Positioning Theory

The purpose of this page is to gather together links and materials concerning positioning theory in general, but with a particular interest in the fruitful exchange of insights between literary studies, positioning theory, and (in a broader context) cognitive science. Any feedback, bibliographic entries, or links would be welcome. Side note: although I have not recently produced any additional work whose primary focus is positioning theory, it does play a role in my cog-sci comp/lit textbook-in-progress and also underpins some of the analysis behind my current project.

James Luberda (firstname dot lastname @uconn.edu) at the University of Connecticut. Updated (finally) September 16, 2006.
A Very Brief Introduction
to Positioning Theory
Links
Bibliography
   
Home page  Cognitive Science & Lit & Comp Essay: "Unassuming Positions: Middlemarch, its Critics, and Positioning Theory" in HTML and .pdf formats
   
Bibliography    
Note: in order to avoid reduplication of efforts, this bibliography is limited to materials that explicitly invoke positioning theory. However, the links will include materials concerning narrative psychology as well, given their theoretical kinship. Apologies for the inconsistent citation formatting--someday I may get around to correcting it.
Berman, L. (1999). 'Positioning in the Formation of a "National" Identity.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Carbaugh, D. (1999). 'Positioning as Display of Cultural Identity.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Davies, B. and Harré, R. (1990). 'Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves.' Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 20 (1), 43-63. Rpt. w modifications as Ch. 3 in Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell. Link to full-text of original article on-line.
Harré, R. (1993). 'Positioning in Scientific Discourse.' In: R. Harré (ed.), Reason and Rhetoric: Anglo-Ukranian Studies in the Rationality of Scientific Discourse. Lewiston: the Edwin Mellen Press.
Harré, Rom and Moghaddam, Fathali, eds. (2003). The Self and Others: Positioning Individuals and Groups in Personal, Political, and Cultural Contexts. Westport: Praeger.
Harré, R. and Van Langenhove, L. (1992). 'Varieties of Positioning.' Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 393-407.
Harré, Rom and Van Langenhove, Luk (eds) (1999). Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Howie, D. (1999). 'Preparing for Positive Positioning.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Howie, D. & Peters, M.A. (1996). ‘Positioning Theory: Vygotsky, Wittgenstein and Social Constructionist Psychology’, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 26, 1: 51-64.
McKenzie, Pamela J. and Robert F. Carey. (2000). '“What’s wrong with that woman?” – Positioning Theory
and Information-Seeking Behaviour.' Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference, Canadian Association for Information Science. Link to on-line full-text.
Moghaddam, F. M. (1999). 'Reflexive Positioning: Culture and Private Discourse.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Peters, MA & Appel, S. (1996). 'Positioning Theory: Discourse, the Subject and the Problem of Desire', Social Analysis, 40, September: 120-145.
Riva, Giuseppe and Galimberti, Carlo. (1997). 'The Psychology of Cyberspace: a socio-cognitive framework to computer-mediated communication.' New Ideas in Psychology, 15 (2), 141-158.
Sabat, S. and Harré, R. (1995). 'The Construction and Deconstruction of Self in Alzheimer's Disease.' Ageing and Society, 12, 443-61. Rpt. w modifications as Ch. 7 in Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
Tan, S. L. and Moghaddam, F. M. (1995). 'Reflexive Positioning and Culture.' Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 25, 387-400. Rpt. w modifications as Ch. 13 in Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
van Langenhove, L. and Bertolink, R. (1999) 'Positioning and Assessment of Technology.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
van Langenhove, Luk and Rom Harré. (1994). 'Cultural stereotypes and positioning theory.' Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 24(4): 359-372.
van Langenhove, L. and Harré, R. (1995). 'Positioning and Autobiography: Telling Your Life." In N. Coupland and J. Nussbaum (eds), Discourse and Life-span Development. London: Sage. Rpt. w modifications as Ch. 5 in Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
van Langenhove, L. and Harré, R. (1999). 'Positioning and the Writing of Science.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
van Langenhove, L. and Harré, R. (1999). 'Positioning as the Production and Use of Stereotypes.' In: Rom Harré and Luk van Langenhove (eds), Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell.
   
Links largely on narrative psych at this point    
The massive Narrative Psychology site hosted by Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, Ph.D out of LeMoyne College (NY) is worth spending some serious time with. For those coming from a literary/linguistic background, you may wish to head straight for the associated subject page.
Kevin Murray's narrative psychology page has full texts of several of his published articles in this area, including "Life as Fiction" and "Finding Literary Paths: The Work of Popular Life Constructors." Unfortunately, some of the on-line texts suffer from apparent OCR errors.
Through this page, you can access Lionel Boxer's dissertation, which utilizes positioning theory in the process of conducting a discourse analysis of corporate executives addressing how they deal with sustainability issues. Lionel also has a piece in Harré and Moghaddam (2003). On a side note, I had the opportunity to exchange some interesting email on the subject of positioning with (now) Dr. Boxer a while back.
See Francis Steen's notes towards a bibliography of approaches to narrative (still useful though not apparently updated since 2001--not that I have anything to say about that, given the six years it took me to update this page) hosted on his incredible site, CogWeb.
     
     
   

A Very Brief Introduction to Positioning Theory
(excerpted from the paper "Unassuming Positions: Middlemarch, its Critics, and Positioning Theory")

"Positioning theory" is the name given to recent attempts to articulate an alternate way of reading and understanding the dynamic of human relationships within a social constructivist paradigm. It is most readily understood as centering upon the replacement of the metaphorical notion of "role" with that embodied in the word "position," with much of its insight and use flowing outward from this initial point of theoretical intervention. "Role," as used to describe social typification of recurring and instantive relationships, such as "mother-son," "clerk-customer," and "teacher-student," is criticized as being a relatively static concept to describe the way these relationships are actually experienced and enacted by their participants. For example, though a majority of people may be able to agree upon a certain set of characteristics that describe the "average" mother, it is questionable as to the degree to which this abstraction actually determines and represents the attitudes, beliefs, and responsibilities of an individual person who finds herself identified in that role.

Positioning theory, on the other hand, attends to the problems inherent in the theatrical metaphor of "role" by working the much more dynamic metaphor of "position." Already, the spatial dimension of the term suggests its flexibility: one's position in space is ever-changing, even if only by degrees. Positions, such as sitting or standing, leaning this way or that, may be taken up or abandoned with relative ease. Extended into the social realm, the language is similarly applied; given an upcoming election, we inquire after candidates' positions on various issues; we discuss our own take on a particular position. Indeed, we often explicitly position ourselves in relation to a stated position. Notable in these activities is the fact that positioning typically takes place in a conversation; we explain our positions, defend them, alter them. Further, we often try to position others, as, for example: wrong, incompetent, misinformed; or, right, competent, knowledgeable. Finally, these positions tend to be taken up according to an unfolding narrative, as in a tale of a modest infidelity: the guilty party will try to position him or herself as weak-willed, perhaps, or as having been unfaithful in response to some wrong done by the other. These positions will be tried out and abandoned or maintained, depending upon the outcomes they generate.

(For a more thorough treatment, click here for the external, full-text article "Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves" by Davies and Harré; or click here to go to the full-text of the essay by James Luberda from which the above extracts came)

 

   
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