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Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory
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Book description

In a boundary-crossing and globalizing world, the personal and social positions in self and identity become increasingly dense, heterogeneous and even conflicting. In this handbook scholars of different disciplines, nations and cultures (East and West) bring together their views and applications of dialogical self theory in such a way that deeper commonalities are brought to the surface. As a 'bridging theory', dialogical self theory reveals unexpected links between a broad variety of phenomena, such as self and identity problems in education and psychotherapy, multicultural identities, child-rearing practices, adult development, consumer behaviour, the use of the internet and the value of silence. Researchers and practitioners present different methods of investigation, both qualitative and quantitative, and also highlight applications of dialogical self theory.


'This is an incredibly engaging and comprehensive text that builds on the evolving dialogical self theory, applies the model to several fascinating and diverse global cases and still finds room to explain in thoughtful detail how to utilize these ideas in improving people’s lives. What you have in the Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory is a comprehensive guide to the theoretical understanding, analysis, and practice of dialogical self theory with diverse case examples and multiple illustrations of its usefulness and practicality in a complex and changing world.'

Jack S. Kahn - California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University

‘This is a truly comprehensive examination of the multiple and diverse aspects of the emerging field of dialogical self studies. From a theoretical, methodological and practical vantage point an international group of scholars lays out the promises and possibilities of what will surely become an exciting field of inquiry as well as a foundation for new practices.’

Henderikus J. Stam - University of Calgary

‘The 'dialogical self' is among the most important and original new theories in the social sciences in the past 20 years. It is a theory for our times, addressing in complex and insightful ways the ways that globalization affects psychological functioning. In this book, the theory is presented lucidly and thoroughly, covering an impressive range not only in psychology but also sociology, economics, philosophy, and political studies. The book should be welcome in all those fields as a major contribution to the understanding of globalization.’

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett - Clark University

‘Longing for a 'big picture' look at dialogical self theory? Look no further! Besides providing detailed examinations of the theory itself, this handbook presents a plethora of ways to apply DST to research, psychotherapy, and education. DST scholars and practitioners will not be disappointed!’

Jonathan D. Raskin - State University of New York

'Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory is a comprehensive consolidation of recent advances in the theory and practice of dialogical self theory (DST). The collection of 27 chapters provides a comprehensive explication of DST as a 'bridging theory' … the handbook provides an excellent resource upon which further innovative theoretical, research, and practical positions should be built. More important, readers who engage with the content will be changed by it: never again will you use phrases like 'sense of self' without feeling that someone, somewhere has something very different and important to say on the matter.'

Gavin Sullivan Source: PsycCRITIQUES

'For those interested in DST, Hermans and Gieser’s volume is a valuable and important contribution to the literature. And for those who are just curious and want to know more, they too will be rewarded. It is a rich, comprehensive compendium featuring many of the central players in the DST movement and it explores the idea of the dialogical self with a kind of earnestness and sense of purpose that many will find appealing.'

Mark Freeman Source: Theory and Psychology

'The editors of this work are among the leading representatives of narrative psychology and creators of dialogical self theory (DST) … Of particular value is the fact that the authors represented are from Africa, India, Japan and China, in addition to traditional, Western centers of science … [This volume] merits use as an academic textbook on DST [and] … will interest 'humanists', including anthropologists, linguists, sociologists, psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, doctors and even business psychologists … Authors of individual chapters use a clear and lively style, so the concepts described will interest even those readers unfamiliar with the topic.'

Mariusz Wołońciej Source: International Journal for Dialogical Science

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Page 1 of 2

  • Part I - Theoretical contributions
    pp 23-234
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    This chapter draws on three strands of inspiration, concerned with meaning making, narrative and the dialogical self, braiding these together into a flexible and durable strand of coherence that runs through the author's therapy, and supports a great variety of novel interventions. It briefly sketches the landscape of loss as viewed through the contemporary scientific literature, in order to frame the field to which a dialogical, meaning-oriented model makes a distinctive contribution. From a constructivist standpoint, grieving for the death of a loved one entails reaffirming or reconstructing a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss. The chapter introduces the idea to Daniel of considering his life as a book, and asked if he would be willing to spend some time between sessions writing the table of contents of that life to capture its plot developments, including the accident and his subsequent adaptation.
  • 9 - Negotiating with autonomy and relatedness: dialogical processes in everyday lives of Indians
    pp 169-184
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    If the dialogical self is an extended position repertoire in time and space, then it must have features of both simultaneity and succession. This conceptualization presents significant challenges for theory building, and is addressed in this chapter. The chapter considers recent developments in positioning theory and presents an overview and synthesis of positioning processes. It draws particularly on the recent work of H.J.M. Hermans, as well as other scholars. The chapter takes the liberty of summarizing their ideas along with other recent contributions to positioning theory. It looks at the historical processes captured in the premodern, modern and postmodern models of the self; it is tempting to link dialogical self theory (DST) explicitly to the postmodern model DST. The chapter focuses on the concepts of ambiguous third position and dialogical triad, arguing that they provide important tools for conceptualizing both integration and differentiation in the formation of a dialogical self.
  • 10 - Dialogicality and the internet
    pp 185-199
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    This chapter introduces some theorizing about the temporal dimension of the dialogical self that is often ignored because of the usual focus on space rather than time. It provides a developmental and life historical account of how time enters into the psychology of a person with respect to different aspects of self. The chapter focuses on how the three-dimensional model of selves emerges in early development and transforms throughout the lifetime of the individual. Early in the development of the dialogical self, the focus is on spatial relations of I-positions, where each primary I-position represents a particular sense of self, with its own action orientation and voice. The chapter considers a case study in which the temporal organization of the dialogical self becomes especially apparent through dissociation of phenomenal mental selves, each with their own temporally integrated narrative meta-structure and with changing dialogical relations to other mental selves.
  • 11 - Schizophrenia and alterations in first-person experience: advances offered from the vantage point of dialogical self theory
    pp 200-214
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    The dialogical self theory's (DST) growing importance and increasing multidisciplinarity have resulted in elaborating several developmental issues: in infancy, in young adults, and regarding significant processes such as cultural transition and motherhood. The chronology given is thus an approach with hints to significant moments within the first two years of life and a glimpse into further development. The dialogical quality of the infant's activities is correlated with heart rate: provocative imitations are shown to be anticipated by heart deceleration indicating preparation for an expected stimulus. Timing and taking up the other's bodily performance show time and form as supports of earliest proto-conversations between partners on the body level. Self comes to be within the rhythm of intersubjectivity, first in a fully concrete sense. DST is different from other self theories in the respect that it opens up to the rhythmicity of selfness-otherness, forming a dynamic unity.
  • 12 - The dialogical self in the new South Africa
    pp 215-234
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    This chapter offers two mutually relatable ideas into the discourse of dialogical self theory (DST) to make better sense of the complex self in structural dynamics and development: self-making and synthesis. The general ethos of these two directions for theoretical innovation of the DS field is that of abstract conceptualization of the dynamic processes of constant self-organization and self-creation of the DS. Different perspectives that have emphasized the multiplicity-in-unity of the self have made it clear that the use of fixed, unitary, point-like descriptors of the self constitutes a theoretical impasse for psychology. The mind as a semiotic demand setting is a complementary innovation that foregrounds the dynamics of dialogue within the self-system. Depending on the contextual support of the semiotic catalyser, various semiotic regulators can be enabled (or disabled) to act directly on the I-positions and their dialogues.
  • 13 - Dialogicality and personality traits
    pp 241-252
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    This chapter argues that acculturation for many transnational immigrants are essentially a contested, dynamic and dialogical process. In particular, it uses examples from the Indian diaspora to demonstrate that such a dialogical process involves a constant moving back and forth between various cultural voices that are connected to various sociocultural contexts and are shaped by issues of power and constructions of otherness. In contrast to cross-cultural psychology's conception of acculturation, it uses selective examples from an extensive ethnography done on the Indian diaspora to highlight the larger sociocultural and political contexts that are implicated in both the dynamics of acculturation and the dialogical formation of immigrant identity. The dialogical model of acculturation not only highlights the tensions and contradictions of living with hyphenated identities in the First World, but also poses a challenge to cross-cultural psychology's notion of acculturation strategies in general and the concept of integration strategy in particular.
  • 14 - Spatial organization of the dialogical self in creative writers
    pp 253-263
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    This chapter focuses on a confrontation of two crucial key elements from both theories, namely the model of the multivoiced self characterized by moving I-positions and the central phenomenological-dialectical personality model (Phe-Di P model). In order to facilitate dialogical processes, positions were approached as voiced positions, able to tell their stories and implied meaning units. Three kinds of (imaginal) interchange can be distinguished: internal-external, internal-internal and external-external. The chapter presents a succinct analysis of the Phe-Di P model with systematic references to Hermans model of moving I-positions. The dialogical self theory (DST) supports a much broader and richer inter- and intrapersonal activity than what a client expresses through the self-confrontation method (SCM), even in combination with a personal position repertoire (PPR) investigation. In psychodrama, the protagonist can really meet the antagonist. This encounter intensifies and surpasses the imaginary self-reflective dimension.
  • 15 - Cognitive architecture of the dialogical self: an experimental approach
    pp 264-283
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    This chapter illustrates how phenomena on the personal, social and societal levels work together in the production of novel I-positions within the dialogical self. Globalization has opened the door to greater discretionary transnational migration and ushered in a new immigration. Hybridization can occur in situations where multiple I-positions are simultaneously active and cannot simply coexist, either because of conflict or because of the creative urge towards synthesis. The chapter approaches hybridization through three co-necessary levels of analysis: the personal, social and societal. Societal-level formations function as constraints on and promoters of forms of hybridization and, therefore, the emergence of third positions. Further research into the relationship between specific societal-level formations and the dynamics of expressive dominance would strengthen the ability of dialogical self theory (DST) to address the personal, social and societal levels of analysis while maintaining a focus on the dynamic and developmental potential of DST.
  • 16 - Voicing inner conflict: from a dialogical to a negotiational self
    pp 284-300
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    This chapter explores the specific nature of dialogical relationships in the Indian self and society. Relationships among members of any group are guided by cultural, social and historical orientations that develop over centuries. In Indian communities, there exists a deep sense of relatedness with other people. Among Indians, reality itself is believed to be contingent upon context. Conversational interface among Indians is usually multiparty. Whether it is in childcare or social gatherings, there is a tendency to use strategies of multiparty discourse. The chapter presents ten illustrations which indicates how deeply (and differently) other people construct everyday conversations in the lives of Indians and one prevalent format for discourse is what can clumsily be called to everyone in general and no one in particular. It shows how social interactions guide the developing person towards active engagement with cultural reality while retaining individual agency.
  • 17 - Narrative processes of innovation and stability within the dialogical self
    pp 301-318
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    The advent of the internet (Net) in the closing decades of the twentieth century was a technological innovation with a potentially profound and influential effect upon human beings, individually and communally. This chapter examines crucial aspects of the internet, which functions as a particularly rich instantiation of the forces of globalization and the emergence of the self as dialogical. It highlights three more specific points of intersection between dialogical self theory (DST) and how the internet functions dynamically as a globalizing experience. The chapter suggests that the internet alters the personal and social experience of Cartesian space and time and the internet may foster or undermine dialogical exchange depending upon the degree of anonymity and isolation users' experience. It also suggests that the internet facilitates the expression of extreme forms of monologicality including what might be termed voices of darkness and the irrational.
  • 18 - Methodological approaches to studying the self in its social context
    pp 319-334
  • View abstract


    This chapter utilizes dialogical self theory (DST) to construct an account of experiences of self-diminishment in schizophrenia. It suggests that many disparate accounts of self-diminishment may be understood as involving lost or weakened capacities for intrapersonal and interpersonal dialogue. The chapter outlines how losses of this kind appear to assume at least three different forms. It describes models of self-disturbance from psychoanalytic, phenomenological and existential vantage points in order to be able to compare them later with the dialogical approach and then articulates the advances offered by DST. Each view reports an overall sense of compromised agency and a felt lack of meaning among persons diagnosed with schizophrenia. The chapter returns to the claims of DST within a larger discourse concerning self-experience in schizophrenia and shows how our account squares with a range of three other descriptions of alterations in self-experience, including those from psychoanalytic, phenomenological and existential perspectives.

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