Introduction: Children, Development and Education – A Dialogue Between Cultural Psychology and Historical Anthropology

  • Michalis Kontopodis
  • Christoph Wulf
  • Bernd Fichtner
Part of the International perspectives on early childhood education and development book series (CHILD, volume 3)


In the following introduction to the edited volume Children, Development and Education the reader is introduced to two schools of thought: historical anthropology – a revision of the German philosophical anthropology under the influences of the French historical school of Annales and the Anglo-Saxon cultural anthropology – and cultural-historical psychology – a school of thought which emerged in the context of the Soviet revolution and deeply affected the discipline of psychology in the twentieth century. Four significant and interrelated motions of thought, common in both of these schools, are briefly described under the labels: (a) subjectivity, (b) performativity, (c) infans absconditus, and (d) historicity. The introduction emphasizes the primacy of language and signs for the constitution of human subjectivity and the dramatic aspects of child development and examines the symbolic and performative aspects of ritual practices which play a central role in child-rearing, education, and the socialization of children. The impossibility of representation of children and childhood is also discussed and the epistemological position of double culturality and historicity, which enables cultural-historical scholars to reflect on the cultural-historical specificity of their own discourses and methodologies, is briefly outlined. Furthermore, the introduction emphasizes the importance of historical analysis in the context of a broader understanding of history as an ongoing open-ended process and of human development as a process of purposeful collaborative transformation (Stetsenko, 2008). The introduction concludes with a brief presentation of the two main parts of the edited book – which is expected to contribute significantly to what can be called “cultural-historical science.”


Child Development Educational Practice Proximal Development Ritual Practice Ritual Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The work presented here is the result of long interdisciplinary research cooperation between anthropologists, educational scientists, and psychologists and has its origins at two international conferences funded by the German Research Foundation and co-organized by Michalis Kontopodis, Christoph Wulf, Bernd Fichtner, Martin Hildebrand-Nilshon, and Maria Benites at the Free University Berlin (2006) and at the University of Siegen (2007) as well as at further meetings held in the context of International Conferences in Toronto (ISTP, 2007) and San Diego (ISCAR, 2008). We would like to thank the German Research Foundation, the Faculty of Education and Psychology at the Free University Berlin, the Department of Educational Science at the University of Siegen and the Department of European Ethnology at the Humboldt University Berlin for making this long international scientific exchange possible, as well as for funding the translation and proof-reading of the chapters of this book. Special thanks are due to Kareth Schaffer, Diana Aurisch, and Thomas La Presti for their patience in dealing with all the challenges of translation and proof-reading, and for the excellence of their work. Last but not least we would like to thank the Springer Series’ “International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development” editors, Marilyn Fleer and Ingrid Pramling, for their kind cooperation in publishing this book.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michalis Kontopodis
    • 1
  • Christoph Wulf
    • 2
  • Bernd Fichtner
    • 3
  1. 1.Humboldt University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Free University BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.University of SiegenSiegenGermany

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