Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

On the Emergence of the Subject

Zittoun, Tania

In: Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 2012, vol. 46, no. 3, p. 259-273

The paper retraces the elaboration of a model that accounts for the emergence of subjectivity—the possibility to distance self from others and oneself—if we consider people as always taken in social and cultural streams of meaning and tensions. It builds a model considering first, human experience as possible when a person takes distance from the here-and-now. Second, it suggests considering... More

Add to personal list
    Summary
    The paper retraces the elaboration of a model that accounts for the emergence of subjectivity—the possibility to distance self from others and oneself—if we consider people as always taken in social and cultural streams of meaning and tensions. It builds a model considering first, human experience as possible when a person takes distance from the here-and-now. Second, it suggests considering two general semiotic streams that feed in, or support, that distancing—social and cultural discourses, and personal experience. Third, a knitting model suggests the constant creation of personal patters out of these two streams. Fourth, a dynamic, star-like model is proposed to account for the actual and constant emergence of subjectivity out of such social and cultural configurations. The model is constituted by a 2, 3 or N-number of eight-shaped crossing loops, resulting in a star-like model situated in a 3 dimensional space. The proposition is to analyze a person in a specific situation: the attractors enabling these loops, or end-points of the star, are the relevant social and cultural elements: others with whom he or she interacts, specific bodies of shared knowledge, social representations, cultural elements and tools, and so on. In each situation, the relative strength of these elements, or the tension they generate, are negotiated by the person; the unique ways of dealing with that situation and inviting solutions can thus be seen as the emergent subjectivity. The model is explored to account for developmental dynamics at various scales in the lifecourse. Finally, the pragmatic interest of a model emphasizing complex configurations, not simple causalities, is recalled.