Considering Self and Identity in reading and writing

This year has started in a whirlwind of teaching, reading and writing.  Teaching has been rewarding , and planning for the next part of the teaching year has been progressing well, collaborating with old and new colleagues.  I have read a few blogs (that RSS feed to my email is working really well) and among them I have enjoyed thinking about action and starting tasks: Beginnings. I also liked Patter’s recent post on considering a blogging identity, it resonated with me mostly because I consider this blog as my professional/academic face, and also because I am constantly considering the ‘self’ in my students and studies…self and identity is proving very complex to pin down.

In my academic reading I have been re-reading Burkitt’s (2002) exploration of Foucault’s ‘Technologies of the Self’, which has lead me back to considering Foucault (1988). *For those not familiar with this work, the next few sentences outline the main ideas in this article, though I truly am skimming the surface.

  • Burkitt explains the idea of ‘technologies of self’ in terms of habitus, based on Aristotle’s interpretation of ‘self’ as our activity and dispositions. Burkitt continues to develop his ideas with reference to Aristotle and Heidegger to include in ‘technology’ the ‘machinery of production’ and ‘the knowledge and skills’ (pg 222) humans use to produce or create anything. It is challenging to the 2013, everyday, interpretation of ‘technology’, though it does highlight that the ‘new technologies’ we use in our day to day lives are merely tools to help us to express ourselves through interactions in social spaces. For example this blog: hard to do without the laptop and the internet, though I would probably be writing using the ‘technology’ of pen and paper in a private journal had this forum not  been available. The internet offers a more authentic audience than a private journal.  Burkitt then explores the idea of habitus being latent, until we are challenged in some way to reflect upon our actions and motives. The implications this has in social life, interactions and even education are explored in this article. (That’s a pretty quick skim….the article is referenced below should you wish to read further…)**

Considering these fundamental works in light of my own study and methodology has been exciting. I was reminded by Burkitt of many great names in the field and this has led me to ponder when I first encountered philosophy outside of a university lecture.  Nearly 20 years ago I read “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder, this book helped me to connect with philosophy (so much so I still remember the key philosophers). I would recommend this book to the ‘uninitiated’ as it gives a good overview of western philosophy, and is written in a creative fashion that gets you questioning reality itself.

In terms of writing, my literature review is starting to take shape, and with my confirmation on the horizon I feel I am making good progress in setting the foundations of my research identity.

Until next time

Fiona T

* to ** added in response to reader feedback, on 28/1/13

References:

Burkitt, I. (2002). Technologies of the Self: Habitus and Capacities. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 32(2), 219–237. doi:10.1111/1468-5914.00184

Foucault, M. (1988). Technologies of the Self. (L. H. Martin, H. Gutman, & P. H. Hutton, Eds.). USA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Gaarder, J. (1995). Sophie’s World (English.) London.

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