Abstract

The unified experience of culture and self appears writ large in children’s play stories, appearing in the inseparability of the interpersonal and intrapsychic. Through the ethnographic analysis of five sand stories (graphically illustrated play narratives) by a young Aṉangu girl in Central Australia, this essay illustrates the significance of spontaneous meaning making within the process of the acquisition of the collective symbolic system. Culture is shown to inhabit the child’s inner world as she is actively incorporating significant interpersonal experiences into her egoic self, while at the same time giving new expression and life to collectively instituted themes and motifs. Drawing selectively on concepts from developmental psychoanalysis, the essay pays special attention to her efforts of social-emotional adjustment to a life crisis—a time of prolonged separation from mother. Stepping aside from the hermeneutic approach to particular play situations, it concludes with reflections on the cultural dimension of internalization, suggesting that in Aṉangu lives, the human foundational exchanges between the intrapsychic world and external reality in infancy and early childhood are valorised as cultural capacity into old age.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-7931
Print ISSN
0065-860X
Pages
pp. 99-129
Launched on MUSE
2014-06-23
Open Access
No
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