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Lacan, subjectivity and the task of mathematics education research

Brown, Tony (2008) Lacan, subjectivity and the task of mathematics education research. Educational studies in mathematics, 68 (3). pp. 227-245. ISSN 0013-1954

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Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of subjectivity in the context of mathematics education research. It introduces the psychoanalyst and theorist Jacques Lacan whose work on subjectivity combined Freud’s psychoanalytic theory with processes of signification as developed in the work of de Saussure and Peirce. The paper positions Lacan’s subjectivity initially in relation to the work of Piaget and Vygotsky who have been widely cited within mathematics education research, but more extensively it is shown how Lacan’s conception of subjectivity provides a development of Peircian semiotics that has been influential for some recent work in the area. Through this route Lacan’s work enables a conception of subjectivity that combines yet transcends Piaget’s psychology and Peirce’s semiotics and in so doing provides a bridge from mathematics education research to contemporary theories of subjectivity more prevalent in the cultural sciences. It is argued that these broader conceptions of subjectivity enable mathematics education research to support more effective engagement by teachers, teacher educators, researchers and students in the wider social domain.

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