Monthly Archives: February 2014

Another Successful BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event: Bourdieu in Migration and ‘Race’/Ethnicity Studies

On Tuesday 25th February 2014 the BSA Bourdieu Study Group hosted its first event of 2014: Bourdieu in Migration and ‘Race’/Ethnicity Studies at the BSA meeting room in London.

Bookings for the event proofed popular and the booking had to be closed early. The event was structured around the presentations of two key note speakers: Prof. Karen O’Reilly (Loughborough University) and Dr. Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths), three papers – following the call for abstracts – Dr Michaela Benson (Goldsmiths), Derron Wallace (University of Cambridge) and Dr Barbara Samaluk (University of Greenwich),  as well as three workshops.






Dr. Nirmal Puwar commented on the title of the event and how often UK academics primarily  see Bourdieu as a class theorist. She stressed the importance of using an intersectionality approach and the necessity of students to overcome the obsession of ‘which variable is most significant: social-class, ‘race’, or gender?’  With the prevalence of class is itself being a significant insight into in British sociology.


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Prof. Karen O’Reilly spoke about applying a Bourdieusian approach in hers and Caroline Oliver’s case study of expatriates living in the Costa del Sol, Spain. In this study, Bourdieu’s methodological approach as well as his sociological concepts were drawn upon to help understand the cultural processes and the reproduction of the economic positions of the emigrants.  She argued that Bourdieu’s attempts to overcome dualism and see the interrelation between structure and action proved useful in their analyses of this migration case study.






The three papers showed the variety of ways a Bourdieusian approach can be used to analyse a diversity of case studies in ‘race’, education and migration research.





  • Derron Wallace (University of Cambridge)  Between ‘Bad’ Blacks & ‘Better’ Blacks?: Exploring the Role of Black Cultural Capital in the Educational Experiences of Afro-Caribbean Youth in London and New York (Derron Wallace Abstract)









  • Group one: Prof. Karen O’Reilly – for those interested in ethnographic methods and privilege forms of migration
  • Group two: Dr. Nirmal Puwar – for those interested in postcolonialism and ‘race’/ethnicity
  • Group three: Prof. Derek Robbins – for those interested in Bourdieu’s theoretical framework and application of his concepts in the 21st century


The three workshops near the end of the day helped to tie the whole event together generating discussion and debates around the key note and paper presentations. They also gave delegates the opportunity to consider their own research in relation to the themes that were raised throughout the day in addition to giving them a chance to ask questions about their own projects.


The study group received lots of positive feedback about the event and acquired many new subscriptions to its membership email list. Many delegates also commented on the welcoming environment of the event as well as the sociability of the pre-event dinner.


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Are Elite Universities Meritocratic? A BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event


Tuesday 8th July 2014 10am-4pm

Cardiff University

Key Note Speakers: Professor Diane Reay and Dr. Vikki Boliver

Bourdieu talks about university being a process of ‘elimination’ for those who lack the type of ‘capital’ valued by those institutions. In the UK meritocracy is promoted, the idea that one’s position in society is determined by ability plus effort rather than background. However, despite the gap closing slightly in recent years, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are still much less likely to be admitted to higher education and specifically to elite universities. UCAS data (2013) shows that young people from the most advantaged areas are still 7.5 times more likely than those from the most disadvantaged to enter a higher tariff institution. Moreover Black and Asian young people are much less likely to receive an offer from a Russell group university than their White counterparts. In a context where universities are charging up to £9,000 it is important to scrutinise their admissions processes. This conference will do just that, asking the following questions: Are elite universities meritocratic? What role does class and race play in their admissions processes? The conference will also consider the question of what happens to the minority of disadvantaged students that do make it through the system. Overall asking a crucial question: Are elite universities –themselves- reproducing inequality?

Prices: BSA Concessionary Members – £35; BSA Members – £40; Non BSA Members – £50.

To register go to:

For further info contact: or (0191) 383 0839

For academic queries contact: Jessie Abrahams:

For more info about the BSA Bourdieu Study Group:

My WomanTheory Story: Jessica Abrahams on Harriet Bradley, Diane Reay (and others)

By one of our co-conveners Jessica Abrahams


harrietWhen I began to think about which female academic I would write this blog about I found myself stuck, unable to choose only one. This was frustrating yet comforting as I realised that I have been inspired and moulded by so many strong female theorists. I have never been one to stick to rules so have decided to be a rebel and write this about two women who personally and in their writing have supported and motivated me: Harriet Bradley and Diane Reay. I have chosen to start with Professor Harriet Bradley as this is where my academic journey began. I first came across Harriet’s work as an A Level sociology student learning about intersectionality. When I started my undergraduate in sociology at the University of Bristol I was star struck when Harriet gave a guest lecture on inequality.

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Using Bourdieu to examine number sense in young children – a gatekeeper to life’s opportunities?



By Rebecca Turvill

Bourdieu’s central concern with the way the education system reproduces social class is particularly relevant in the discussion of mathematics education. Academic success in mathematics is seen as a gatekeeper to life’s opportunities (Noyes, 2007). Importantly, such success may be cemented early in a child’s education. The English primary mathematics curriculum is largely concerned with the development of “number sense”. The concept is not universally defined within curriculum documentation, however extrapolation from the National Numeracy Strategy (DfEE, 1999) suggests it amounts to a confidence and flexibility using and calculating with number.

Drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field, I propose that number sense itself acts as a gatekeeper to mathematical success. As such, a child’s life opportunities are restricted very early in their educational career, from their earliest encounters with number sense.

I am using primary mathematics education as the field. This presupposes mathematics can stand discretely and, whilst this may be debated, reflects the position of mathematics teaching almost exclusively in English primary schools. I also conceptualise primary mathematics as separate from secondary (or high school) mathematics as curriculum and pedagogy are distinctly split at this point. It is increasingly important for children to be seen as “secondary ready” placing a strong emphasis on the skills they are expected to master during primary school. By conceptualising primary school mathematics as a field, we can appreciate the opportunities and barriers presented by the system. Importantly, the field of primary mathematics education is not experienced equally by all those in it. Persistently, children from lower socio-economic classes leave school with lower attainment in mathematics. The concept of habitus allows us to consider this inequality.

Habitus, the “taken-for-granted” way in which we act (Bourdieu, 1984) is shaped throughout one’s early socialisation and is well established on entry to education. It is an embodiment of a child’s early experiences and thus directly their social class. Walkerdine (1988) demonstrates how language use in the home is class dependent, with mathematical terminology being heavily value laden in different settings. Even more specific to mathematics, is the work of Peter Bryant (2013) who demonstrates that children from more prosperous homes demonstrate stronger mathematical reasoning skills.

Where a child’s habitus does not align well with the field two consequences are observed. Firstly, a child receives a negative message about themselves. This is disabling as they believe mathematics is not for them. A negative learning spiral from the negative self-image developed is often the result (Ernest, 2011). Secondly, the curriculum is changed to “support” the child. This is often greater rehearsal and practise of failed skills – number sense skills – a limited mathematical diet. Thus children from lower socioeconomic classes are further excluded from learning just the type of mathematics needed to allow them access to the privileges mathematics provides.

Bourdieu’s key concepts of field and habitus thus provide a crucial way to critically examine how number sense skills in primary school are pivotal in reproducing social class.

Rebecca Turvill is a first year PhD student at Brunel University.


Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Bryant, P. (2013) Some Reasons for Reasoning, accessed 6.2.14

DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) (1999) The National Numeracy Strategy Framework for Teaching Mathematics from Reception to Year 6. London:DfEE

Ernest, P. (2011) Mathematics and special educational needs: theories of mathematical ability and effective types of intervention with low and high attainers in mathematics. Saarbrücken : LAP LAMBERT Academic

Noyes, A., (2007) Mathematics Counts…for what? Rethinking the Mathematics Curriculum in England, Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal No. 21  Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal ISSN 1465-2978 (Online)

Walkerdine, V. (1998) The Mastery of Reason. London: Routledge

Call for Blog Articles

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Would you like to write something for the BSA Bourdieu study group blog? We are looking for short pieces of writing (around 500 words) on Bourdieu related subjects. This may be a piece on why you’re using Bourdieu in your research, a review of one of his books or simply why you love Bourdieu.

It’s a great opportunity to get your writing seen by an international audience.

If you’re interested please send your pitch to with the subject title: ‘article for the blog’.

Tips on how to write for a blog here 

Publications by BSA Bourdieu Study Group Members: Past and Present



Abrahams, J. and Ingram N. (2013) ‘The Chameleon Habitus: Exploring local students’ negotiations multiple fields’ Sociological Review Online. 18(4)21. Available here

Cooper, L., 2013. Women and higher education: narratives of middle class, mother-daughter dyads. Gender and Education. Vol 25, No 5, p624-639 Available here

Flynn, N. (2013) “Linguistic capital and the linguistic field for teachers unaccustomed to linguistic difference”. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(2), 225 – 242 Available here

Flynn, N. (2013) “Encountering migration: English primary school teachers’ responses to Polish children”. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(4), 336 – 351 Available here

Fowler, B. (1997) Pierre Bourdieu’s Cultural Theory: Critical Investigations, Sage.ISBN 08039 7625 9. Available here


Fowler, B. (ed.) (2000) Reading Bourdieu on Society and Culture, Sociological Review MonographsBlackwell [general introduction by Fowler, as well as introductions to each section].ISBN 0 631 22186 7 Available here

Fowler, B. (2003) Reading Pierre Bourdieu’s Masculine Domination, Cultural Studies, 2003 vol 17 (3-4)  pp. 468-494.ISSN 0950-2386

Fowler, B. (2004) Mapping the Obituary: Notes Towards a Bourdieusian Interpretation pp. 148-172 in L. Adkins and B. Skeggs, Feminism After Bourdieu, Oxford, Blackwell. ISBN 1-4-51 2395 8 Available here


Fowler, B. (2006) Autonomy, Science and Art in Pierre Bourdieu, Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Bourdieu, Vol 23, No. 6, November 2006 99-118  ISBN 0263- 2764 (200611) 23:6;1-4

Fowler, B (2007) The Obituary as Collective Memory, New York, Routledge Available here

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Fowler, B. (2008) Pierre Bourdieu und Norbert Elias uber symbolische und Physische Gewalt pp 75-102 Robert Schmidt und Volker Woltersdorff (Hg.), Symbolische Gewalt: Herrschaftsanalyse nach Pierre Bourdieu, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Konstanz, ISBN 978-3-86764-121-0

Fowler, B. (2009) Review of Terry Lovell, ed. (Mis)recognition, Social Inequality and Social Justice: Nancy Fraser and Pierre Bourdieu”, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol 26, Issue 1.

Fowler, B. (2011) Pierre Bourdieu: Unorthodox Marxist? Pp 33-57 in eds Simon Susen and Bryan Turner,The Legacy of Pierre Bourdieu, London: Anthem Press

Fowler, B. (2012) Pierre Bourdieu, 1960s British Drama and the Field of Cultural Studies, Theory, Culture and Society, May 2012, 29, 3, 3-24 Available here

Fowler, B. (2012)  Catherine Cookson, Pierre Bourdieu and the Division of the Literary Field, pp 67-84 in ed Julie Taddeo, Catherine Cookson Country: On the Borders of Legitimacy, Fiction and History, London, Ashgate. Available here 

Fowler, B. And Wilson, F.M. (2013) Women Architects and their Discontents, Architectural Theory Review, 17 (2-3) 199-215 (Second edition of  Fowler and Wilson, Women Architects and their Discontents, Sociology, Feb 2004, 38, 1, 101- 119) Available here 

Fowler, B. (2013) Simon Susen’s “Bourdieusian reflections on Language: Unavoidable conditions of the real Speech Situation: a Rejoinder, Social Epistemology; A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy, 27, 3-4, 250-260 (Published online 20.11.2013) Available here 

Friedman, S. (2013,) “The Price of the Ticket: Rethinking the Experience of Social Mobility”Sociology, ONLINE FIRST. Available here

Friedman, S., Kuipers, G. (2013) ”The Divisive Power of Humour: Comedy Taste and Symbolic Boundaries”Cultural Sociology, 6 (2) Available here

Holman, D.,  (2013). ‘What help can you get talking to somebody?’ Explaining class differences in the use of talking treatments. Sociology of Health and IllnessOnline. 6 NOV 2013. Available here

Kerr, R. & Robinson, S. (2012) From symbolic violence to economic violence: the globalizing of the Scottish banking elite. Organization Studies, 33:247-266

Kerr, R. & Robinson, S. (2011) Leadership as an elite field: Scottish banking leaders and the crisis of 2007-2009. Leadership, 7/ 2: 153 – 175

Kerr, R. & Robinson, S. (2009) The hysteresis effect as creative adaptation of the habitus: dissent and transition to the ‘corporate’ in post-Soviet Ukraine. Organization, 16/6: 800-829.

McDonald R. (2009) Market reforms in English primary medical care: Medicine, habitus and the public sphere. Sociology of Health and Illness 31, 659-672.

McGovern P. (2013) Cross-sector partnerships with small voluntary organisations: some reflections from a case study of a self-help group Voluntary Sector Review, 4(2), July, DOI 10.1332/204080513X664650

McGovern P. (2013, forthcoming) Small voluntary organisations in Britain’s ‘Big Society’: a Bourdieusian approach Voluntas DOI 10.1007/s11266-013-9353-x

McGovern P. (2013) Small voluntary organisations and public funding regimes: research findings from a Bourdieusian, qualitative study CCSR News, Spring

McGovern P. (2013, forthcoming) What did you say: a deaf researcher reflects on participant observation in a small voluntary organisation SAGE Cases in Methodology

Papapolydorou, M. (2013). Direct, Indirect and Relational: Social class Manifestations in Teenage Students’ Accounts, Journal of Youth and Policy, no.111, pp.25-43 Available here 

Papapolydorou, M. (2013) ‘When you see a normal person…’: Social Class and Friendship Networks Among Teenage Students, British Journal of Sociology of Education Available here

Robbins, Derek (2013) ‘From Le savant et le politique (Weber, int. Aron, 1959) to Le savant et le populaire (Grignon & Passeron, 1989) from an English perspective’, Theoria and Praxis: International Journal of Interdiscliplinarity, 1(1), pp. 48-63. doi:10.1080/02691728.2013.818736. Available here

Robbins, Derek (2013) ‘Response to Simon Susen’s “Bourdieusian Reflections on Language: Unavoidable Conditions of the Real Speech Situation”’, Social Epistemology, 27(3-4), pp. 261-274. (doi:10.1080/02691728.2013.818736). Available here

Robbins, Derek (2012) ‘Philosophy and the social sciences: Bourdieu, Merleau-Ponty and Husserl’, Cités (51), pp. 17-31. Available here

Robbins, Derek (2013) ‘Passeron and the Epistemology of the Social Sciences’, in Robbins, Derek (ed.) Sociological Reasoning: A Non-Popperian Space of Argumentation. Oxford: Bardwell Press. Available here


Robinson, S. & Kerr R. (2009) The symbolic violence of leadership: a critical hermeneutic study of leadership and succession in a British organisation in the post-Soviet context. Human Relations, 62/6: 875-903.

Robertson D (2013) Knowing your place: the formation and sustenance of class-based place identity Housing, Theory and Society 30, 4, 368-383

Stahl, G. 2013. “Habitus disjunctures, reflexivity and white working-class boys’ conceptions of status in learner and social identities.” Sociological Research Online 18(3). Available here

Susen, S. (ed.) (2013) Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy 27(3-4): 195-393, Special Issue: Bourdieu and Language Available here

Susen, S. (2013) ‘Bourdieusian Reflections on Language: Unavoidable Conditions of the Real Speech Situation’Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy, Volume 27, Issue 3-4, 199-246. Available here