Having space and time between an event and writing often helps me reflect on what I have actually taken away from that conference, in terms of the Bourdieu International Conference 2018, the positive experiences are still warming my cockles; new insights were both plentiful and meaningful.
Although proceedings were temporarily dampened by the events that unfolded in the World Cup and the ‘match that shall not be named’, the whole conference was alive with the spirit that had gained momentum since the doors opened and name tags were collected. With a vast array of sessions on offer, that each explored Bourdieu’s concepts from a different perspective, there truly was something for everyone. From the outset the tone was conversational, yet informative. Some of those conversations had just begun and some were a continuation of a 10 year discussion, though none felt exclusionary. I spoke with several people, for whom, this was their first academic conference and who had arrived with a sense of nervous anticipation. This is a feeling that I can connect with on a personal level, as I’m sure many of you reading this can. The monster under the bed that is ‘imposter syndrome’, making its inconvenient grand entrance just as you open your mouth to speak. But if there were a conference to ever alleviate this (if only temporarily), the Bourdieu International conference was definitely it! My nerves quickly dissipated and I was assured that the same was true for the others I spoke to. For those who missed the conference, I just wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on, in my opinion, a few factors that made this conference great.
It is no secret that the precarious landscape that is academia, has impacted upon the availability of opportunities for Early Career Researchers to engage in research and dissemination yet here, this was not the case. ECRs were respected, celebrated and included in every aspect of the conference, including paper sessions, leading workshops in their area of expertise and delivering keynotes. This was done without questions of status and all were as equally well received and valued as senior academics. Giving ECRs this platform not only allows us to build upon the ever daunting academic CV, but allows for a glimpse into the future. This conference felt different. It felt fresh and progressive. Bourdieu’s concepts were not taken at face value, they were critiqued and pushed to their boundaries to explore new and exciting ways to use his work – as a flexible methodological tool. #Bourdieu2018 resisted reproducing the typical arguments often made in Bourdieu’s name, we moved forwards with outstanding international research.
Critics of Bourdieu often refer to his lack of applicability or consideration of important social factors such as race and gender, though work presented by, Derron Wallace, Constantino Dumangane, Berenice Scandone, April-Louise Pennant and Marta Curran (among many other inspiring others), furthered the discussion in these fields, detailing the importance of questioning our predispositions for assuming whiteness when regarding Bourdieu’s theoretical approach to social understandings and how this can be problematised and challenged within our work and daily practices.
The space created by the organisers and attendees was one that allowed us to explore the application of Bourdieu’s concepts in different fields, with mutual respect and support. This allowed for the most honest and self-reflective work that I have had the privilege of engaging with. The focus for much of the work that I listened to, was derived from, informed by and focused on the affective dimensions of Bourdieu’s concepts. Emotions seemed to be at the forefront of thought here, both in academia and as a frequent research finding. This was particularly evident in the keynotes.
Lisa Mckenzie discussed the stickiness and slipperiness of class habitus and in an individualised society, it has been left to working class to prove negative stereotypes do not belong to them and navigate the 101 ways symbolic violence hurts working class people. The talk was thought provoking, personal and honest.
Diane Reay’s inspiring autoethnographic keynote focused on the habitus of resistance and the enduring power of reproduction, within her talk (which she referred to as an intellectual strip tease), she discussed her dispositions of shame and inferiority, but one which was vehemently opposed to misplaced judgement, scrutiny and injustice. Her discussion of an activist theatre group is one which has inspired me on a profound level, so watch out, you might be recruited into a new sociological, political theatre troupe in the near future! Reay’s honesty and openness about her own journey and experiences of theory in action moved the room, she was met with a standing ovation.
The announcement that the BSA Bourdieu study group would hold an event in Diane’s honour ‘Habitus of a Lifetime’ in 2019 was one that moved many to tears, the appreciation of her work in the field and the wonderful woman herself was palpable. An event which is surely not to be missed.
The message, articulated succinctly by Louise Archer, that the focus of our work should be to “change the field, not the individual”, was, for me, the enduring notion that should not be forgotten and an endeavour that I intend to undertake within my own work. On the whole, the event was inspiring and has given me plenty of food for thought as I embark on my own academic path and begin my PhD. Thank you for organising an event that was all at once: intellectually stimulating, accessible, fun and where, perhaps most importantly – the wine was chilled! I can’t wait to see you next time.