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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.

Reference

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

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