The myth of American selfhood and emotion raising a sociocentric child among middle-class Americans

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Abstract

In this article, I examine the concepts of the self and emotion reflected in American middle-class socialization practices. Detailed ethnographic description of everyday socialization practices in an American middle-class preschool shows that contrary to the characterization that American notions of self and emotion are predominantly individualistic and egocentric, middle-class socialization practices are highly oriented toward developing sociocentric values such as niceness, cooperation, social appropriateness, empathy, friendship, politeness, and manners. I argue that the dichotomous model of self and emotion that consists of only two types-an egocentric Western self and a sociocentric nonWestern self-fails to adequately describe variations and complexity in American experiences of self and emotion. The article contributes to a growing body of research that critically discusses the bipolarized model and argues for inherent dynamism and heterogeneity in our conceptions of the self and emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-396
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Volume66
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010

Keywords

  • American middle-class
  • Emotion
  • Self
  • Socialization

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