Experiments in Epistemology

Bourdieu’s theoretical shift, from an approach based upon analytical models constructed from the cultural rules supposedly governing behaviour to an emphasis upon the generation and pursuit by actors of strategies, was part of his intellectual and political movement away from structuralism. It was also a response to his experience of doing ethnographic research, first in Algeria and subsequently in France. However, the ethnographic nature of his research experience - fieldwork as a transformative life event - was significant in another respect. His engagement as a social researcher with social worlds with which he was familiar - actually more than familiar, since in each case he was in some sense a legitimate member- sparked off the reflexive train of thought leading to his epistemological critique of sociology and anthropology.

Epistemology often seems to hold peculiar terrors for students. This may be because of the manner in which the word is used in social science texts - frequently without definition or explanation - and the remote density of those texts which call themselves epistemological. In fact, at its most basic, epistemology is neither especially complex nor divorced from the mundane


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Pierre Bourdieu


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