A comparison with vygotskys general law of cultural

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Unformatted text preview: gender through children's first year of schooling. A comparison with Vygotsky's general law of cultural development emphasises the importance of considering social identities as structures mediating between the interpsychological and the intrapsychological in individual development. The relationship of social identities to social representations is further explored, in particular through the introduction of a notion of positioning. A second theme is the examination of the figurative nucleus of children's representations of gender, in which the metaphor of sexual reproduction provides the central image. A key proposition of genetic theories is the notion that to understand something one needs to know how it is constructed. In considering social representations from this point of view I want to focus on their ontogenesis, that is the process through which children's thinking, acting and feeling come to be structured in terms of the social representations of their community. In short, how the child becomes a competent social actor. The child, of course, is born into a world already structured by social representations. Indeed, in so far as the objectification of social representations constitutes realities, these are the realities of the human world into which the child is born. Yet, the circulation of representations around the child does not lead to them being either simply impressed upon the child, or simply appropriated by the child. Rather, their acquisition is the outcome of a process of development, and a focus on this process can in turn illustrate something about the structure of social representations themselves. In my own work with Barbara Lloyd (Lloyd and Duveen, 1992) I have been concerned with the development of social representations of gender, and I shall take this as my example. In doing so I am limiting the generality of the argument in an important way. For social representations of gender carry with them an imperative obligation that individuals construct a corresponding social identity (Duveen and Lloyd, 1990). We must all develop gender identities as we grow up if we are to become competent social actors -this does not mean, as we shall see, that we all need to construct the same identities, only that there is an obligation to construct an identity. In this gender is distinct from other social representations, where the identity structure is not imperative, but contractual. There is no imperative obliging us to become psychoanalysts, for example, but if we choose to do so then we must contract into a particular representational field (from this point of view the disputes occasioned by Jeffrey Masson's writings can be viewed as contractual disputes). A particular identity structure is, therefore, a necessary element in social representations. My focus on gender is limited, therefore, to representations which car...
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