Saturday, 30 April 2016

Green, E. (2013). Research in the new Christian academies: Perspectives from Bourdieu.

This chapter comes from the same book as the previous post. It explores the use of Bourdieu's conceptual tools within educational research.

Green, E. (2013). Research in the new Christian academies: Perspectives from Bourdieu. In M. Murphy (Ed.), Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. (pp. 138-152). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Bourdieu and his concepts
“To understand is first to understand the filed with which and against which one has been formed” (Bourdieu, 2007, p. 4) – Sketch for a self-analysis – an analysis of himself using sociological viewpoints, bringing in a key legacy of his work – reflexivity.

Bourdieu stressed the importance of reflecting on the researcher’s own history and background in the same way as they explore the object of the research – this seems to link in with the double hermeneutic? Stepping back from the object of the research is the first step followed by reflecting on the relationship between the researcher and the researched.
Habitus, Bourdieu argued, can only operate within a social field. Groups compete for recognition or validation within a field (is this akin to capital?), leading to competition and struggle.

Critiques of Bourdieu’s works

-          He never fully integrated his concepts into a grand sociological theory
-          He did not justify why the sociological standpoint should have authority over other views when discussing politics, society and culture.
-          Other critics describe Bourdieu’s work as deterministic and not acknowledging individuals’ agency – an ability to act in the world.
Connell suggest that Bourdieu’s explanations of key concepts such as habitus are vague and do not take into account organisational change over time.

Applying Bourdieu’s concepts to research

The author explores the use of field, habitus, symbolic violence and cultural capital to a specific situation. The author conceptualises academies as a field. Because Bourdieu’s definition of field is one of competing interests with a struggle for recognition, the author suggests academies qualify. The author seeks to explore questions surrounding the ideologies within the academies field, and acknowledge that they are the new dominant form of education. She provides Bourdieu’s suggestions for exploring the forms of knowledge within the field, the groups which hold the power within the field.

The author conceptualises the religious beliefs and assumptions of senior academy staff as a habitus. This habitus is embedded within the school structure, regulating cultural practice. Habitus was used by the researcher as a tool to determine the influence the senior team’s habitus had on practice within the school. The author indicates how biblical study is conceptualised as religious habitus, with the Christian ethos being encountered by staff and students as symbolic violence.
Teaching the bible is a high status job, available to those who share the religious habitus. This makes these staff more visible, placing them in a symbolically powerful relationship to the bible, able to interpret it. Therefore, they regulate the ethos of the school. Bourdieu suggests that symbolic violence is “the power to constitute the given by stating it” (p. 147), determining the legitimacy of relationships and behaviours.
Bourdieu’s studies of the Catholic church in France led to his view that they are imposed and preserve their own status and hierarchy – a form of symbolic violence. Symbolic violence can be used to show which groups are powerful, and the hierarchy. Certain voices are therefore absent from the structures, the religious habitus and its expression. The author found that those teachers who did not share the religion of the Trust felt a lack of confidence in taking bible sessions, and appeared to have a lower level of cultural capital than those who were of the same religion.

Cultural capital

The religious habitus impact on student culture was minimal. The values and assumptions of the habitus were interpreted by the students in a different way to the Trust’s expectations As Bourdieu states, assumptions can be appropriated and reappropriated. The students valued knowledge on religion and biblical literacy – forms of cultural capital but this did not involve sharing the religious habitus of the Trust. Because of the regulated way in which biblical study was presented (RE and form time), the students perceived it as not relevant to other areas of their lives. This is in opposition to the Academy’s desire. The habitus of the dominant cultural group does not render other groups in the culture passive and without agency.


·         Bourdieu’s tools are widely used within educational research in the UK, most commonly with regard to analysis of the impact of class on social reproduction.
·         Bourdieu’s conceptual tools allow theory to clearly integrate with methodology.
·         The author also explores the role of reflexivity when using Bourdieu.
My thoughts
Is there something I can explore in relation to symbolic violence? Could this relate to tracking of students from vocational backgrounds into less prestigious HEIs? A useful overview of habitus and symbolic violence.

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