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Teaching Bourdieu

Nov 22, 2014



W.E.B. Du Bois Institute

Review: Reading and Teaching Pierre Bourdieu Author(s): V. Y. Mudimbe Source: Transition, No. 61 (1993), pp. 144-160 Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Stable URL: Accessed: 18/11/2010 00:06Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

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Under Review



V. Y. Mudimbe by Sixtyish,a philosopher education,an and anthropologist sociologistby choice, PierreBourdieu-director of studies at L'EcolePratiquedes HautesEtudesand of Professor Sociologyat Le College de France-is today one of the most interintellectuals. French renowned nationally to is His achievement comparable that of some of the most esteemed names in thought. In intellectwentieth-century tual France,the forties and fifties were dominated Jean-PaulSartre,Maurice by and Merleau-Ponty Simonede Beauvoir. Then camethe sixtieswith structuralism as andClaudeLevi-Strauss a demigod,the and seventies the eightieswith poststructuralism representedby theorists like LyJacquesDerridaand Jean-Francois otard.Can it be saidthat the ninetiesare the inaugurating reign of Bourdieu? It's a tempting judgment,particularly from an Americanperspective.For the tend to framework which Americans by of the last classifythe Frenchthinkers polfifty yearsis built on the haphazard that a itics of translation, happenstance discontinuities. leadsto rather misleading In a smallbook,Modern French Philosophy, that Vincent Descombesdemonstrates a shared of questions set runsfromthe preSartrian period to the poststructuralists. The supposed betweentheseepruptures ochs can be understood,rather,as adand umbrations, redefinitions, adaptations, of reformulations the significance the of humancondition.It's a history of recapitulation,and one that Bourdieu'senseemsto sum up. terprise latestbook is LesRegles Bourdieu's del'Art: Geneseet Structure ChampLitterdu

aire(1992). The publicityfor the book has focusedon the claimthat the author unveilsthe foundation a scienceof litof work and presentshis own definierary tive "Flaubert." implicit challenge, The plainlyenough,is to another"Flaubert," the one offeredby Sartre's classicstudy, L'Idiot la Famille. there'smore.Les de But de Regles l'Artincludesa very ambiguous de chapter-"Questions Methode"-that at once celebrates criticizesSartre. and As Bourdieu sociologist it, Sartre the sees was his projecting own illusionson Flaubert; he lackeda scientific methodwhich could for account Flaubert's creativity. Happily, Bourdieuis not so ill-equipped.In his scheme, the basic rules are clear:comare petitionandcompetitiveness whatex-





plain survival and success in the field of

cultureandthe arts.The artistor thinker hasto finda nichefor himselfin the field, affirmhis creativity,and impose his authority. Naturally,one thinks of Bourdieu himselfin this regard,and it's hard references not to view his contradictory as of to Sartre a reflection animplicitcompetition between Pierre Bourdieu, the and youngerphilosopher sociologist,and the Sartre, masterphilosopher Jean-Paul to be surpassed. Indeed,the very titlede Sartre's "Questions Methode"-repeats to own introduction The Critique Diof

structuralism. He is celebratory when role commenting on Claude Levi-Strauss's in promoting the welfare of the social sciences, but very critical about the transfer of the Saussureanmodel of langue and parole to these disciplines. Bourdieu objects to the fetishization of langue, the underlying ("deep") structure or system of idealized linguistic practices, at the expense of the diverse and living variety of paroles, performances which Bourdieu believes, contra structuralism,involve the creative activity of the speaker. It is precisely here, I'd like to suggest, that Bourdieu's ambitions are revealed: a critical alectical Reason. From his earliest theoreticalworks project that would synthesize the scope of (whichdatefromthe 1972 Outline The- and scientific rigor of the "philosophy" In Other Words of systems called structuralism with the ory of Practice)through has humanist appeal of the "philosophy" of de (1990) to LesRigles l'Art,Bourdieu references to individual freedom and creativity made made similarlyambivalent

Pierre BourdieuPhoto by Marie-Claire Bourdieu






Discussed this essay


Outline of a Theory of Practice, PierreBourdieu, Cambridge: Cambridge Press University The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relation to Culture, Pierre BourdieuandJean-Claude Passeron,Chicago:Universityof ChicagoPress Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, PierreBourdieuand Passeron, Jean-Claude SagePublications Homo Academicus, PierreBourdieu,Stanford: Press StanfordUniversity Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu,Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press The Love of Art, Pierre Bourdieuand Alain Darbel, Stanford: Stanford Press University The Logic of Practice, PierreBourdieu,Stanford: Press StanfordUniversity Language and Symbolic Power, PierreBourdieu, MA: Harvard Cambridge, Press University In Other Words: Essays toward a Reflexive Sociology, PierreBourdieu, Stanford: StanfordUniversityPress Les Regles de l'Art: Genese et structure du Champ Litt6raire,Pierre Bourdieu,Seuil

fam6us by the Jean-Paul Sartre of Being and Nothingness. What we are witnessing is an attempted reconciliation of the two great antagonists of postwar intellectual France, the objectivist methodology illustrated by Claude Levi-Straussand the subjectivist methodology of existentialism. That Bourdieu's diverse and often flamboyant oeuvre responds to the signal intellectual concerns of the late twentieth century does not belittle his originality and importance. It signifies, on the contrary,both his intellectual orthodoxy as a lector his powerfully subversive intent and as an auctor,a complicated achievement I will explore in the remainderof this essay.

the theory elaborated in the first section, making use of research Bourdieu undertook between 1960 and 1970 in North Africa (Kabylia, Collo, the Chelif valley, and Ouarsenis). In this chapter Bourdieu meditates on the methods of research, convinced that "the practicalprivilege in which all scientific activity arises never more subtly governs that activity than when, unrecognized as privilege, it leads to an implicit theory of practice which is the corollary of neglect of the social conditions in which science is possible." Thinking about a theory of practice thus broaches a series of important issues relevant to anthropology and beyond, the problem of the social production of knowledge. Bourdieu distinguishes three types of theoretical knowledge of the social world, three "moments in a dialecti-

Bourdieu's Outline of a Theoryof Practice, reprinted seven times since its first publication in English in 1977, is a masterpiece. It is the narrationof an intellectual odyssey and a landmark in the reconceptualization of the social sciences. Richard Nice, the translator,aptly (if wordily) introduces the book's importance, as "a reflection on scientific practice which will disconcert both those who reflect on the social sciences without practicing them and those who practice them without reflecting on them, [which] seeks to define the prerequisitesfor a truly scientific discourse about human behavior, that is, an adequate theory of practice which must include a theory of scientific practice." The book contains four chapters. The first, "The Objective Limits of Objectivism," has two sections-a first, entitled Analyses, and a second, A Case Study: Parallel-Cousin Marriage, which applies

African Studies is littered with sweeping formulations like "Bantu philosophy" that have occluded the varieties of native experience for over fifty yearscal advance":a phenomenological or ethnomethodological knowledge which reads, interprets, makes explicit the primary and ordinaryexperience of everyday life in the social world; an objectivist knowledge which, breaking from the primary knowledge, "constructs the objective relations (e.g. economic or linguistic) which structure practice and representation of practice, i.e., in particular,primary knowledge, practical and tacit, of the familiar world." The final, and crucial, mo-





mentwouldbe abreaking with objectivist knowledge, a questioningof its conditions of possibilityand thus its limits. This questioningof ob

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