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The dialogical self, positioning, and ambiguous signifiers Peter Raggatt, James Cook University, Australia.

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1 The dialogical self, positioning, and ambiguous signifiers Peter Raggatt, James Cook University, Australia

2 1. The Dialogical Self as Life History 1.How can the dialogical self be understood from a life historical and temporal perspective? 2.What are the developmental origins of the dialogical self conceived in this way? And, 3.How do positions crystallize over time, leading to multiplicity?

3 Defining the Dialogical Self I-positions can be internal or external, and a range of dialogical tensions are thus possible: “within the internal domain (e.g., ‘As an enjoyer of life I disagree with myself as an ambitious worker’); between the internal and external (extended) domain (e.g., ‘I want to do this but the voice of my mother in myself criticizes me’); and within the external domain (e.g., ‘The way my parents were interacting with each other has shaped the way I deal with problems in my contact with my husband’).” (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010, p. 7-8)

4 Some Features of Dialogical Self Theory 1. The self and society are directly linked by placing internal psychological processes in the broader context of external social and societal processes. 2. Traditional (in the West) distinctions or boundaries between self and other are challenged. There is recognition of the ‘other-within- self’. 3. The basic metaphor for the dialogical self - a conversation – is embedded in the choice of terminology. 4. The conversation metaphor creates movement and space. The self is multi-positioned and therefore fundamentally spatial in its structural organisation


6 Dialogical Self as a Time-Space Matrix While this approach explicitly links the self to the social, to movement, and to positioning in space, there is little reference to the continuity or fleetingness of positioning in the temporal and historical domain. The question -- How does the dialogical self unfold over time -- remains relatively unaddressed. From a narrative and life-historical perspective, therefore, the dialogical self might be defined as a time-space matrix. Bakhtin called this matrix the ‘chronotope’ (meaning, literally: ‘time-space’)

7 Outline 1. The dialogical self as life history 2. Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope. 3. Ontogeny and Position Exchange Theory (a)Identification and distanciation (b)‘I’ and the ‘Me’ as markers of psychological position exchange 4. ‘Thirdness’, ambiguous signifiers, and dialogical triads. (a) I – Me – Other Triads 5. A model for personal chronotopes using triads. 6. A life historical example – chronotopes in the case of Charles 7. The Big Five traits as ambiguous signifiers

8 Overview of Argument 1.I begin with a short discussion of Bakhtin’s (1981) concept of chronotope. 2.I will then shift to a discussion of ontogeny – the early emergence of the dialogical self. In the approach taken here the developing capacity to ‘distanciate’ first-person subject (‘I’) from third-person object (‘Me’) is taken as a fundamental reference point for the emergence of dialogicality in the self (Raggatt, 2010, 2012). 3. However, these internal movements or ‘position exchanges’ (Gillespie & Martin, 2013) ultimately have their origins in the social domain. 4.Alloyed to the I–Me dyad, therefore, we need a third position anchored in the social. This ‘other’ may be a specific person, it may be a generalized other, or it may be some object in the world. 5.Following this line of reasoning I propose to use ‘dialogical triads’ of the form ‘I – Me - Other’ as a means to ‘map’ the emergence of ‘personal chronotopes’. 6.The personal chronotope is conceptualized as a thematically and historically organized string or sequence of dialogical triads.

9 2. Bakhtin’s Concept of Chronotope

10 Chronotopes in Literature “the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed…” (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 84). “Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot, and history. This intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope”(p. 84).

11 Personal Chronotopes in a Dialogical Self 1. A composite of the synchronic and diachronic 2. Defined by (a) the simultaneity and (b) the historicity or succession of I- positions and Counter-positions as these emerge in time-space

12 3. Ontogeny and Position Exchange Theory 1. Address the early development of the dialogical self because this helps to understand what happens later. 2. Provide the grounds for using a triadic approach to model mediation in personal chronotopes.

13 Positioning Theories Discursive Positioning - “Positioning Theory” (Harre & van Langenhove, 1991; Harre & Moghaddam, 2003) Psychological (or Reflexive) Positioning – “Dialogical Self Theory” (Hermans & Kempen, 1993; Hermans & Hermans- Konopka, 2010) Social Positioning – “Position Exchange Theory” (Gillespie, 2010; Martin & Gillespie, 2011)

14 Principles of Position Exchange Theory 1. All abstract psychological positioning begins from the template of our social and physical positioning in the concrete world (Martin & Gillespie, 2011) 2. Our capacities for intersubjectivity emerge from psychological processes of identification, distanciation and integration that begin in early infancy 3. These processes involve an emerging capacity to imaginatively move in both time and space beyond the concrete here and now

15 Identification and Distanciation Identification – a movement out of one’s own situation to empathetically participate in the situation of someone else Distanciation – a movement out of one’s own situation to reflect upon one’s own situation (Gillespie, 2010)

16 Early Psychological Position Exchanges 1.When do the ‘I’ and the ‘Me’ emerge as linguistic markers of psychological position exchange? 2.When do children first recognise themselves in a mirror, suggesting that a link between the ‘I’ and the distanciated ‘Me’ has been formed? 3.And what can we learn from looking into a mirror at our own reflection?

17 3(b) ‘I’ and the ‘Me’ as linguistic markers of psychological position exchange

18 LOOKING INTO A MIRROR AT OUR OWN REFLECTION A disquieting experience characterized by “a peculiar emptiness, ghostliness [and] vaguely oppressive loneliness” (Bakhtin, 1990, pp. 28-29).

19 4. ‘Thirdness’, Ambiguous Signifiers, and Dialogical Triads

20 C. S. Peirce’s Epistemology 1.Firstnesses -- Involve the immediacy of sensations, such as the sensation of color. 2.Secondnesses -- Involve interactions that are unmediated, as when two bodies collide, but regardless of any third. 3.Thirdnesses – Involve mediation. A first bound together with a second by the mediation of a third. Peirce called thirds ‘interpretants’. Thirds involve cultural knowledge that mediates meaning in the relation of firsts and seconds.

21 Interpretant (Culture) (thirdness) (secondness ) Object Signifier Figure 1 Peirce’s semiotic triad

22 Ambiguous Signifier (person, object, event) (thirdness) (secondness) I-position 1 I-position 2 I (Me) Me (I) Figure 2 A dialogical triad

23 Ambiguous Signifiers 1.A person, object, event, or idea that constitutes a third position – a mediator, a link to the outside world 2.As mediator, movement is made possible 3.Are ambiguous, have multi-stable meaning values, e.g., a Janus head, an object or symbol with at least two meanings 4.Are fulcrums for distanciation 5.Help explain (internal and external) position exchange, negotiation, and conflict

24 5. A Model for the Personal Chronotope using Triads


26 6. A Life Historical Example – Chronotopes in the life of Charles

27 Personality Web Protocol – Overview of Procedure 1.Participants make a list of about two dozen important constituents from their life histories (important people, events, objects, places). 2.Participant sorts these components into “self-relevant facets” or clusters. 3.The facets are then given a self-descriptive label (e.g., ‘dominant self’, ‘victim’). 4.Participants are also asked to rates all constituents, pair- wise, for similarities and differences. These ratings are then cluster analysed. 5.Participants are interviewed using the life history constituents as cues in a semi-structured format.




31 At the time of interview Charles was a 37 year old single gay man who ran a successful small business. He was also a committed activist for gay rights and had twice run for election to public office. Although he was not elected Charles became a spokesperson for gay issues in his local community. Charles feels his life had been enriched by his commitments to gay politics. But at the same time he is keenly aware that his successes were born out of significant challenges. Charles identifies strongly with ‘manliness’ and masculinity. But, due in significant part to his homosexuality, he has had to endure a series of humiliations and rejections in the context of his masculinity. As a child Charles was not interested in sports and he remembers that this particularly disappointed his father. He felt he owed his father something because of this. Charles joined the Navy at 15, inspired by the archetype of the manly warrior. But at 17 he was discharged after a (gay) affair with a fellow crew member was discovered. After this experience Charles sought out a ‘cure’ for his homosexuality in a charismatic church group. This, too, ended in humiliation when Charles was publicly ex-communicated from the church after the cure failed. Charles construes his activism in the gay community as a dialogical response to the traumas inflicted by these and other humiliations. At the same time Charles reports inner turmoil over his strong sense of masculinity, which he construes as at odds with both his sexual orientation, and gay stereotypes.



34 Father (Ambiguous Signifier) (thirdness ) (secondness) Masculine PositionHumiliated Position Figure A dialogical triad in Charles

35 Quentin Crisp (Ambiguous Signifier) (thirdness ) (secondness) Humiliated Position Activist Position Figure 3 Another dialogical triad in Charles

36 Figure 5 Hypothetical tracking of personal chronotopes in the case of Charles

37 Personal Chronotope 1 Manhood vs. Humiliation


39 Charles on his father: “I felt really pressured by my father for most of my life to perform in a whole lot of things, to be a man, to succeed, to be strong….I always felt…that I had let him down.”

40 Charles on Masculinity and the Navy “I was a man, the navy wanted me. I was 15…my father was just happy that I even got through the interview process….It was a good time for me. I felt like I was conquering the world, I was going to go and fight for my country….I like being a man, those things don’t frighten me. In a fight I can defend myself, I am proud of that. It’s not a bad thing.”


42 Personal Chronotope 2 Masculine vs. Wild Self

43 Figure 5 Hypothetical tracking of personal chronotopes in the case of Charles


45 Charles on the Military Man as Fetish Object “I am very much a role player and I do like men in uniform, a variety of uniforms. I’d like to be in the aggressive position, I would like to be stimulating and satisfying their every whim and wish. And they have got to be straight, to be straight, and I am showing them a good time. Absolutely, I have to be the pleaser….This is, this is the fag getting his own back on the heterosexual world, by giving them a taste of it and seeing that they like it. And the uniform becomes important because they [military men] are the most aggressive. They are perceived to be the hardest mountain to climb…. I suppose it’s all about the fag being more of the man than the man is, so to speak.”

46 Personal Chronotope 3 Humiliation vs. Activism



49 Conclusion 1. I have argued that semiotic mediation is crucial to the dynamics of positioning processes in the dialogical self. 2. From a developmental point-of-view, I have suggested that the concept of ‘thirdness’ provides an important tool for understanding the emergence of personal chronotopes in time- space. Ambiguous signifers reveal how chronotopes are built from semiotic relations. 3. Also from a developmental point of view, I have suggested that early experiences of multiplicity instantiated in I - Me distanciation provide the basic mechanisms for the later elaboration of chronotopes. 4. Finally, using case examples, I have shown how this approach allows us to plot the formation of I-positions, counter-positions, and chronotopes, via an analysis of dynamic relations in life history data.

50 7. The Big Five Traits as Ambiguous Signifiers

51 Traits and Narrative Identity Raggatt, P. T. F. (2006). Putting the five-factor model into context: Evidence linking Big Five traits to narrative identity. Journal of Personality, 74 (5), 1034 - 1071. Raggatt, P. T. F. (2012). Has ‘Average Joe’ got inner conflicts? Positioning the self and the meaning of mid-range scores on the Big Five traits. European Journal of Personality.

52 History Of Big Five Model 1.Lexical hypothesis, so has social origins 2.Aggregated normative data 3.Factor analysis yields semantic space 4.Mid-range scores are most numerous, hence most individuals are a blend of traits.



55 N S IE Big Five as Social Psychological Construct: Extraversion x Neuroticism - Nomothetic orthogonal space underpinned by lexicon - Individual fixed in space - Assumes a blend of characteristics and behaviours at mid-ranges

56 EI E I Strong ESomewhat E ???

57 N S IE Big Five as Intra-Psychological Construct: Extraversion x Neuroticism - Ideographic distanciated space underpinned by positioning - Individual not fixed in space; three positions are represented - The trait Extraversion-Introversion is an ambiguous signifier

58 Extraversion-Introversion (thirdness) (secondness) I-position 1 I-position 2 (= E) (= I) Figure 8 Extraversion-Introversion as an ambiguous signifier

59 Research Question Do those at the mid-range on a Big Five trait report more I-position conflict within that domain than those scoring Hi/Lo on the trait? For example, those scoring in the mid-range for Extraversion (E) will report I-position conflict in the E domain while those scoring high and low on E will not.

60 Measures NEO PI-R (Costa & McRae, 1992) I-Position Inventory – a checklist of salient I-positions generated in previous research (Hermans, 2001; Raggatt, 2006)


62 Sample 147 adults completed the NEO PI-R and the I-Position Inventory(IPI) Mean Age: 33.3 years, SD = 15.1 years Range: 17 years to 75 years 46 males; 101 females

63 Extraversion I-as-… Neuroticism I-as-… Openness I-as-… Agreeableness I-as-… Conscientiousness I-as-… +Fighter+Victim+Freedom seeker+Warmth Seeker+Colleague +Dominating+Negative+Idealist+Sacrificing+Professional +Enjoyer of life+Jealous+Independent+Understanding+Doer +Brave+Guilty+Mystic+Modest+Organised +Strong+Vulnerable+Believer+Accepting+In Control +Confident+Pessimist+Dreamer+Nurturing+Achiever +Optimist+Weak+Artistic+Loving+Successful +Positive+Sad+Creative+Caring+Hard Worker +Bold+Fearful+Spiritual+Loyal+Career-Oriented +Loud+Humiliated+Religious+Compliant+Committed +Adventurous+Avoider+Humble+Serious + Happy+Forgiver IntroversionStableClosedDisagreeableUnconscientious I-as-… -Quiet-Calm-Realist-Defiant-Avoider -Reserved-Secure-Dependent-Vengeful-Messy -Shy-Stable-Non-believer-Stubborn-Disorganised -Privacy Seeker-Proud-Traditionalist-Betrayer-Lazy -Risk Avoider-Winner-Doubter-Demanding-Amateurish -Practical-Judging Table 1 Trait-congruent I-positions across the Big Five domain

64 ExtraversionNeuroticismOpennessAgreeablenessConscientiousness Bold / ReservedVulnerable/ Secure Independent / Dependent Forgiver / Vengeful Organised / Disorganised Loud / QuietNegative / Positive Freedom-seeker / Risk avoider c Sacrificing / Demanding Professional / Amateurish Dominating / Shy Humiliated / Proud Religious / Non-believer Accepting / Stubborn Doer / Avoider Strong / Weak a Victim / WinnerArtistic / Practical Compliant / Defiant Hard-worker / Lazy Optimist / Pessimist a Fearful / Calm Idealist / RealistLoyal / Betrayer Adventurous / Risk avoider c Sad / Happy b Table 2 Opposing I-Positions Pairs across the Big Five Domain

65 Big Five Trait Domain Trait Groups n Trait-congruent I-position Conflict Scores a Trait Mean SD Group Comparisons df t Extraversion 1. Mid-Range 2. High/Low 74 73 E 1.80 1.22 1.79 1.45 145 2.16* Neuroticism Mid-Range High/Low 72 75 N 2.33 2.24 1.91 2.05 145 0.29 Openness Mid-Range High/Low 74 73 O 2.73 2.15 2.14 1.86 145 1.75* Agreeableness Mid-Range High/Low 75 72 A 1.78 1.16 2.02 1.37 145 2.18* Conscientiousness Mid-Range High/Low 74 73 C 2.45 2.21 2.23 2.09 145 0.69 Table 6t -test comparisons: Mid-range vs. high/low trait domain groups on I-position conflict scores for that domain * p <.05, one-tailed. N = 147

66 Mean Trait-Congruent I-Position Ratings E Big Five Scores A C NO E-congruent positions.64** -.39†.27† -.30†.14 N-congruent positions -.40†.69** -.04 -.12 -.29† O-congruent positions.19.03.32**.17.23 A-congruent positions.21 -.06.05.53**.24† C-congruent positions.28† -.14 -.03.20.77** Table 4 Pearson correlations: Mean trait-congruent I-position ratings with Big Five trait scores ** p <.001, one-tailed. † p <.01, two-tailed. N = 147.

67 Conclusions – Trait Study 1.For three of the five major trait domains we found that individuals scoring in the mid-range prioritized conflict among I-positions in that domain (significant for E, O, and A, with a non-significant trend also observed for C) 2.Therefore, mid-range trait scores are linked to identity- related conflict, rather than balance, harmony or flexibility in the domain concerned. 3.Aggregating trait scores masks underlying processes involving conflict. 4.Are traits really continuous constructs? 5.Are the Big Five made up of apples and oranges, but also bananas, pineapples and Brussell’s Sprouts?

68 Summary 1.At the beginning of this talk I posed the questions: How can the dialogical self in its extension be understood from a temporal and life historical perspective? 2.In order to address these questions I have adapted Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope to this task. 3.I argued that early experiences of multiplicity arising out of ‘position exchange’, such as I - Me ‘distanciation’, provide the basic mechanisms for the later elaboration of chronotopes. 4.I suggested that Peirce’s concept of thirdness provides an important tool for understanding mediation in the emergence of chronotopes. 5.In particular, ‘ambiguous signifiers’, symbolic objects with multi- stable meanings, reveal how chronotopes are built from semiotic relations. 6.Using a case example, I have shown how this approach allows us to plot the formation of I-positions and counter-positions by analysing dynamic relations among life history data. 7.From the perspective of dialogical self theory, the case of Charles illustrates how time, symbolic mediation (culture), and the ambiguity of critical events are all fundamental to the dynamics of positioning processes in a dialogical self.

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