Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Extended Paper: Reconceptualising Foundational Assumptions of Resilience: A Cross-Cultural, Spatial Systems Domain of Relevance for Agency and Phenomenology in Resilience

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Extended Paper: Reconceptualising Foundational Assumptions of Resilience: A Cross-Cultural, Spatial Systems Domain of Relevance for Agency and Phenomenology in Resilience

Article excerpt

Introduction

The concept of resilience in developmental and educational psychology rests on fundamental spatial assumptions that require further interrogation. There is firstly a spatial preunderstanding or metaphor built into conceptions of resilience as a regaining of shape, a bouncing back into shape (Ungar 2005, 2015). The important broadening of resilience by Michael Ungar and his colleagues from the individual to include systemic dimensions as part of a cross-cultural understanding typically relies on Bronfenbrenner's (1979, 1995) social-ecological systems approach which itself rests on other foundational assumptions regarding space. Ungar et al. (2007) observe "a shift in focus from individual characteristics to protective factors, and finally to health resources and assets in a child's community" that "has taken place in mostly western contexts" (p.288). Bronfenbrenner's (1979) framework assumes concentric structured spaces as nested systems of relation, with the "ecological environment...topologically as a nested arrangement of concentric structures, each contained within the next" (p. 22). This concentric spatial understanding of Bronfenbrenner - from which Ungar draws his systemic broadening of resilience beyond the individual - did not engage with cross-cultural understandings of concentric spatial structures and systems interrogated in more detail by structural anthropologist Lévi-Strauss (1962, 1963, 1973). It is through a reconstruction of these concentric spatial systemic understandings that a domain of relevance for resilience can be forged.

Building on reconceptualisation (Downes 2003a, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015) of an aspect of structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss' (1963; 1973) understanding of space as cross-cultural structures of relation, this article seeks to establish a specific domain of relevance for resilience based on interactive tension between diametric and concentric relational spaces. Space is a key bridge between material, symbolic and interpersonal domains of relevance for resilience in developmental and educational psychology. Focus will be on both system supports and individual phenomenology.

Key goals of this spatial interrogation are twofold. Firstly, there is a need to identify structural features of blockage in systems hindering resilience and to develop structural features of inclusive systems for fostering resilience in the face of adversity and vulnerability. Secondly, resilience rests on assumptions of agency, of the active experience of the individual in the face of causal influences by environmental and/or genetic factors; pluralistic conceptions of agency underlying the domain of relevance for active experience in resilience require a spatial excavation.

Concentric and Diametric Spatial Systems of Relation

Jahoda's (1982) cross-cultural, anthropological review concludes that "the simplest and at the same time most common type of symbolic classification ... is the dual one" (p. 251). Jahoda (1982) recognizes that the Chinese classification of yin/yang is "perhaps the best known case" (p. 251) of fundamental bipolar oppositions. Yin/yang encompasses both diametric and concentric spatial relations (Downes 2011). LéviStrauss explored physical structures within and across different cultures, as well as mythological systems, to uncover not only examples of concentric and diametric structures but also initial steps to understanding their mutual relation. Concentric structures can be found also in Islamic, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Jewish, Celtic, African, ancient Greek and Estonian contexts, while Jung locates the concentric mandala structure in Buddhist, Hindu and Christian traditions (Lévi-Strauss 1963, 1973; Downes 2012)

The contrasting structural relation of diametric spatial opposition has also been observed crossculturally, by Lévi-Strauss (1962): he notes that examples of diametric dualism "abound" (p. 135), citing specific tribes in North and South America. …

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