We noted in the introduction that this book arose from a conviction that research carried out in terms of Bourdieu’s theory of practice offers insights and understandings which show up elements of pedagogic processes which are not easily visible in other approaches. We also outlined two main aims. The first of these was to present the main components of Bourdieu’s theoretical position in a way which would highlight its implications for education; the second was to offer practical examples of the ideas in use in educational settings. We have sought to meet these aims in an integrated fashion, through a process of assembly and interconnection of a series of chapters with various theoretical, practical and empirical emphases.
As we near the end of the book, it is worth referring to another aspect of it that was signalled at the very beginning, in our choice of ‘Acts of Practical Theory’ as a subtitle. This was a deliberate reference to Bourdieu’s own research journal Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales. ‘Actes’ in French can, of course, simply refer to research papers or proceedings, yet there are many other connotations, as there are with the English ‘acts’. They include enactment, performance, an Act in a play, an Act of Parliament, even a ‘deed’ (interestingly, a commercial or legal document which gives a symbolic permanence to sets of actions). It is thus a word which calls attention to both dynamic and contextual matters. We felt that this sense best summed up the spirit of the book. We see the pieces of research reported here as individual ‘acts’ to understand various educational phenomena in terms of the dynamic processes and surroundings, both material and ideational, which give rise to them and are in turn re-constituted by them. At the same time, we have highlighted the individual contributors’ awareness of the conditions of these acts themselves by calling on a level of reflexivity which renders visible important elements of their production and construction. By acting as a researcher, any individual is already taking up a position with respect to the object of study that is distinct from a’common sense’ relation. Moreover, the researcher is connecting with an academic, scientific field with its own structures, values and expectations.
At different points in this book we have acknowledged that the kind of investigation and analysis Bourdieu’s work promotes can be uncomfortable to carry out. His own position is opposed to—yet also a synthesis of—a number of orthodoxies in the social sciences, and this makes him a target of attack. It can also feel like a risky endeavour to advocate the extension of a theory of practice outside of its sociological base, but we have done so in various ways to a greater or lesser extent. We do not wish to attempt any totalizing justification for these extensions,