Book review: Bourdieu, Habitus and Social Research

One of Bourdieu’s most utilised concepts is that of habitus. This volume offers an insight into the multitude of ways in which it has been operationalised by researchers in a diverse range of fields. As Costa and Murphy outline in their introduction, Habitus is best thought of as a ‘theory-method’ and as Bourdieu’s ‘attempt to bridge the divide between theory and practice’ (p.3). The volume demonstrates how this is possible by drawing on research from a diverse range of disciplines such as education, youth studies, criminology, migration and digital technologies. Through this, it certainly meets the goal of the authors of showing how concepts can transcend disciplinary boundaries. It also claims to posit a case for the ‘unexplored potential of such concepts to spark interdisciplinary work and cross-sectoral innovation’ (p.14). This is something, however, that only time will tell although certainly the range of studies offer the potential for seeing the wide uses for the concept. What this volume also offers it a focus on the contestation of the concept of habitus and some insights on how researchers can take it forward and develop it within their own contexts. One example of this would be Garth Stahl’s chapter that proposes a notion of a ‘egalitarian habitus’ (p.27).

Drawing from research utilising a range of methods, it shows how habitus has been operationalised in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods work. It draws on work using secondary statistical data, biographical research, case studies and interviews, Through this, it demonstrates the complexity and the utility of habitus as a concept showing that its use is not bounded by methodology or disciplinary boundaries.

What this volume also offers is a detailed exploration of how each researcher has come to the concept and utilised it within their research through well written, accessible and engaging accounts of work from a wide disciplinary base. In bringing research together in this way, it makes visible the thinking processes that are often lost within journal articles, realising the goal of making visible the link between theory and practice set out by Costa and Murphy. As such, this volume would be an excellent text for any scholars trying to grapple with how to move from theory to application. This would be especially useful for postgraduate students starting out in social research or grappling with understanding the application behind Bourdieu’s concepts.


Costa, C. and Murphy, M. (eds.) (2015). Bourdieu, Habitus and Social Research, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan


Whose hashtag is it anyway? The perils of not promoting tweeting at #ESA2015 or is that #ESA15?

Since 2012 and my first British Sociological Association conference, I have seen the increasing value of twitter as a mechanism of making social connections, engaging in wider discussion of plenaries and getting advice of sessions that may be of interest. Unfortunately, not all conference organisers seem to have discovered this benefit.

On travelling to the 12th European Sociological Association Conference in Prague, I expected to see what most national conferences seem to do; a promoted hash tag to tweet about the conference. It was evident early on that this wasn’t happening (although some photocopied signs appeared later in the conference). This conference had 3500 delegates so it would be safe to assume that at least a proportion of these would have a twitter presence.

It can be seen from analysis of posts involving the hashtag that the lack of a promoted hash tag had an impact on who was tweeting and the volume of these tweets. Wasim Ahmed (@was3120) ran an a analysis by nodeXL which found that in the whole conference there were 1637 tweets using the hash tag from 579 users. If we compare this to the analysis run by the BSA digital sociology group on the 2013 BSA conference, there were 1497 tweets from 328 users during a conference with far fewer delegates (790).

This is potentially problematic as twitter is in many ways expected as a back channel at a conference. Even the controversy surrounding the Ecological Society of America’s request for tweeters to ask permission before tweeting still acknowledged the presence of twitter as a core element of the conference.

It might therefore be helpful for future organising committees to understand how having an official hashtag might have helped this specific conference

  •  the sheer volume of papers

I am positive that I am not the only delegate who found the sheer number of papers a challenge to choose from. With 37 research networks and 7 research streams in addition to a number of other plenaries and ‘mid-day specials’, it was easy to miss interesting papers or sessions, in fact I noted that many people stuck to one network for the duration. By having an active hashtag, it can allow delegates to find that hidden gem they missed, for instance it was a tweet from Drew Dalton (@DrewDalton1980) that alerted me to a fascinating session on methods that I would have missed otherwise.

  •  Ways of negotiating clashes in interesting papers

With this sheer volume of papers, clashes are inevitable. What a twitter back channel also allows is a ‘feel’ for missed papers or sessions to be garnered through others comments. This enables engagement with the content or enough detail to decide if you wish to contact the researcher directly for a copy of the paper.

  • Interacting with speakers 

This is one aspect that is almost essential in a programme this size. For example my own paper was in a 90 minute session with 4 other papers. This allowed for 12 minutes delivery and 2 or at most 3 questions. By creating an alternative form of engagement with the speaker, it allows much more productivity in terms of gathering feedback on a paper.

  • The social aspect of a conference

In a conference of this scale (3500 delegates) twitter has so much potential for forming networks and finding people with similar interests it is a lifesaver for those people who, like me, did not know many people before the conference.

  • Feedback

The use of twitter as a back channel that was monitored locally may have picked up the issues with audio during Bauman’s plenary which may have been addressed quickly, thus reducing the frustration reported on twitter from not being able to hear the talk. In the defence of the organising committee, gaining feedback was attempted on a Facebook post, however it would have been more effective to monitor a hash tag and to directly respond on there as it could have offered more instant feedback, especially on Wi-Fi, water and queuing issues.

Hopefully lessons will be learned for ESA 2017 and by others reading this blog who are organising their own conferences.


What’s this blog got to do with it?

I was going to entitle this blog “A blog on why I  haven’t blogged” and if you look at the date of the last post, that is exactly what it is. Strangely, it doesn’t seem that long since I did blog and this is what this post is actually about.

As I have discussed, previously on my blog, writing blog posts is almost a cathartic process for me. The actual value being in the production and writing down of my ideas in order to work through them and understand them. I was last blogging at a very specific time; namely that of the transition from masters to doctoral study where I needed a focus to work through my reading. This in many ways has been removed by the process of writing and preparing a number of assignments for the postgraduate certificate in research methods that accompanies the PhD process at Staffordshire and through my musings written to create a basis for supervision discussions.

In revisiting these, I can see how my previous blogging has influenced these and the way I have worked through my thoughts. I can also see some useful lessons that will hopefully improve future blogging endeavours. In all honesty, however, there is an element of angst in not having blogged for a while. This is why I felt I needed to write something but I have been torn when I was thinking about what to write about.

This, potentially is a dilemma for many doctoral students. Do I post about my own project before I publish elements of it? Do I reduce my postings to ones of methodology and process? Or do I blog on tangential issues? I don’t actually know the answer at this point in time but it is likely to be the subject of another blog post in the near future. I have a number of conference papers coming up over the next few months and maybe attending these conferences will spark some ideas for more blog posts, who knows.

Pat Thomson has written a blog about how she generates ideas for posts but for me at this moment in time, I’m not sure if this would draw away from the focus on my actual project. That being said, the notion of thinking in public through blogging and twitter is something I am exploring ‘on the side’ of my doctoral project so this might be a useful focus for the blog.

Of course, one other area which seems to receive lots of traffic on the blog is my book reviews and in terms of overlap with my doctoral work, these are quite safe territory, but then I wonder if I should be trying to target these at journals instead on my blog?

Answers in the comments or on twitter please! @jonrainford