‘Bourdieusian’ or ‘Bourdieuian’

William Shakespeare once wrote ‘What’s in a name?’ Well quite a lot according to ‘Bourdieusian’ scholars – or is that ‘Bourdieuian’?

Over the last few months there has been some debate over whether the study group should set a precedent by using and recommending one version over another. This is what Professor Derek Robbins from the University of East London has to say on the issue:

‘I have never seen any French equivalent which would probably be ‘Bourdieusien’ or ‘Bourdieuien’.  However, in some circumstances it is clearly convenient to use a word which means something like ‘pertaining to Bourdieu’, although I don’t think there is any tendency to suggest a school in a way which would be analogous with ‘Durkheimian’.  It is my impression that, in English, a consensus is developing or has developed in favour of ‘Bourdieusian’ even though, in extremis, I originally preferred ‘Bourdieuian’… In so far as we are able to recommend common practice, therefore, I think we should go with the flow.’

For Dr Will Atkinson from the University of Bristol it’s all ‘French and ‘Googlegook’’:

‘The French tend to say ‘Bourdieusien(ne)’ (Google it on Google.fr and it comes up, whereas Bourdieuien only comes up with junk), and of course the English equivalent of ‘ien(ne)’ is ‘ian’. I imagine the French insert the ‘s’ because of their concern for linguistic flow (hence the ‘liaison’ as they call it, or carrying of consonant sounds onto the beginning of words beginning with vowels, as they really don’t like consecutive vowel sounds). It certainly does sound nicer and clearer when spoken (and reads better too), and I’d say it’s become the most common usage in English – indeed, even Bourdieu himself (and his translators) used the ‘s’ version (p. 117 in The Legacy of Pierre Bourdieu), as has Loic Wacquant. To break with it and try to establish something else (without any particular conceptual change) therefore seems to make little sense other than as a strategy of distinction!’

However, co-convenor of the Bourdieu study group Dr Nicola Ingram from the University of Bath argues that if we were going to commit to the French way of doing things then why should we bother modifying  it to ‘ian’. On that logic we would use Bourdieusien. Furthermore,  English linguistic convention would mean we use Bourdieuian as she understands it. ‘Why use a word that conforms to neither French nor English convention? I do agree it is easier to say Bourdieusian.’ A point that Dr Sally Baker agrees with. ‘I originally used ‘Bourdieuian’ and then started using ‘Bourdieusian’ because people suggested that it was easier to pronounce (for English speakers at least!).’

Jon Dean from the University of Kent summed up the online debate stating: ‘Bourdieu said: ‘academic language is a dead language for the great majority of people’ (Academic Discourse, page 8). I hope he’d tell us not to worry!

However, the issue seems to return every so often and so contentious is it that the Bourdieu study group have started a online poll on the Bourdieu Study Group’s Facebook page.

But as Dr Ciaran Burke from the University Of Ulster and study group co-convenor points out: ‘Bourdieu said the most important answer in public opinion polls is ‘I don’t know’’.


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