Pierre Bourdieu – not just a social theorist

“One knows the world better and better as one knows oneself better, that scientific knowledge and knowledge of oneself and of one’s own social unconscious advance hand in hand, and that primary experience transformed in and through scientific practice transforms scientific practice and conversely. (Wacquant, 2004 after Bourdieu, 2003: 289)

A good friend of mine recently encouraged me to revisit Bourdieu’s writings on habitus for a paper I’m writing. Although I thought I understood it before, I now find myself reading deeper and deeper. I’m now not only attempting to understand what Bourdieu wrote, but (more importantly) how he came to write it. And I’m inspired.

In my recent travails with identity, I’ve found Bourdieu’s work to not only be theoretically informative, but also inspiring in a practical way. Loïc Wacquant’s 2004 review of Bourdieu’s wranglings with structuralism (cited above) particularly illustrates how Bourdieu himself tussled with identity in his early fieldwork. He tirelessly kept fieldnotes on all that he experienced. And he revisited those jottings time and again throughout his life to extract yet more meaning and make more sense of our social worlds.

Pierre Bourdieu is just one of my heroes. I felt it poignant to mention him as I begin this blog. I’m only beginning to appreciate the nuances of his work, and feel sure he will revisit us here from time to time.


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