Historicizing Social Constructivism Gender Studies

Do you want to know about the history of social constructivism in Gender Studies? Before that, what does it mean to historicize constructivism? Historicizing Constructionism hence means that throughout history certain ideas have been constructed about gender. These ideas have been enforced and reinforced throughout time. So, here you will learn about the historicizing social constructivism of Gender Studies.

History of Social Constructivism of Gender Studies

Seymour Papert coined the term “constructionism” back in the 1980s to stand for a method of pedagogy that concretizes and builds upon many of the ideas of progressive education practiced by the American John Dewey at the start of the 20th century in his experimental school at the University of Chicago.

Dewey wanted to put much of the responsibility for learning back onto the students who are born with the gift of learning and creating knowledge on his terms.
As regards the precise origin of social constructionism, it is debatable. However, it is generally considered that within the context of social theory, social constructionism also emerged during the 1980s and further developed during the 1990s.

This is evident from the list of academic works with the words “Social Construction of” in their title which Ian Hacking lists on the first page of his book “The Social Construction of What?” Hacking lists two titles from the 1970s, eight from the 1980s, and twenty-one from the 1990s. This chronology is corroborated by Dave Elder-Vass in his book The Reality of Social Construction.

Dave Elder-Vass cites the Berger and Luckmann book The Social Construction of Reality. Originally published in 1966, the word “introduced the term social construction to sociologists and began the trajectory of the development of social constructionism.

Andy Lock and Tom Strong trace some of the fundamental tenets of social constructionism back to the work of the 18th-century Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist Giambattista Vico.

According to Lock and Strong, other influential thinkers whose work has had an impact on the development of social constructionism are Edmund Husserl, Alfred Schutz, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Jürgen Habermas, Emmanuel Levinas, Mikhail Bakhtin, Valentin Volosinov, Lev Vygotsky, George Herbert Mead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gregory Bateson, Harold Garfinkel, Erving Goffman, Anthony Giddens, Michel Foucault, Ken Gergen, Mary Gergen, Rom Harre, and John Shotter.

Based on the above, it could is observed that the intellectual foundations of social constructionism span phenomenology, hermeneutics, post-structuralism, symbolic interactionism, as well as some strands of literary criticism and social psychology.

Social constructionism or the social construction of reality (also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world. It assumes that understanding, significance, and meaning are developed not separately within the individual, but in coordination with other human beings. The elements most important to the theory are:

  • The assumption is that human beings rationalize their experience by creating a model of the social world and how it functions and
  • Language is the most essential system through which humans construct reality.

Social constructs are the by-products of countless human choices, rather than laws related to human judgment. Social constructionism is not related to anti-determinism, though. Social constructionism is typically positioned in opposition to essentialism, which sees phenomena in terms of inherent, trans-historical essences independent of human judgment.

A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans.

The social construction of reality is an ongoing, dynamic process that is (and must be) reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it. Because social constructs as facets of reality and objects of knowledge are not “given” by nature, they must be constantly maintained and re-affirmed in order to persist. This process also introduces the possibility of change: i.e. what “justice” is and what it means shifts from one generation to the next.

Jan Hacking noted in The Social Construction of What? That social construction talk is often in reference not only to worldly items, like things and facts but also to beliefs about them.

A claim that gender is socially constructed probably means that gender, as currently understood, is not an inevitable result of biology, but highly contingent on social and historical processes. In addition, depending on who is making the claim, it may mean that our current understanding of gender is harmful, and should be modified or eliminated, to the extent possible.

Hacking is much more sympathetic to the second reading than the first. Furthermore, he argues that, if the second reading is taken, there need not always be a conflict between saying that quarks are “socially constructed” and saying that they are “real”.

In our gender example, this means that while a legitimate biological basis for gender may exist, some of society’s perceptions of gender may be socially constructed.

According to Quine and like-minded thinkers (who are not usually characterized as social constructionists), there is no single privileged explanatory framework that is closest to “the things themselves every theory has merit only in proportion to its explanatory power.

As we step from the phrase to the world of human beings, “social construction” analyses can become more complex. Hacking briefly examines Helene Mousse’s analysis of the social construction of “women refugees”. According to him, Mousse’s argument has several pieces, some of which may be implicit:

• Canadian citizens’ idea of “the woman refugee” is not inevitable, but historically contingent. (Thus the idea or category “the woman refugee” can be said to be “socially constructed”.)
• Women coming to Canada to seek asylum are profoundly affected by the category of “the woman refugee”. Among other things, if a woman does not “count” as a “woman refugee” according to the law, she may be deported, and forced to return to very difficult conditions in her homeland.
• Such women may modify their behavior, and perhaps even their attitudes towards themselves, in order to gain the benefits of being classified as a “woman refugee”.
• If such a woman does not modify her behavior, she should be considered un-Canadian and as such should not be admitted to citizenship.

Hacking suggests that this third part of the analysis, the “interaction” between a socially constructed category and the individuals that are actually or potentially included in that category, is present in many “social construction” analyses involving types of human beings.

Social constructionism accepts that there is an objective reality. It is concerned with how knowledge is constructed and understood. It has therefore an epistemological, not an ontological perspective. Criticisms and misunderstandings arise when this central fact is misinterpreted.

This is most evident in debates and criticisms surrounding realism and relativism. The words of Kirk and Miller are relevant when they suggest that the search for a final, absolute truth be left to philosophers and theologians. Social constructionism places great emphasis on everyday interactions between people and how they use language to construct their reality.

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