Cultural Historical Approach to Thinking
at the University of Victoria


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Research Team




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Cultural Studies of Practice and Workplace

Dentistry Practice Our research on dentistry practice is related to the boundary crossing between dental school and dental clinics in private practice. Our main interest is related to dentist-patient relationships, particularly the dentist's actions when treating the patient. See abstract here We approach these relationships from an activity theoretical perspective, which considers ethics as an inherent aspect of each and every action. Thus, every action a dentist performs when dealing with a patient necessarily presents an ethical dimension. Even in the discursive dimension, we are able to identify the ethical awareness the dentists when talking about potentially ethical problems during their practice. See abstract here We also discuss the implications of the unknownability of actions for dentistry practice. See abstract here and report on an ethnographic study of dentistry practice, articulating issues related to ethics, dentist-patient relationship, and workplace organization See abstract here

Eelgrass Mapping We conducted an ethnographic study of a community eelgrass mapping project that involves a network of (extra)ordinary people, non-governmental environmental organizations, scientists and government representatives. We explored what kinds of material resources (GPS, quadrats, maps) and social resources (mapping activities, council meetings, conversations) were mobilized to bring about change to practices that are detrimental to the marine environment. Of particular interest is the emergence of a grassroots network of people, eelgrass and resources and how it "holds up" in the face of limited funding available to environmental projects more generally. See pictures here

Ethnographic Research on Knowledge Transfer in a Salmon Hatchery In this project, we adopted a multidisciplinary research approach to understand salmon enhancement in British Columbia. We spent time in a salmon hatchery, which rears juvenile fish for release back to the ocean. After a few years, the adult fish return upstream and this distinguishes the facility from a fish farm, for the latter rear juveniles up to the adult stage at the same site. One question we have explored is the nature of workplace knowledge and expertise in the hatchery. Because the fish culturists working there have constantly amazed us with their embodied knowledge of rearing salmon, one line of research has articulated these from an anthropological perspective. See abstract here In parallel, notions of identity have come in and this resulted in our effort to clarify the very difficult phenomena of organizational identity and identification. See abstract here In common with the socio-cultural (e.g. cultural-historical activity theory) outlook, issues of learning coexisted with identity. Existing definitions of learning are as numerous as the number of theorists attempting to explain it; we approached it in terms of changing modes of participation, of changing practices by knowledgeable people. We also analyzed enhancement from a historical perspective using archival material. We used the Marxist idea of contradictions in accounting for socio-technical change. See pictures here

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