What drew me to Bourdieu’s work

Social Theory and Education Research
Understanding Foucault, Habermas,Bourdieu and Derrida by Mark Murphy

Many people have asked why I decided to use Bourdieu’s work in my research. I have often jokingly said it was because he “spoke his mind and that I liked that”! ;-) There’s some truth in it. I think Bourdieu used his position well, as a French intellectual, and tried, in his own way, to inform, critique, and sometimes even contest, the social realities he studied and was interested in. This led to studies in the most varied areas… as many as the areas he was interested in, I guess.

This post comes as a first reaction to a new book I am reading:

Social Theory and Education Research – Understanding Foucault, Habermas,Bourdieu and Derrida by Mark Murphy


[This book just came through the post! I have been waiting for it to arrive for weeks now. so I was really excited to see that there was a book-shaped parcel for me this morning! :-)

Please note that this post is *not* a review of the book, as I still have a lot to read and digest before I can provide my impression on the book. However, my first reaction to it is: thumbs up! ]


The book focuses on the work of the 4 social theorists mentioned on the book cover and thus aims to present us with research lenses through which we can examine social phenomena. As you might have guessed, I have started with the chapters focusing on Bourdieu’s work (!). It was just easier to start there. I will need more time to read the articles on the work of the other theorists [i.e, it will take me longer to digest the ideas presented as I know less about their work!]

I have just finished the chapter on Bourdieu and educational research: Thinking tools, relational thinking, beyond epistemological innocence by Rawolle and Lingard.

It is definitely a good read! For me the highlights of this paper relate to:

  • Bourdieu’s approach to scholarship. As the authors so eloquently put it

[f]or Bourdieu, scholarship and commitment go together, but in terms of the researcher participating in political struggles, he argued ‘the most valuable contribution a researcher can make to the political struggles is to work, with all the weapons the science offers at the moment in question, to produce and promote the truth’ (Bourdieu, 2010, 271)  (Rawolle and Lingard, 2013, p132)

This takes me again to the topic of academics as public intellectuals and the role social media can play in stimulating this collective and open debate.  (something the authors also stress given that “Bourdieu argues the necessity of academics becoming collective intellectuals… ” (ibid)

  • Bourdieu’s take on the presentation of research. Something that I attempted to do in my own PhD research and which gave me quite a few sleepless nights as it made me feel really vulnerable as a research apprentice. But now I am really happy I did it. Rawolle and Lingard point out that

Bourdieu suggests an openness and vulnerability, indeed honesty, in the presentation of our research in both oral and written genres

because as Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992, cited in Rawolle and Lingard, 2013) state

A research presentation … is a discourse in which you expose yourself, you take risks… The more you expose yourself, the greater your chances of benefiting from the discussion and the more constructive and good-willed, I am sure, the criticisms and advice you will receive.

I think there is resonance here with the principles of digital scholarship. And with that also scope to apply Bourdieu’s thinking tools in order to understand the relationship between the fields of academia and social media …

just some initial thoughts in the form of note taking!

… looking forward to reading the other chapters! :-)

2 Comments on What drew me to Bourdieu’s work

  1. Shaun Rawolle // April 16, 2013 at 11:24 am // Reply

    Thanks for the review! Interesting connection between bourdieu and principles of digital scholarship. Are there any sticking points?

    • cristinacost // April 16, 2013 at 11:33 am // Reply

      there are many … which I wrote about in my PhD thesis – I hope to publish about it soon. ;-)

      I was also very interested in the development of a “field framework” – must look further into that ;-)

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