Rawolle, S. & Lingard, B. (2013). Bourdieu and educational research: Thinking tools, relational thinking, beyond epistemological innocence. In M. Murphy (Ed.), Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. (pp. 117-137). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.
The authors of this chapter give an overview of Bourdieu’s background and the influence of his ideas on social theory. Rather that purely exploring theory, Bourdieu emphasised the link between theory and practice. His great interest is in the “relational workings of the social arrangement” (p. 117) – this links to his work on fields and the relations within and between different fields.
The authors suggest that Bourdieu’s work is universal in its application – both globally and within a range of fields. They posit that Bourdieu’s frequent return to previous work is indicative of his reflexivity.
Bourdieu also developed what are called “thinking tools” (p. 119) which he developed and which continued to be developed throughout his practice.The authors indicate that the reception of Bourdieu’s theories as they relate to education varies internationally. This is in part due to differences in availability of translated works. Variation may also be due to whether key academics within individual countries engaged with Bourdieu’s theories.
Wacquant (1989) describes Bourdieu as developing a set of “thinking tools” which, although appropriated from a range of disciplines, were developed within Bourdieu’s studies. These tools can be considered a framework to use in the examination of a range of applications.
Practice and habitus: These two thinking tools developed in relation to anthropological research Bourdieu undertook in Algeria. He did not alter his approach when researching in the differing culture of France. Explore this issue? Bourdieu did not provide a definition of practice but viewed it as the essence of social life, an area to be explored. Need to find a clearer definition of practice, if one exists!The development of Bourdieu’s thoughts on fields led, perhaps inevitably, to consideration of a general theory of fields. This could aid understanding of the relationality between fields, and areas of convergence, overlap and divergence. This is discussed in Bourdieu (1993) – Sociology in Question. (Look at Maton, 2005).
As well as providing thinking tools, Bourdieu also gives guidance on how a research habitus can be developed for using his theories in education.Methodological approaches and researcher stances: beyond epistemological innocence
Bourdieu suggests that reflexive locating of the researcher within the relevant field(s) is vital for effective social research. This is a really interesting point to explore further. Does this link with reflexivity such as that espoused by Heidegger? What does this mean for my research – is it more effective because of my position and background within the area being researched?
Read “A Bourdieusian approach to methodology in Grenfell (2008).
The final point the authors explore with regard to Bourdieu is his concept of the “collective intellectual” (p. 132). He saw the need for academics to work within the political field not only the academic field, to overcome the dichotomy between academia and political commitment. This is closer to the French intellectualism tradition.
The authors’ key points from the conclusion:
- Generative thinking tools: practice, habitus capital, field
- Reproduction in education
- Rejecting epistemological innocence
- Researcher reflexivity – researcher habitus
- Research with commitment and being political.
What use is this for me?
An interesting read when I know little of Bourdieu. It’s given me some good further reading and an overview of the conceptual tools I would want to use.