Navigating New Horizons Through Social Construction: A Personal Reflection

Ayushi Jolly, Doctoral Candidate in Social Psychology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India shares her experience of the Taos Institute’s Introduction to Social Construction 6-week online course in Fall 2023.

“To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and s o forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds.”
—Mikhail Bakhtin

My first formal interaction with the Taos Institute was at the Taos Gathering online conference in 2022. With my preliminary understanding of the social constructionist discourse, I looked forward to every session of the week-long event. As it unfolded, I was captivated by the novelty and practicality of the ideas presented and the diverse groups working on these ideas. It was at that moment that I knew I had found a place where I could engage in meaningful discussions, inquire about, and explore the discourse of social construction.

As a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology at Jawaharlal Nehru University based in India, I found that resources on social construction are limited to secondary data sources like books, journal articles, and video lectures. Furthermore, my willingness to explore social constructionist ideas was constrained by varying time zones, finances, and academic schedule. The Introduction to Social Construction Course facilitated by Taos Institute Board Member, Celiane Camargo-Borges, came to my rescue, offering the ideal chance to further explore these intriguing ideas.

As the course began, I was excited to discuss my inquiries, thoughts, and ideas with fellow participants from different disciplines and locations. It commenced by laying the groundwork with a conceptual framework, followed by exploring its application in diverse realms, including therapy, organizations, and classrooms, to redirecting attention to broader global concerns. As the weeks passed, the small group and virtual classroom became a safe space to discuss ideas and experiences through a social constructionist lens. My favourite parts were the Learning Partner Dialogues (one-on-one conversations with a different course-mate each week) and breakout rooms during the weekly live meetings, where I interacted with a diverse set of people, attempting to deconstruct problems and meaning-making collectively. The classroom (or “learning community”) discussions, suggested readings, and reflection questions equipped us with practical and novel social constructionist ideas that can lead to important societal transformations.

My most significant learnings from this course include accepting uncertainty and emergence rather than certainty of knowledge; diversity of beliefs instead of singular answers; and embracing complexity and interdependence rather than a decontextualized view of people. I learned about the significance of language in all these processes, which we often take for granted. The suggested readings reminded me that the power of language in not only knowledge production but also relationships. These readings of theories from Bakhtin, Wittgenstein, and Gergen, supplemented with questions prompting reflections on everyday experiences, opened doors to infinite areas for critical thinking and reflection. Through this practice, theoretical ideas of co-creation/collaborative action and relational flow became more meaningful.

As I reflect on my journey, the ideas of the course have not only benefitted my research but also my personal life and relationships. When keeping in mind these concepts and considering personal instances and what could have been approached differently, I can already see the difference in my understanding of the problem. Social constructionist ideas of diversity, multiplicity, and co-creation have the potential to significantly transform society even when put into practice at an individual level. To conclude, all I can say is that this is just the beginning of imbibing the learnings from the course. I am enthusiastic about utilizing these insights in my research and personal life to broaden my understanding of social constructionist ideas in times ahead.

Click here for details and registration for the Taos Institute’s Introduction to Social Construction course.