Panel 3: Stetsenko & Sannino - The legacy and continuation of the cultural-historical approach
Discussant: Ines Langemeier
Moderation: Till Manderbach
From Vygotsky’s initial works onwards, development was a key dimension to the cultural-
historical conception of human subjectivity, as was the centrality of thinking mind in society.
The same might apply to cultural-historical psychology itself. The approach has seen a myriad
of developments and interpretations, always strongly connected to its changing societal
environments, during its almost 100 years of existence. Emerging in the spirit of optimism of
the early Soviet Union, being then censored in the same state, just to be rehabilitated and
established again. In the meantime, cultural-historical theory has traveled around the world
and has - while the approaches’ further development decentered - proven to be useful to
tackle a variety of questions in the humanities and social sciences in a variety of places, most
notably is its increasing influence the global south. One development has been the
establishment of cultural-historical activity theory as a theoretical framework, that is,
however, not shared by all. Naturally, the questions of what the essence of Vygotsky’s legacy
is and which of its developments should be seen as innovations or distortions is highly
disputed. The contributors to this panel recently took up the task to situate the legacy and
future of the approaches. They have at the same time contributed to the cultural-historical
approach and cultural-historical activity theory with their own work, which will serve as a
starting point to discuss the continuation of Vygotsky’s project.
Ines Langemeyer is full professor for science education, vocational education and the
philosophy of education at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. She holds a
diploma in psychology and a doctorate in philosophy with a special focus on vocational
education. Her research focuses on teaching and learning relations research, exploring the
many roles digital and other modern technologies play in mediating developing knowledge.
She is interested in daily learning practices, and epistemic cultures in higher and other adult
education. In her research she is drawing on historical and critical psychological theorizing.
Till Manderbach, MSc, studied Psychology in Klagenfurt, Austria. His master's thesis dealt
with agency and political orientation in the context of social exclusion and right-wing
populism. He is currently working in a project for adolescents and young adults with special
needs at a social welfare facility in the area of Berlin, Germany.
Annalisa Sannino is Professor of Education at Tampere University, Finland. She is
distinguished research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and visiting
professor at University West, Sweden and at Rhodes University, South Africa. Her research
focuses on collective learning and agency formation processes in educational settings,
workplaces and communities. Her work is increasingly recognized as a substantive
contribution to cultural-historical activity theory and formative intervention methods with a
novel theory of transformative agency. With the help of these theoretical and methodological
tools, her work aims at bringing interdisciplinary scholarship in the learning sciences into
active engagement to address acute challenges of societal renewal. Results of her research
have been published in numerous publications across disciplines among which there are two
edited books published by Cambridge University Press (2009) and Routledge (2013). Other
publications include special issues she edited in the Journal of Educational Change (2008),
Theory and Psychology (2011), Mind, Culture and Activity (2012), and Learning, Culture and
Social Interaction (2015).
Dr. Anna Stetsenko is a full Professor in Psychology and Urban Education PhD Programs at
the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (with previous work experiences in
Russia, Germany and Switzerland). Her research is situated at the intersection of human
development, philosophy, and education with particular interest in topics of agency and social
transformation. Rooted in Marxism and its extension in Vygotsky's project, her works
advance this project and bring out its political-critical edge while connecting to contemporary
critical projects of resistance and activism. Her works have culminated in the Transformative
Activist Stance approach with implications for research and a pedagogy of daring. This is
reflected in the recent book The Transformative Mind: Expanding Vygotsky’s Approach to
Development and Education (Cambridge University Press, 2017), which brings together and
critically examines a wide spectrum of approaches to situate and further develop activist
agendas of social justice and equality. She is widely published in English and Russian, and in
translations into German, Italian and Portuguese.