Understanding Bourdieu

Understanding Bourdieu

Understanding Bourdieu

Understanding Bourdieu

Synopsis

`Bourdieu's work is formidable - the journey is tough. Follow this French foreign legion - take an apple, take a hanky - but take this book' - Peter Beilharz , La Trobe University `A good range of recent examples from popular culture are used to flesh out the material in accessible terms. These examples are deployed very well indeed - rather than being tacked-on illustrations of an idea, they are instead used at the heart of the explanation of the ideas' - David Gauntlett, Leeds University Now considered one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Pierre Bourdieu has left his mark on most of the 'big' theoretical issues in the world of contemporary theory: gender, subjectivity, the body, culture, citizenship, and globalization. His terms are now commonplace: 'social capital', 'cultural capital', 'field', and 'habitus'. Bourdieu examines how people conduct their lives in relation to one another and to major social institutions. He argues that culture and education aren't simply minor influences, but as important as economics in determining differences between groups of people. Unlike the other grand systematisers Marx and Foucault, Bourdieu has tested these arguments in detailed fieldwork. His range is eclectic, his vision is vast, and his writing is often dense and challenging. Understanding Bourdieu offers a comprehensive introduction to Bourdieu's work. It is essential reading for anyone tackling him for the first time.

Excerpt

Cutural studies as a phenomenon, even in the new millennium, can be located at the intersection of a number of productive debates and historical tensions between and among disciplines. Among the many characterising features of its metalanguages and methodologies are its interdisciplinarity and a poststructuralist vocabulary that has emerged from a powerful critique of, and the struggle for self-definition against, dominant disciplinary formations. If you want to construct different realities, if you want to challenge ways of knowing and being that have been institutionalised through specialised modes of ‘professional vision’, then you cannot, or so we have argued in cultural studies, continue to use the same professional languages. Disciplinary discourses are also implicated, positioned and interested in very specific and systematic ways of constructing the world and the realities of those who inhabit it. The process of critique and deconstruction generated by this understanding has then almost inevitably produced new vocabularies and new modes of being professional within the field. We are all familiar with the metalanguage of discourse, intertextuality, knowledges, narrative, genre, subjectivity, positioning, reading formations, embodiment— to list just a few of the current terms. The processes whereby we have arrived at an easy use of the terminology, served, as they occurred, to increase immeasurably cultural studies understandings of the complexities and unpredictabilities of the processes of embodiment, the discursive practices and the social processes which often cluster under the umbrella term ‘culture’ in out day-to-day usage.

What we now have to ask ourselves is whether the languages we have developed so laboriously to talk among ourselves have become a ‘professional vision’, or whether they do not now need rethinking, deconstructing anew. Language, discourse, as we all know, is produced by and produces the contexts in which it is made. The context of the early twenty-first century is now a long way from the 1960s and 1970s. Among the terms now bandied about as if they were transparent and self-explanatory are habitus, capital, cultural field and reflexivity. These terms come, of course, from the work of the influential poststructuralist thinker Pierre Bourdieu. They have been . . .

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