Part 1 of my Introductory Lecture on Bourdieu

A while back I took the liberty of recording on a Dictaphone my first ever lecture. I attached the recording to a video composed of the lecture’s slides. I uploaded it to YouTube and recently it went over 10,000 views. Now I know that the viewcount is seriously flawed – people only have to watch a short period of a video before it counts as a view, but I have noticed in the stats that some people have watched it in its entirety.

As it is my first lecture there are a few ahhs and amms and I say ‘such that’ for some reason way too much – I don’t believe I use the phrase in everyday conversation. Also it was done during cold and flu season there is also the problem of the background coughing, which my Dictaphone picked up way too clearly.

For part 2 I forgot to turn on the voice-recorder but I have been meaning to piece the second part together. Perhaps I’ll sit down over Christmas and get it sorted.

Anyway this is my first time linking to the lecture on this blog. I feel it makes for a useful introduction for newcomers to Bourdieu whose work can so easily remain convoluted and abstract if it’s not grounded in illustrative examples from the world of the everyday:


Misreading Bourdieu: Critics Who Struggle with the “Pots and Pans”

Bottero and Crossley’s (B & C) (2011) article in Cultural Sociology Worlds, Fields and Networks: Becker, Bourdieu and the Structures of Social Relations, argues that because Bourdieu dismisses the causal role for interactions his conceptual model of society is untenable as it is forced to operate linearly with structures forming dispositions and dispositions producing interactions. I have responded to their argument elsewhere (Fox, 2014), stating that Bourdieu’s idea of interactions is that they are in fact anti-dichotomously connected to structure. How the objects of the interaction relate is part of broader societal structures which are re-enacted within the exchange, which itself plays its subtle part in whether interlocutors reject, reproduce, retranslate, etc, the logic of these structures. I don’t intend to enter into that discussion again here. Instead I wish to argue how it is that such misreadings of Bourdieu have emerged in the first place.

Generally it appears to have much to do with how his critics get stuck in the cognitive divisions of dichotomies. Embedded in the structure of everyday language and its processes of mystification, such false dichotomies are highly resilient (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992: 178-181). Buttressed by the linguistic heritage of “positivist philosophies of science” (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992: 15; Szerszynski, 1996: 104-139), European language is “better suited to express things than relations, states than processes” (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992: 15). Continue reading

Bourdieu on Difference: extract 2 from ‘Sociology is a Martial Art’

So you can see how my theoretical model works here. That you should always think of a painting in relation to the space of paintings that were painted then. Doing something one way is always not doing it the way others would, but without necessarily trying to stand out*. To understand what someone does you have to understand what that person is not doing, too. It’s that simple. This is a teaching of structuralism. To understand a phoneme, you must place it in a system of phonemes.

La Sociologie est un Sport de Combat, (2002) Directed by Carles P. France: C-P Productions/VF Films.

*Bourdieu also intimates here towards the misconception Continue reading

Back with an Article

Here’s an interesting link featuring some comments on the trials and tribulations of single-author blogging for academics. In short the enterprise mostly fails. Blogging needs regular postings, otherwise one has little hope of building and sustaining an audience. I was going well with maintaining a regular schedule; however, it has been over a month and a half since my last post. I have multiple reasons for the hiatus but the one I will give here is that a few PhD deadlines suddenly overran what little free-time I had. Additionally I’ve been reluctant to return to posting. I knew that once I had returned, the exertion of commitment would have to begin anew. It is just like when breaking from a gym regime. The break gets extended as your reluctance grows in the knowledge that returning to the regime means less relaxing evenings undisturbed by the realisation that soon you would be straining and grunting. Although my dedication for the latter has truly collapsed I always intended to return to blogging but after the thesis had undergone the internal review. So why am I back before that? Two reasons: 1) a friend of mine said if you intend to continue in academia you will always find deadlines threatening your other commitments so it’s best to just get used to it; 2) my reply to Crossley and Bottero’s article has just been published in cultural sociology and I wish to link the blog to it as it is relevant to an earlier post that I made on Bourdieu.

Next post should be coming soon …

The Art of Presumption Versus the Work of Relating

It is my sincerest hope, as part of my own interest in public sociology, to shape much of the analysis that appears in the blog to the principles of relational thinking. In this post I intend to develop further what I have come to understand by this concept of ‘relational’ but first I will deal with its opposite, which is substantialism. These interpretations are mostly drawn from Manifesto for a Relational Sociology by Mustafa Emirbayer (1997) and from Pierre Bourdieu’s attempts at developing a relational approach.

Defining Substantialism: the Antithesis of Relationalism

Substantialist social scientists treat their research objects as though they are somehow unaffected by the world around them and theorise in a manner given to unexamined preconceptions concerning said object.  Drawing upon a discussion, between Dewey and Bentley, Emirbayer Continue reading

Cultural Taste, Power and Social Difference

Donald Clarke writing in the Irish Times this Saturday pieces together some spontaneous musings on the workings of popular taste in Irish society. His article pretends to examine the massive draw of Irish audiences to Garth Brooks who recently sold-out 240,000 tickets in 90 minutes. Such pseudo-analysis I always find irritating, especially when there exists a mass of research on the issue of public taste within the discipline of sociology ready for the day critical journalism emerges within the culture section of Irish broadsheets. Much of this work is founded on that of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu  and his tome Distinction which analyses political and cultural tastes based on surveys carried out in 60s France (although typical of the overly-reflexive and pernickety struggles amongst sociologists, not all of this research is complementary of Bourdieu’s). Although his findings are for a period and society where socio-cultural differences were possibly more acute than they are in Ireland now, they offer potential pathways of investigation as to the distinctions in taste currently operating in Irish society.

Bourdieu recognises the dispositional nature of human behaviour and the social unconscious that is absorbed into those dispositions. It is through this premise and the development of his comparative method of research and analysis that Bourdieu has Continue reading

‘Gay’ priests and a herd of elephants

The recent comments by Mary McAleese, a former Irish President, on ‘gay priests’ have created a bit of a stir over here in Ireland:

She said that “a very large number” of Catholic priests are homosexual and that the church had been in denial about homosexuality for decades. “It isn’t so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants.”

The popular Sean O’Rourke RTE radio1 show took up the issue devoting a large section to discussing ‘gay clergy’ with several contributors including priests. Despite all that was discussed I found the absence of one particular narrative quite telling as to the devalued position of social critique in public discussion. The absence pertained to the socialisation and social construction of sexuality through social conditions and relations of power. In short heterosexuality remained unquestioned throughout as the norm for human sexuality with homosexuality – despite the generally liberal approach towards it during the discussion – treated as the deviant Other. It was basically a liberal essentialist narrative that people are (in the words of Lady Gaga’s essentialism) Continue reading