Tristes Paysans: Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in Bearn and Kabylia

By Reed-Danahay, Deborah | Anthropological Quarterly, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Tristes Paysans: Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in Bearn and Kabylia


Reed-Danahay, Deborah, Anthropological Quarterly


Abstract

Pierre Bourdieu conducted ethnographic research in his native region of Beam and in Algeria during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He rarely drew explicit comparisons between the two sites, despite striking parallels in themes such as notions of honor in Mediterranean peasant ethos, the habitus as internalized dispositions, and peasant malaise in the face of socioeconomic change. Bourdieu called his Beam ethnography an inversion of Levi-Strauss' Tristes Tropiques, as a way to "objectify" the familiar. I suggest that constructions of traditional and modem that informed Bourdieu's early research in both sites led to a nostalgic view of "tristes paysans." [key words: Bourdieu, habitus, Mediterranean, ethnography, rural France, Algeria]

"Having worked in Kabylia, a foreign universe, I thought it would be interesting to do a kind of Tristes tropiques... but in reverse...: to observe the effects that objectification of my native world would produce in me." (Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Introduction to Reflexive Sociology)

"Penned inside this enclosed microcosm in which everybody knows everybody...beneath the gaze of others every individual experiences deep anxiety about 'people's words'..." (Bourdieu 1966, "The Sentiment of Honor in Kabyle Society")

"In this enclosed world where one senses at each moment without escape that one is under the gaze of others..." (Bourdieu and Bourdieu 1965, The Peasant and Photography)

Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was from a rural family of modest origins, and a native of the region of Beam, in southwestern France. he went back there to do fieldwork in 1959-60, after having conducted his initial research among the Kabyles in Algeria. In the above quotation, Bourdieu employed terms such as "foreign," "native," and "objectification" that articulate a long-standing (some would say, defining) opposition in anthropological fieldwork between near and far (Fabian 1983; Gupta and Ferguson 1997). As with much of his ethnographic work, Bourdieu returned to material from his original study in Beam at several points over the course of his career. In his introduction to a recent volume that collects key writings on Beam, Bourdieu reiterated his desire to invert the LéviStraussian move to seek "the other" in Tristes Tropiques (1992). Bourdieu wrote of "throwing himself" into this very familiar world of his own region that he "knew without knowing" (2002:10) and which he could now "objectify" because he had distanced himself by immersion in another way of life (and here one assumes he means Algeria although he does not explicitly say so).

What is the meaning of Bourdieu's construction of his research in Beam as the "inverse" of Levi-Strauss' part-ethnography, part-travelogue, and part-autobiography Tristes Tropiques? What are the implications of his research "at home" and "away" for the development of his theoretical approaches-in particular, the concept of habitus? Beam and Kabylia served as parallel worlds in which Bourdieu worked on similar themes. In this essay, I will draw out the connections between the two regions of research to each other, to Mediterranean studies, and to Bourdieu's theory of habitus. Bourdieu placed both of these peasant societies within a framework that opposed traditional vs. modern society. I will critically examine Bourdieu's construction of Beam and Kabylia as familiar vs. foreign universes, and his assumptions about objectification, closeness, and distance in ethnographic research. I will also examine Bourdieu's claims to ethnographic authority. In his work on Beam, he stressed his objectification and a scientific approach, so as to avoid any claim that he was too close to the material, but at the same time also used his "insider" perspective to legitimize his work there. he also sought to legitimize his work in Algeria by using his own rural roots in France to claim a sort of "insider" status among Kabyle peasants, and to distance himself from others associated with the colonial power of France. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tristes Paysans: Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in Bearn and Kabylia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.