Margaret Archer and the Internal Conversation

Start: 13:41

 I read Conservation International’s newsletter yesterday.  More really bad news: 1000 species extinguished annually….  Will insert later.

Back to Margaret Archer and Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation.  I have been re-reading the structure of the Internal Conversation and how the ‘object-self is presented as recording the gist of the subject-self’s utterance’ (p101) and something seems very structured and rigid about it.  The key to the confusion for me, is the notion of the meta-reflexive being able to reflect on their own reflexivity.  My experience of trying to record my own internal conversation doesn’t seem to work in such an orderly way.  It’s less a conversation and more a stream of consciousness sitting just underneath the surface of this page.  I’ll keep working with it and see how it progresses. 

I ended last session after reading from Wolf to Woof in a January 2002 edition of National Geographic.  They also refer to dogs, in relation to humans, as ‘non-humans’.  This term makes me uncomfortable.  It reminds me of a lot of the language in many texts on apartheid that I read during my Masters research.

[I am so hungry, don’t know where I am going with this.
They are just thoughts.
I want to eat. 
Shall I deduct time off my time log to account for my sandwich?]

14:19 I’m back.  Going to sit with Margaret for 20mins.

Ok, it’s clearer.  The object-self (OS) and subject-self (SS) should not be reified, as they ‘are terms of convenience’ (p100).  Archer simply uses them to differentiate between the ‘self as speaker and the self as listener, but both refer to the same being – a single person” (p100).

The internal conversation, according to Archer, is the “process through which structure is mediated by agency” (p93).  Questioning and answering form ‘a central part of those internal deliberations that make up the internal conversation” (p100).   The idea of ‘alternation’ is still a bit confusing and I will no doubt return to it again, particularly because I want to record Polo’s Internal Conversation throughout the story.

It just struck me that the use of ‘sequels’ in novels is the tool that a writer uses to express the reflexivity of his/her characters.  Will pick that one up later.

[I need to drop Margaret and get back to Bell and Russell

But there’s so much in Bell and Russell.

I know, but there’s also so much in Archer!

Are you running away from Archer?

No, just trying to pick up the Russell threads before they shred]

Bowers (cited in Bell & Russell, 1999) ‘stresses the importance of educating students about the ways that language shapes our taken-for-granted patterns of thought and behaviour, with potentially adverse consequences for the rest of nature” (p71).  As I continue to read this page to try and find out more, I am struck again by the use of the term non-human.  I am particularly aware of it because it is written in a text about ‘educating for life ties’, whose aim is to give consideration’…’create space’…’to voice and explore alternative understandings of [human] relationships with ‘non-human beings’ (p71).  “Language is centrally implicated in notions of genocide and in tolerance with regard to non-human beings” (p71).  Although the addition of the word ‘beings’ softens the term ‘non-human’, it is still creating tension in me. 

I agree with Bower about ‘language being centrally implicated’ but then is it not important to choose the appropriate language to make sure that the exploration is well charted without perpetuating the  myths behind the dualities?   Social psychologists mention the importance of creating the notion of ‘other’ to justify violent conflict.  Genocide could not have occurred in Germany, if people did not believe that certain groups of people were inferior while others were superior.  Apartheid survived on the dominant ‘class’ ability to use language in such a way that anyone who was not ‘white’ was considered as non/other/less than.

[Getting irritated.


Feeling irritated with all the words and the thoughts.


Because they’re all mixed up and unclear.


Oh, now you are irritating me!

That’s stupid and a bit of a cop out.

Why make such a big deal over the use of the word non-human?

Because it seems central to the story and central to me!

It is disturbing me!

Get over it!


Stopped to re-read  “Life Ties: Disrupting Anthropocentrism in Language Arts”.  Don’t see the disruption yet.  The old argument that “the boundaries implied [in culturally produced dualisms] can best be investigated if they are acknowledged rather than ignored” (p72), is obvious, but it also seems to be a trap.  The moment we start to use language that emphasises dualisms: human/nature, men/women, blacks/whites, old/young, we have already in a sense fixed the duality and can’t escape just because we spend time analysing it.  I’ve struggled for a long time with this issue as a student in Northern Ireland, a resident in New York during the rising tide of AIDS activism, and as an environmental educator and activist.  I can’t seem to escape it.  It is a key theme of the story. 

For example, Wild Dog, as leader of the ‘Glocals’, stresses the importance of maintaining the distinction between endangered species and domesticated animals.  He thrives on the boundaries.  But because of the anthropocentric trap and our ‘mastery’ of language as a communication tool, I can’t find a way to switch the emphasis on the ‘human’ in the human/non-human relationship because there isn’t a word that exerts as much power and influence.  So how does Wild Dog express this duality from his point of view?  Should he refer to the relationship between humans and non-human as animals and non-animals, animals and lesseranimals, creatures of nature and creatures of concrete?  Obviously the word ‘animal’ won’t work because includes humans.  In fact, very word I can think of choosing is inclusive of humans. I don’t know how to overcome this, but will continue to look at this issue next sitting.

Finish 17:52


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