Vicarious accounts: Morality and responsibility in Italian family dinner conversations

Morality in Practice - Exploring Childhood, Parenthood and Schooling in Everyday Life - Jakob Cromdal

Laura Sterponi [+-]
University of California, Berkeley
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Merging my graduate degree training in developmental psychology (Ph.D., 2002) and in applied linguistics (Ph.D., 2004), I have developed a research program that is centrally concerned with the role of language and literacy practices in children’s development and education. As a developmental psychologist, I have always been interested in discerning the sociocultural underpinnings of learning processes. The cognitive capabilities that our neurological apparatus enables us as human beings to attain do not pre-exist and are never abstracted from the social practices in which they develop and are deployed. Cognitive structures are outcomes of social interaction; and mental growth manifests in forms of competencies that are culturally organized and context specific. As an applied linguist, I am drawn to study language, oral and written, both as a central means of learning and as a criticaltarget of cultural transmission. In fact, I see learning throughlanguage and learninglanguage as inseparable dimensions of the process of developing sociocultural competencies. Thus, my research explores the interface between culture and cognition in language and literacy practices across learning contexts.Within this general scope, I have developed three main strands of research: (1) children’s socialization into moral reasoning and discourse (2) reading as psychological process and social practice and (3) language practices in autism. My research toolkit is comprised of ethnographic and discourse analytic methods. I focus on spontaneously occurring interaction in various social contexts, employing systematic and extended video-recording of focal practices. Through analysis of language structures and sequential organization of interaction I then discern the interplay between sociocultural determinations and individual agency in development and education.


Issues of morality and children have traditionally been investigated within the realm of developmental psychology, treating the human ability to adopt certain values as a matter of individual and cognitive growth. As an alternative, this book approaches the morality of young persons from a practice oriented perspective. In essence, such an approach adopts a view of morality as something participants jointly accomplish in going about their everyday social affairs. That is to say, rather than relying on developmental theory or moral philosophy in exploring the moral worlds of young persons, a practice oriented approach adopts a primarily empirical stance, leaning on qualitative analysis of naturally occurring social interaction as found in, for example, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and discursive psychology. This collection brings together scholars from Australia, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. Twelve empirical chapters focus on different aspects of everyday morality as practiced among children and youth as well as a range of participants who act in their role as adults, lay or professional, to foster, educate and in various ways support young people in daily life. The volume opens with an introductory chapter by the editors, who briefly present a practice based perspective on morality, situating at the same time the individual chapters within the fields of discursive research on children and youth in society.

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Sterponi, Laura. Vicarious accounts: Morality and responsibility in Italian family dinner conversations. Morality in Practice - Exploring Childhood, Parenthood and Schooling in Everyday Life. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2022. ISBN 9781845539306. Date accessed: 20 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.25141. Nov 2022

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