I obtained my undergraduate training in psychology at the Belgrade University, Serbia, and after going through a year of rather intense positivist indoctrination, I finally got to the second year and started learning about some other psychologies. The most influential figure in developing my passion for developmental psychology and cultural-historical approach to it was my first academic mentor – Prof. Aleksandar Baucal. During two semesters of the developmental psychology course, Prof. Baucal recognized my enthusiasm for cultural-historical psychology, and he offered me the Teaching Assist position the following year. That was the beginning of a three-year long cooperation. At the time I started my TA-ship, Prof. Baucal, with several of his students (me being one of them), decided to (re)establish a developmental psychology ‘lab’. We had initiated what later became a series of studies using very innovative methodology for exploring the concepts of ZPD and scaffolding.
When I started planning my transition to New York, and preparation for the PhD studies, Prof. Baucal recommended me to contact Lois Holzman, PhD, the director of the East Side Institute (ESI) where Vygotskian theories are used in psychotherapy, in training the teachers, business leaders, health professionals, in developing communities, in working with young people, etc. The Institute’s work seemed to offer a broad spectrum of application of Vygotsky’s, and other socio-cultural-historical approaches. Two weeks after I moved to New York, I started interning at this place and expending my knowledge both about the theory, but also about the possible applications that that theory can have. Another major benefit I had from being a part of the ESI community was that it was a non-academic avenue for getting closer to the academic world in New York, USA, and even world-wide. I had the opportunity to meet, play, brainstorm and discuss with many scholars teaching in the NYC area that ESI community gathers. The event crucial for my future choice when it comes to the graduate school was the pre-AERA workshop held at the ESI in March 2008. That’s where I met many CHAT scholars, and Prof. Anna Stetsenko being one of them. She introduced me to the Graduate Center, to other professors working there, and I realized soon that that was the right place for me to continue my education and development as a young scholar. Our (almost entire) department is working in the framework of cultural-historical activity theory, and I find this approach the most powerful when applied to research and practices.
I am always eager to learn more, to expand and challenge the conceptions I have about what development is about, what human is, what psychology is about, and what its role is in changing and maintaining social and political systems. I had a wonderful professional experience at the ISCAR 2011 where I had many inspiring discussions with both experienced researchers, and young scholars, like myself. I hope to continue having amazing discussions at the ISCAR SU, and learning about many more ongoing studies and theory developments. I am very interested in translation of cultural-historical theory into research designs and innovative methodological approaches. I read several times about studies that use CHAT framework, and yet, don’t manage to develop methods and do interpretations that fully correspond with this framework. It is sometimes hard to avoid reifying and essentializing in our designs and interpretations, and I am very interested in learning about ways of overcoming and avoiding these traps. I would be honored being a part of this summer university, and studying, even only for several days, at the Moscow State University, in Moscow, a place of such a high symbolic value for all socio-cultural-historic psychologists.
Presentation “Who you are is where you are: urban youth’s context-dependent experiences of the salient aspects of the self”
Download presentation of the speech (PDF; 188 KB)