Monthly Archives: January 2013

BSA Bourdieu Study Group event: Gender and Bourdieu, “Is doing gender unavoidable?”

On 13th December 2012 the BSA Bourdieu study group held it second official event at the School of Law and Social Science, University of East London, since forming.

The study group decided to hold an event on Bourdieu and gender as over the years of organising on a variety of topics – Bourdieu and education, Bourdieu’s key concepts, Bourdieu and social class – gender has been present and sometime dominant in the papers submitted.

Capture Bourdieu and genderBourdieu first entered the sociological discussion of gender relationships in the 1990s. In 1998 he published La Domination masculine . Bourdieu argues that the relations between men and women are tied to masculine domination and that this masculine domination or habitus gives men and women a specific role in society.

Bourdieu’s work also often causes divisions between feminists. Many argue that although he explored gender relations in his work, he paid very little attention to feminist theory, focusing instead on gendering of taste or how structured sexual division of labour generates a sexually differentiated perspective on the world. However, others dispute this insisting that his contribution has scarcely been recognized by feminists. They claim that one of Bourdieu’s most important insights is that gender is present in all social relationships. Furthermore, Bourdieu’s work is valuable to feminist approaches because theoretical frameworks and political programmes are always embedded in social relations.

There has been a range of responses to Bourdieu and gender from academics and the event wanted to bring together different perspectives for discussion. However, as a study group we are also interested in the new ways Bourdieu’s concepts can be applied and will invite speakers that will create debate and discussion with the audience.

With this in mind, we decided to invite three keynote speakers – Dr Catherine Hakim, Dr Lisa Mckenzie and Professor Derek Robbins, all with very different approaches to Bourdieu. A decision that unknowing to us was to turn out to be a fiercely debated issue over academic’s personal facebook profiles, twitter and JISCMAIL and indeed would lead to some very uncomfortable emails. I shall leave the comments anonymous even though they were widely distributed.

‘I’m shocked and disappointed when I saw her [Dr Catherine Hakim] name on the programme for this event (and as a keynote speaker!). Having her on the programme would certainly be reason enough to dissuade me from attending an event.’

‘Unbelievable: the BSA had to wait forty years until Bourdieu told them that gender mattered??? And all those women sociologists running around in the meantime saying something very like this, didn’t count???’

hakim_main_1985707f

 

It seemed the main objection of our event came from people who disagreed with Dr Catherine Hakim’s development of the concept of ‘erotic capital‘. ‘Erotic capital’ refers to a person’s combination of physical and social attractiveness and its power in all social interactions; in the workplace, politics and in public life generally, as well as in the invisible negotiations of private relationships. Her publication Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital has received large scale mainstream media attention. As such, one twitter comment from a study group member stated ‘that the era of pop-sociology had arrived with our event.’

 

As a study group, we aim to try to host interesting events and provide a platform for debate and discussion. We schedule much more time for questions and answers after each key note speaker and hold a panel discussion at the end, after each speaker has given their talk to facilitate more debate. We also believe that sociology has a place to tackle the often difficult subjects that other disciplines avoid. As such, there will always be queries over the topic of our events as well as the speakers that are invited. However, as ‘erotic capital’ had received so much media attention and we are a Bourdieu study group, we wanted to engage with the concept and debate whether this is a way Bourdieu could be use as well as hear from other keynotes speakers about their interpretation of Bourdieu and gender.

Professor Derek Robbins

Professor Derek Robbins

 

Dr Catherine Hakim’s talk gave an overview of the concept of ‘erotic capital‘. This was followed by some heated questions from the audience. Dr Lisa Mckenzie’s key note speech focused on white working class women, who are mothers to mixed-race children living on a council estate in Nottingham. The research highlighted the importance of belonging and neighbourhood, whilst focusing upon local value systems. She spoke of the theoretical influence of the work of Pierre Bourdieu, with particular influence relating to symbolic violence, capital exchange, and power relationships with neo-liberal structures. Prof Derek Robbins who has long been one of the leading exponents of Pierre Bourdieu’s theories in the fields of sociology for over forty years gave a historical speech on La domination masculine and social constructionism.

 

Over all, we received much positive feedback at the end of the event. Here are just a few comments.

P1040718

A very stimulating event on gender and Bourdieu. All three papers were brilliant.’ (Punita Chowbey, Sheffield Hallam University)

 

‘I found all three speakers illuminating.’ (Dr Andrew Robert Branch , University of East London)

 

 

Professor Derek Robbins key note speech was particularly fascinating. His historical analysis on the development of Bourdieu’s concepts and his observation that some scholars make judgements about Bourdieu’s concepts and ideas without accounting for the historical conditions of their formations is an especially important lesson for all sociologist working on whichever topic.’ (Kristoffer Halvorsrud, University of Nottingham)

On the whole, I found the event very stimulating. However I found Catherine Hakim’s arguments rather simplistic and shallow. She tended to ignore class in order to advance a threadbare thesis that women could use their “erotic capital” to get ahead in the world. Working class women don’t have this luxury and their employment options will be limited.’ (Ray Campbell, University of East London)

Overall there were some passionate debates and many enjoyed the day.

We are looking forward to seeing study group members at the BSA annual conference in April in our sub-stream as well as in our annual study group meeting. Our next event will be sometime in June on Bourdieu and Passeron. More details will follow soon.

Bourdieu and Public Sociology: BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event

The BSA Bourdieu Study Group held its first study group event on 8th June 2012 since it officially established itself in January 2012. This event drew together Bourdieuian scholars for a debate around issues relating to public engagement and Bourdieu’s legacy. It posed such questions as: should the sociologist be helping people to reflect and question their own lives and conditions, why do we do sociology, and was Bourdieu really a public sociologist?

In Bourdieu’s later years he asserted that sociologists cannot be neutral and advocated helping the public develop a reflexive mode of relating to the world. During the 1990s he became more deeply involved in political debate and a critic of neoliberalism. In 1993 The Weight of the World – which became a bestseller in France – was published. Jim Wolfreys  (2000) argues that:

‘The Weight of the World became one of the defining books of the 1990s… Along with Bourdieu’s highly political interventions since 1995 it has been a major factor in what is perhaps his single most notable achievement of recent years, that of ‘relegitimising a discourse of resistance.’

In 2001 Pierre Carles documentary La sociologie est un sport de combat (Sociology is a martial art) – which followed Bourdieu for three years – was released. In it Bourdieu proposed that sociology is a fighting sport, not an intellectual technical tool for the elite to validate their choices. Parts of the film were played at the end of the event. Yet some still question whether Bourdieu was ‘doing’ public sociology.

Professor Michael Burawoy

Professor Michael Burawoy

Professor Derek Robbins

Professor Derek Robbins

To address this question, the event brought together one of the most prominent advocates of public sociology – Professor Michael Burawoy of the University of California, Berkeley, a world leading sociologists and current President of the International Sociological Association and Professor Derek Robbins who has been one of the leading exponents of Pierre Bourdieu’s theories in the fields of sociology for over forty years.

Professor Michael Burawoy

Professor Michael Burawoy

Professor Michael Burawoy talking to attendees

Professor Michael Burawoy talking to attendees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a enjoyable and at time lively event, held at BSA meeting room in Imperial Wharf. The room was arranged in 30 seat boardroom-style, to allow for debate and discussion. The events proved very popular and tickets sold out within two days. We received much positive feedback. Here are just a couple of the comments we got.

30 seat boardroom-style

30 seat boardroom-style

‘I found it particularly interesting that Prof Michael Burawoy examined the paradoxes of Bourdieu, something I hadn’t anticipated at a Bourdieu Study Group event! I enjoyed this questioning approach and the subsequent response from Prof Derek Robbins, which together deepened my understanding of certain Bourdieusian concepts. I thought it was an excellent example of two academics with differing views supporting their claims in constructive ways, whilst being highly informative for their audience at the same time. Great to catch up with friends/colleagues I have met at previous events too’

Linda Cooper (Anglia Ruskin University)

Professor Michael Burawoy

Professor Michael Burawoy

 

The first BSA Bourdieu Study group meeting held at Imperial Wharf London was a tremendous success. Professors Michael Burawoy and Derek Robbins were on fine form elucidating the work of Bourdieu and more broadly the role and value of Sociology. I await future meetings with great anticipation.’

Katie Blood (Nottingham Trent University)

 

 

At the end of the event there was still no clear agreement on whether Bourdieu was a public sociologist, but I’m sure those who attended have a lot more intellectual knowledge to argue either way. Whether sociologist should be doing ‘public sociology’ themselves seemed to be an even more challenging issue to debate.

References

Wolfreys, Jim. (2000) In perspective: Pierre Bourdieu. INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM JOURNAL [online]. Available at: http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj87/wolfreys.htm. [Accessed: 20/01/2013]

 

Two Day BSA and UEL sponsored regional postgraduate event: Social Class and Educational Aspirations

A two day BSA regional postgraduate conference and workshop was held at the University of East London on March 20th and 21st 2012. The event centred around the theme of social class and educational aspiration for academic and PhD empirical research in the field of sociology and education.

Social class and education is a popular topic, but it seems all the more relevant with the recent changes to education in a new era of a Conservative government and a “new age of austerity”, particularly given the tuition fee increase which came into effect in the same year as the conference. A Conference on social class and aspiration raised questions on such issues as whether socially deprived school leavers would want to take the economic risk of incurring long-term debts, especially if their access to future employment securing the possibility of repaying debts relates more to their class than to their educational attainment. For a video of Prof Derek Robbins talking about the conference click here.

The event included five key note talks by academics and journalists who had all carried out substantial research into social class and education.

Owen Jones: This talk was opened up to UEL students and staff.

Owen Jones: This talk was opened up to UEL students and staff.

Prof Derek Robbins

Prof Derek Robbins

Dr Nicola Ingram

Dr Nicola Ingram

Prof John Preston

Prof John Preston

Prof John Storan

Prof John Storan

The first four academics listed above also conducted PhD Workshop/PhD troubleshooter classes over the two days on discussion and questions on researching social class and education at a postgraduate level.

 

 

The workshops were led and arranged by each of the academic speakers, who saw the abstracts of the PhD students’ research beforehand and arrange suitable reading.

PhD Workshop/PhD troubleshooter class

PhD Workshop/PhD troubleshooter class

There were eighteen PhD conference talks to choose from. Presentations were at a very high standard and topics covered included: The impact of tuition fees on students’ higher education choices, The new face of suburbia- black middle class family aspirations, The consumption of overseas education, parental expectation in motivating children’s social mobility, Successful Black Males at Elite Higher Education Institutions in the UK, the cultural transformation of ‘urban children’ in a London academy, The life-cycle of the Education Maintenance Allowance, material and moral aspirations amongst white working class boys, as well as many more groundbreaking research topics. Click here for the Book of Abstracts SCEA.

One of the posters

One of the posters

Poster presentation with wine reception

Poster presentation with wine reception

There was also a poster presentation given at the end of the first day over a wine reception and made for enlightening and interesting discussion.

 

 

The conference was well received and there were requests to run it again. Although it was not strictly a Bourdieu study group event, it was arranged by one of the co-convenors (Jenny Thatcher) and a long term member (Tamsin Bowers-Brown) of the study group. We also had several study group members giving key note talks, presentations and attending. The topic of Bourdieu and education is likely to be a forthcoming event for the study group sometime in the future.