Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development. The Case Study of Terri Ulmer

Chapter 8 | Conclusions and Implications


Korzybski’s (1994) observation that “the map is not the actual territory” (p. 61) serves as a cogent reminder that maps, no matter how finely detailed, can only offer up a partial perspective of the landscape being represented. However prominently they may foreground some features, they inevitably obscure others.

The perspectives offered up by our dominant maps of disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization locate writers and their writing within the assumed borders of a particular focal disciplinary territory, and thus depict the development of disciplinary practice and identity as the product of a learner’s increasingly deeper and fuller participation in a particular community’s activities, with their trajectories of socialization configured along a pathway that begins on the periphery and leads toward some more central position. Viewed from the dominant perspective, people’s knowledge of a discipline, its subject matter, its genres and rhetorical moves, and its writing processes develops through their increasingly deeper, fuller, richer participation within that discipline.

In contrast, we argue that sociohistoric perspectives encourage us to locate writers and writing along extensive histories that are woven into and extend from disciplinary engagements, along historical trajectories that reach beyond the presumed boundaries of a particular disciplinary world into other textual ways of being in the world, into lifeworlds saturated with textuality. According to this view, disciplinary development is a product of people's acting with a dynamic and heterogeneous nexus of practice assembled from a lifetime of literate engagements. Rather than configuring disciplinary development in terms of a progression from the periphery toward a more central location within a particular community, a sociohistoric perspective offers a conceptualization of development that takes the life-long history of the person into account, a traversal that weaves through multiple timescales and across multiple, seemingly different activities.

Prior (1998) argued that “[i]f we wish to understand literate activity and disciplinarity, then we must follow the currents of such historical activity wherever they lead” (p. 287). Having traced the currents of these co-researchers’ literate activities across their expansive literate landscapes, what can we say about their disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization? And what do those tracings suggest for theory, method, and teaching? In this chapter, we communicate some of the key conclusions we have drawn from our inquiry and the theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical implications of those conclusions. We begin by articulating the key conclusions we have drawn.

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