Selections from Identity and agency in cultural worlds by Dorothy Holland

Dorothy Holland, William Lachicotte Jr., Debra Skinner, and Carole Cain

"Identity and agency in cultural worlds

Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press 1998

People tell each other who they are, but even more importantly, they tell themselves and then try to act as though they are who they say they are. (p. 3)

Identity is a concept that invokes and relates theories from various streams of psychology, social psychology, anthropology, sociology, and now from such interdisciplinary fields as cultural studies. Our own take on this concept is at heart an anthropological and cultural studies adaptation of sociogenic concepts of personhood developed within the American school of social psychology that claims G. H. Mead as its founder. (p. 4)

Under the rubric of ... figured worlds we include all those cultural realms peopled by characters from collective imaginings: academia, the factory ... (p. 51)

In our developmental approach, thoughts and feelings, will and motivation are formed as the individual develops. The indivitual comes, in the recurrent contexts of social interaction, to personalize cultural resources, such as figured worlds, languages, and symbols, as means to organize and modify thoughts and emotions. These personalized cultural devices enable and become part of the person's "higher mental functions," to use Vygotsky's terms.


The first context of identity is the figured world. (frames of meaning)... The second context is positionality.(enduring division, power, status, rank) (p. 271)

The third context ... is the space of authoring. ... the world must be answered. ... The fourth context is that of making worlds through "serious play." ... new social competencies in newly imagined communities. (p. 272)

Improvisation ... Though an overemphasis on social constraints leaves little room for human agency, many accounts make the opposite error: they neglect the cultural and social contexts the inform the "playing field." (p. 273)

First, identities ... are always forming and re-forming in relation to historically specific contexts. ... (p. 284)

Second, identities from on intimate and social landscapes through time. The distinction of particular acts as indexical of an identity ... depend upong the work of the groups involved. ... Forming an identity ... (p. 285)



November 3, 2021 [2017]