Wednesday, September 28, 2005

a woefully unstructured reading response

I was interested if others were struck by S&W's inclusiveness, and also by their recurring insistence that they're not going to "revolutionize" the world by shooting down other theories. It's interesting, because they are actually claiming to mend some pretty significant rifts that exist in several fields, but instead of discrediting the ongoing debate, they try to demonstrate how their contribution sheds some light on myriad theoretical problems (well, sorry Judith, not for you). In discussions of feminist theorizing, there is much talk about feminist inclusiveness and pluralism versus more confrontational opposition, and this seems to be a nice example (of-course, people point out that a requirement that argumentation must be inclusive can be pretty tyrannical too). I liked this balance they strike between internalized schemas and enduring knowledge and socially constructed knowledge, and I especially appreciated them positioning themselves in relation to Lave, Wenger, Huchins, et. al. Also, their description of connectionism was surprisingly clear (I'm thinking of pages 51 through 53). I personally don't find the centrifugal/centripetal metaphor for cultural understanding that enlightening--which concerns me because this is a central concept in anthropology? Perhaps the problem is that I haven't gotten my brain around it quite yet (as L&Q write...the "aha!" moment takes a little bit of preparation).

So, this is an unstructured reading response. I am still working through the text and hopefully will have better questions to bring to class.

One more thing: I am suspecting that S&Q's framework might be an excellent place to introduce feminist theory into this general area (socially situated learning and thinking, distributed cognition, and middle road approaches between externalized and internalized forms of cognition). I've been reading most of our class texts with this goal in mind for a final research project. S&Q convinced me that their particular approach offers some possibly very interesting parallels or synergies (eww, sorry. flashback to years of corporate-speak) with standpoint epistemology. Standpoint epistemology (for those who aren't familiar with it, or for me to have to articulate this) is a feminist response to the "god trick" of technical and scientific discourse--the everywhere and nowhere of objectivity. We know about ten different ways to criticize "objectivity" as a rhetorical construct, but what's distinctive about standpoint theory is that it gives epistemological priviledge to those in an oppressive situation--the thinking is that when you are within this position, you see more about what the ruling class is up to, that you have a different perspective on both their workings and your own experiences (you can see this is informed with marxist/structuralist stuff). Perhaps by the time class comes around, I'll have something marvelous to say about this. of-course, maybe not.


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