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Toolkits, Translation Devices and Conceptual Accounts

Essays on Basil Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge


Edited By Parlo Singh, Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel

For over four decades, Basil Bernstein researched ‘the internal organisation and educational context of the school’ specifically, and educational systems generally. In particular, he was interested in the powerful forms of knowledge transmitted through schooling systems; who gained access to these forms of knowledge; how they did so; and with what consequences. His research began by examining the differences between language and communication patterns in the institutions of the home/family and of the school, and extended to examining the structuring of pedagogic discourse from the level of the state to the classroom.
This collection brings together chapters by researchers from South Africa, Portugal, the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, to build on the theoretical concepts developed by Bernstein to explore issues of access and acquisition to school knowledge. In addition, contributors explore the strengths and limitations of Bernstein’s work for understanding the structuring of educational institutions, as well as the potential of the theory for assisting educators to make a difference in the lives of students.


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Chapter 7: Subject Position and Identity in Changing Workplaces 103


OVERVIEW In the course of a workshop, which forms part of a large-scale research project enti- tled ‘Learning in and for interagency work,’ a community paediatrician remarked that her biggest learning challenge was ‘to learn to be and talk like a multi-agency person when I am not in multi-agency meetings.’The theoretical challenge implic- it in this short statement is how to understand the relations between the social organisation of work, discursive practice and social position. Empirical research in this field requires a theoretical account that provides a descriptive and analytical pur- chase on the principles of regulation of the social figured world, the possibilities for social position and the voice of participants.This is the challenge that I will try and address in this paper. I have opted to initiate the discussion with an exploration of a rapidly developing branch of social theory, which is primarily concerned with psy- chological functioning and yet seeks to locate its development in the social world. VYGOTSKY, ACTIVITY THEORY AND THE SOCIAL WORLD The Russian social theorist L.S. Vygotsky presents a dialectical conception of the relations between personal and social life. He provides a socio-genetic model of development: C H A P T E R S E V E N HARRY DANIELS Subject Position and Identity in Changing Workplaces Sadovnik_0 to 7.qxd 2/11/2010 12:30 PM Page 103 Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological), and...

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