknowledge the boundaries (fuzzy or otherwise) we are working within.


Blogger asw said...

You make such a great point at the end of your post in how much we should take away from the text is reflection.

It's important in reflecting on how learning occurs in so many social situations that can help us as scholars understand certain fields better and how the individuals in those fields operate, communicate and think.

I think this text really opened my eyes to realizing that learning does have its fuzzy boundaries that I think are often ignored in other research endeavors/studies.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Sean McCarthy said...


It is certainly important to engage with the idea/fact that communities/thought collectives define themselves against what they are not. What is significant about the thought collective in Understanding Practice is that they come from different collectives themselves, and the ideas that they are trying to formulate are at a very embryonic stage. They are trying to formulate theories of the dynamics of practice that spread across multiple fields; they are both part of a collective and attempting to understand what creates a collective in the first place (if that makes sense!).

I would therefore like to add to your very valid suggestion that fields should step back and think carefully about how it constitutes a "field". Such fields should start (or continue) to theorize how their particular bodies of knowledge can contribute to the growing corpus that explores the dynamics of practice in general.

2:22 PM  

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