28 SES 10, Citizenship, Cultures and Practices I: What’s Up in the Theory of Habitus?
Parallel Paper Session
This paper takes forward analyses of the difference between two theoretical perspectives on agency and practice in general and specifically in educational context: that of Holland et al.’s (1998) theory of identity and agency, and Bourdieu’s sociology (1990). The former draw on Bourdieu’s notion of field in their conceptualization of Figured Worlds (hereafter FW), especially to understand power relations through ‘positionality’ in the field/FW; on the other hand their key sources for conceptualising identity in practice regarding ‘figuration’, ‘self-authoring’, and semiotic mediation in a zone of proximal development are from early Russian activity theorists and cultural psychologists (Vygotksy/Leontiev, and Volosinov/Bakhtin). Our research aims build on previous work (Williams, 2011a; 2011b) in exploring the contradictions between activity theories and Bourdieu in an attempt to clarify and if necessary and possible synthesize the two perspectives.
The trend in the past few decades has suggested that history of institutional and individual change is mediated by the changing nature of cultural forms (see Willis, 1977 and Bourdieu, 1977; 1990). Holland et al. (1998) recognize such contributions to social anthropology and education. Holland and Lave (2001) focus investigation and theorization predominantly on the relation of struggles to identify (figure oneself) in contested local practices. Thus, Holland (2007) recommends, one should study the sites outside of the classroom (and school) to the classroom itself in order to capture the ‘history in person – the developing subjectivities of the classroom participants’ (ibid, p.169). This view has become influential in studies of identity in educational research.
Holland et al. (1998) criticize Bourdieu’s theory of social practice for similar reasons, that is, change in habitus happens from one generation to another rather than within a lifetime; they ask how this can be consistent with rapid changes in sites of struggle such as those reported in Holland & Lave (2001). On the other hand, Bourdieu’s writings (e.g. see 1997) discuss changes in a person’s dispositions (habitus) ‘in response to new experiences’ (ibid: 161) and these include intra-generational changes along with inter-generational ones. Besides, Bourdieu (1990) argues that changes in one’s life trajectory are a dialectic between the external structures and one’s internal structures (in the form of embodied dispositions). For example, Bourdieu & Passeron (1977) show how the reproduction of cultural and economic class relations in the French society are reproduced through pedagogical practices of French schools in terms of selection and organization of students, which then impacts the students’ trajectories. Indeed in times of rapid change in the field, hysteresis effect (i. e. the lag between the habitus - dispositions – re-adjusting itself to new opportunities in the filed, see Bourdieu, 1997) can be dramatic (example of case studies that can be interpreted in terms of the hysteresis effect can be found in Bourdieu, 1993).
Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1990. The logic of practice. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1993. The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society, Cambridge: Polity. Bourdieu, P. 1997. Pascalian Meditations, Cambridge: Polity. Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J. C. 1977. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London; Thousand Oaks; New Delhi: SAGE Publications. Holland, D., W. Lachicotte, D. Skinner, and C. Cain. 1998. Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. Holland, D. and J. Lave, eds. 2001. History in person: Enduring struggles, contentious practice, intimate identities. Albuquerque: School of American Research Press. Holland, D. 2007. Local matters: The time/space of social identification and learning. Essay review of Learning identity: The joint emergence of social identification and academic learning, by Stanton Wortham. Invited Essay Review. Human Development, 50(2-3): 165-170. Willis, P. 1977. Learning to labour: how working class kids get working class jobs. Farnborough, UK: Saxon House. Williams, J.S. (2011a). Use and exchange value in mathematics education: contemporary cultural-historical activity theory meets Bourdieu’s sociology. Educational Studies in Mathematics, Special issue edited by T. Brown and M. Walshaw on “Contemporary theory in mathematics education”. ESM- IFirst, 1-34. Williams, J.S. (2011b) Towards a political economy of education. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 18(3), 276-292. Williams, J.S. (2011c) Teachers Telling Tales. Research in Mathematics Education 13(2), 131-142– Special Issue Edited by G. Wake, J. Williams, & P. Drake.
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