Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘On the Street Where you Live’: Bourdieusian analysis of socio-spatial hierarchy

On Tuesday 2nd of December 2014, the BSA Bourdieu Study Group hosted an event at the BSA meeting room in London exploring how Bourdieusian theory has been applied to empirical research on spatially generated class practices, social divisions and socio-cultural relationships.


The event was opened by Dr Michaela Benson’s (University of Goldsmith) keynote: ‘Place-making? Middle-class residential choice, trajectories and dynamics’ which focused on the concept of place-marking as a set of discursive practices. Drawing on her research on rural France, Benson showed how the symbolism of rural France was itself a product of middle-class cultural imaginings of rurality and rural life. This examined middle-class place-making beyond the metropolis and showed the ‘fit’ between habitus and place as a trajectory and not as fixed across a term of residence. Benson asserted that discursive practices are in action and ongoing in through which place and classed subjectivities intersect and are shaped. This repetitive action is directed at making places of residence simultaneously reconstruct classed identities

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Benson argued that we need to think about housing choice as constrained and full of compromise to have a more nuanced understanding. There is a generational shift in middle-class expectations around property ownership particularly in London. However, some of the middle-class participants in Benson’s research were concerned and ambivalent about their role in gentrification.

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Dr Tracey Jensen’s (University of East London) keynote talk: ‘A Good School and a Decent Cup of Coffee: connecting the mundane desires of parental gentrifiers to the politics of displacement’, examined the productive work involved in ‘making neighbourhood’ and in making zones of desirability. It explored the psycho-spatial dimensions of identity – the ways in which who one is are intimately bound with where one lives – and how, in the everyday processes of making our classed/‘raced’/gendered subjectivities, people are also engaged in the micro-political processes of making space.

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Jensen’s talk reflected upon classification processes and solidifying hierarchies of place in the fast-changing suburbs of South East London, where processes of gentrification and displacement have been initiated as part of the Thames Gateway development plan and as part of a broader austerity regime which aims to decant poorer London residents to cheaper parts of the UK. She explored how technologies of spatial sorting, social media and neighbourhood forums are used to initiate debate about belonging, (un)desirability, borders, zones and local change (Jensen, 2014).

Jensen was particularly interested in the mundane desires of parent residents and the part that these play in enmeshing the economic and cultural capitals of districts in what Bourdieu called the ‘field of cultural production’ and what others have termed the ‘game of gentrification’. Primary schools were significant sites in which East Dulwich parents felt they could expand/consolidate social capital. Her study found that middle-class parenting in East Dulwich draw ‘racialised’ boundaries between itself and Peckham. East Dulwich parenting practices were classed and ‘racialised’ and included choosing a school which had the ‘right mix’ – not too working-class or black. On gentrification, parenting & politics of displacement, Jensen asked ‘What does it mean to be an East Dulwich baby?’

Comparing these newly emerging ‘cognitive maps’ of the borderlands of suburban London to those of more established gentrified neighbourhoods, Jensen showed how ‘undesirable’ residents, lives and practices are erased, denied and obscured, making strategies of displacement seem commonsense. Such euphemised class-making/place-making serves the interests of developers extremely well and enables ‘undesirable’ areas to be steadily decanted and made congenial to the requirements of middle-class life (Jensen, 2014).  Jensen argued we must think about the social exclusion that takes place in the social reproduction of space. We need to understand who gets to engage with place-making and how place-making happens.

Comments from the floor included questions about male gentrifiers and whether ‘yummy mummies’ are responsible for the displacement of those like the E15 mothers? Another comment emphasised the need to understand who is authorised to do place-making, how some places are weighted and others weightless.

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Stephen Crossley, a PhD Student at Durham University, explored the implementation of the Troubled Families Programme. His presentation focused on ‘looking at family from the inside out’ using Bourdieu’s concepts of social space and symbolic power. Crossley spoke of the ‘troubled families’ process and the politics of condescension where ‘State Doxosophers’ create policy and base it on the ‘we are all in this together’ myth. Amusing images of George Osborne in high visibility jacket having tea with builders were used as an example of a ‘strategy of condescension’. Crossley argued that those strategies by which agents who occupy a higher position in one of the hierarchies of objective space symbolically deny the social distance between themselves and others – a distance which does not thereby cease to exist – reap the profits of the recognition granted a purely symbolic denegation of distance. The use of Bourdieu (1989, p.18) illustrated his point:

‘The power to impose and to inculcate a vision of division, that is, the power to make visible and explicit social division that are implicit, is political power par excellence. It is the power to make groups, to manipulate the objective structure of society.’

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Crossley reminded the audience of the long and troubled history of ‘troubled families’ and the use of eugenics. A timeline demonstrated who the ‘troubled families’ are, dating back to the Victorian era.  As such, the label of ‘troubled families’ has become a symbolic dumping ground for a whole host of problems in society and these families suffer symbolic violence that presupposes the interventionist schemes of entering families’ homes.

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Crossley ended the talk by suggesting we should ‘trouble the ‘troubled families’ agenda’! Quoting Bourdieu he showed how the family itself is a fiction:

‘The family is indeed a fiction, a social artefact, an illusion in the most ordinary sense of the word, but a well-founded illusion, because, being produced and reproduced with the guarantee of the state, it receives from the state at every moment the means to exist and persist’ (Bourdieu, 1996, p.25).


Dr Simon Harding’s talk: ‘The Street Casino: survival in the violent street gang’, applied Bourdieu’s gaming theory to gang hierarchy to explain the existence and dynamic of what he entitled ‘street casino’. According to Harding, gang members struggle for distinction and survival and become ‘players in the game’ in the ‘casino of life’. Their playing chips are ‘street capital’. Harding argued that gang life is in constant flux, where players jostle for positions, reputation, status and distinction. Harding’s presentation was met with mixed reviews from the audience.


From the floor, Dr Michaela Benson asked Dr Simon Harding whether he had thought about Bourdieu’s notion of reflexivity and how that may have impacted upon the research? Others argued his talk had over-determined and pathologized ‘gangs’ in Brixton.

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Dr Paul Watt’s brilliantly entitled keynote talk: ‘On the Street Where You Won’t Be Living Much Longer’ started off by arguing that Bourdieu reinvigorated the sociological imagination about class, yet there needs to be consideration on the differences in how Bourdieu is put to work in urban sociology in relation to middle-class and working-class. Bourdieusian analytical focus is often concentrated on middle-classes; primarily on multiple capitals and secondly on habitus. For the working-classes, it’s the other way round, focusing mainly on habitus. Watt critiqued Bourdieu’s account of the working-class as defined by lack of capital – an absence. He claimed that the problem with Bourdieu on working-class is that they are positioned, not positioning.

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Watt argued that researchers on gentrification need to go beyond questioning people ‘like us’ and talk to those ‘not like us’. Talking of Chris Allen’s (2008) book ‘Housing Market Renewal and Social Class’, Watts said it was difficult to come away without a sense of injustice after reading it. The site of urban injustice in the book portrayed a working-class ‘being in a world’ entirely ignored by ‘regeneration’. Whereas the middle-classes engage in ‘selective belonging’ and reside in an area, but consume education, material goods etc. elsewhere. There is now a post-regentrification situation of ‘social mixing’ where private tenants get tower flats with great views of the city and social housing tenants are surrounded by traffic islands.

Watt reasoned that understanding and explaining – for example the accelerating redevelopment of urban space – without reference to political economy and the working of neoliberal capitalism amounts to a form of ‘native nominalism’ which cannot account for the real forces of capital accumulation, state restructuring. The Focus E15 Newham mothers are an example of nomadic politics, of women who do not ‘know their place’. Identity politics is the politics of self vs. others. Drawing on Deleuze, Watt suggested that The E15 Campaign creates a political situation which is active experimentation since we do not know in advance which way a line is going to turn. Watt ended his talk leaving the last words to The Clash’s ‘Garageland’ (Strummer and Jones, 1977):

‘I don’t wanna hear about what the rich are doing
I don’t wanna go to where the rich are going
They think they’re so clever, they think they’re so right
But the truth is only known by guttersnipes’



  • Workshop One: Dr Paul Watt: ‘What Bourdieu can and cannot offer Urban Studies’ (theory-based workshop)
  • Workshop Two: Dr Michaela Benson and Dr Tracey Jensen: ‘Middle-class residential and school choices’ (forms and politics of distinctions)
  • Workshop Three: Stephen Crossley: ‘Crime’ and ‘deviance’ (symbolic power and social space)

The three workshops near the end of the day gave delegates a chance to discuss in more detail the themes and issues that had been raised in the keynote talks throughout the day. They also gave delegates the opportunity to consider their own research and a chance to ask questions about their own projects.


New and Past Publications by Study Group Members

Bennett, T., Gayo-Cal, M., Le Roux, B., Savage, M., Silva, E., Warde, A. and Wright, D. (2013) ‘La Distinction Revisitée: l’espace des styles de vie britannique en 2003’ in Coulangeon, Phillipe and Duval, Julien (eds) Trente ans apres La Distinction de Pierre Bourdieu’, Paris: La Découverte. Pp.179-205. ISBN 978-2-7071-7667-7

Bennett, T. and Silva, E (2011) ‘Cultural Capital: histories, limits, prospects’, Poetics, 39 (6): 427-443 ISSN 0304-422X


Bennett, T. and Silva, E. (eds) (2011) ‘Cultural Capital: Limits and Prospects’, Poetics, edition 39.6, issue of 9 articles,  ISSN 0304-422X Available here

Bennett, T. and Silva, E.B. (2006) ‘Cultural Capital and Inequality: Policy Issues and Contexts’ in Cultural Trends, vol 15 (2/3): 87-106, ISSN 0954-8963. Available here

Bennett, T. and Silva, E. (eds) Double Special issue (2006) ‘Culture, Taste and Social Divisions in Contemporary Britain’, Cultural Trends. Vol 15 (2/3), June/September. ISBN 0954-8963. Available here

Bennett, T.; Savage, M.; Silva, E.B.; Warde, A.; Gayo-Cal, M. and Wright, D. (2006) Media Culture. The Organisation of the Media Field in Contemporary Britain. A Report for the British Film Institute. BFI: London. Available here

Bennett, T.; Savage, M.; Silva, E.B.; Warde, A.; Gayo-Cal, M. and Wright, D. (2005) Cultural Capital and the Cultural Field in Contemporary Britain,CRESC Working paper 3, 28 pages.

Bonaldi, E.V. and Silva, E.B. (2014) ‘Gendering Habitus in Engineering: Experiences of Brazilian Students’, International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 6(1): 144-164, Spring. ISSN 2040-0748 Available here

Benson, M. (Online First) ‘Trajectories of middle-class belonging: the dynamics of place attachment and classed identities’, Urban Studies. DOI: 10.1177/0042098013516522 Available here 

Benson, M. (2013) ‘Living the ‘Real’ Dream in La France Profonde: Lifestyle Migration, Social Distinction, and the Authenticities of Everyday Life’, Anthropological Quarterly 86(2): 501-525. Available here

Benson, M. and Jackson, E. (2013) ‘Place-making and place maintenance: Practices of place and belonging among the middle classes’, Sociology 47(4): 793-809 Available here 

Brosnan, C. (2014) ‘Medical education and Pierre Bourdieu’, in W. Cockerham, R. Dingwall and S. Quah (eds) The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior and Society. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell: 1361–1366.  Available here

Brosnan, C. (2011) ‘The significance of scientific capital in UK medical education’ in Special issue: ‘Beyond the canon: Pierre Bourdieu and Science and Technology Studies’ edited by Mathieu Albert & Daniel Kleinman in Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning & Policy 49 (3): 317-332. DOI: 10.1007/s11024-011-9177-z Available here

Brosnan, C. (2010) ‘Making sense of differences between medical schools through Bourdieu’s concept of “field”’ Medical Education 44: 645-52. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03680.x Available here


Brosnan, C. (2009) ‘Pierre Bourdieu and the theory of medical education: Thinking “relationally” about medical students and medical curricula’ in Brosnan, C. and Turner, B.S. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Medical Education. London: Routledge: 51-68. Available here

Branch, A. (2014) ‘Stop flexing your roots, man’: Reconversion strategies, consecrated heretics and the violence of UK first-wave punk. Punk and Post Punk, Volume 3, Number 1, April, pp. 21-39. Available here

Branch, A. (2014) “It’s where you come from that makes you who you are”: suburban youth and social class. In: The Subcultures Network (ed.) Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars, pp.65-88. Available here

Branch, A. (2012) All the young dudes: educational capital, masculinity and the uses of popular music, Popular Music, Volume 31, Issue 1, January pp 25-44. Available here

Dominguez Rubio, F. and Silva, E.B (2013) ‘Materials in the field: object-trajectories and object-positions in the field of contemporary art‘, Cultural Sociology, 7(2): 161-178. ISSN 1749-9755. Awarded the 2014 SAGE Prize for Innovation and Excellence (among all papers published in 2013). Available here

Jackson, E. and Benson, M. (2014) ‘Neither ‘Deepest, Darkest Peckham’, nor ‘Run of the Mill’ East Dulwich: the middle class and their ‘others’ in an inner London neighbourhood’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38(4): 1195-1210 Available here 

Krause, M. 2014. The Good Project. Humanitarian NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Available here

Krause, M. 2011. “Reporting and the Transformations of the Journalistic Field: US News Media, 1890-2000”, Media, Culture, and Society 33 (1): 89-104, Available here

McGovern P., Nazroo J. (2015, forthcoming) Patterns and causes of health inequalities in later life: a Bourdieusian analysis Sociology of Health & Illness DOI 10.1111/1467-9566.12187 Available here
McGovern P. (2014) Path analysis: Quantitative research into health inequalities Sociology Review, 23(4), ISBN 978-1-4441-9927-7

McGovern P. (2013) What did you say: a deaf researcher reflects on participant observation in a small voluntary organisation SAGE Cases in Methodology DOI 10.4135/978144627305013505054 Available here

Nachi, Mohamed (2014) ‘Beyond Pragmatic Sociology: A Theoretical Compromise between ‘Critical Sociology’ and the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’’, in Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner (eds.) The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’, London: Anthem Press, pp. 293-312. Available here

Robbins, Derek (2014) ‘Pierre Bourdieu and the Early Luc Boltanski (1960–1975): Collective Ethos and Individual Difference’, in Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner (eds.) The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’, London: Anthem Press, pp. 265-291. Available here

Robbins, Derek (2014) Cultural Relativism and International Politics, Sage.  ISBN: 9781473907812. Available here

Samaluk, B. (2014) ‘Racialised ‘price-tag’: commodification of migrant workers on transnational employment agencies’ websites’, in M. Pajnik and F. Anthias (eds.) Work and the challenges of belonging: Migrants in globalizing economies. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Available here

Samaluk, B.  (2014) ‘Whiteness, ethnic privilege and migration: a Bourdieuian framework’, Journal of Managerial Psychology 29 (4): 370-88. Available here

Savage, M. and Silva, E.B (2013) ‘Field analysis in cultural sociology‘, Cultural Sociology, 7(2): 111-126. ISSN 1749-9755. Available here

Savage, M., Silva, E. and Warde, A. (2010) ‘Dis-identification and class identity’ in Silva, E. and Warde, A. (eds) Cultural Analysis and Bourdieu’s Legacy. Settling accounts and developing alternatives. London: Routledge. 978-0-415-49535-0, Ch 5, pp. 60-74 Available here

Silva, E and Savage, M. (eds) (2013) ‘Field analysis in Cultural Sociology’, Cultural Sociology, 7(2), 9 articles,  ISSN 1749-9755 Available here

Silva, E. B. and Le Roux, B (2011) ‘Cultural Capital of Couples: Tensions in elective affinities’ in Poetics, 39 (6): 547-565. Also: ISSN 0304-422X.

Silva, E. (2012) Review of The Legacy of Pierre Bourdieu: Critical Essays, by Simon Sussen and Bryan Turner (eds), Journal of Classical Sociology, 12(3-4) 563-569. Available here

Silva, E. (2011) ‘Culture, Fields and Distinctions: A European Network’, CRESC News, August, issue 13, p.8.

Silva, E. and Warde, A. (eds) (2010) Cultural Analysis and Bourdieu’s Legacy: Settling accounts and developing alternatives. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-49535-0. For e-book 978-0-203-87862-0. Paperback 2012. Available here

Silva, E. and Warde, A. (2010) ‘Introduction: The Importance of Bourdieu’ in Silva, E.B. and Warde, A. (eds) Cultural Analysis and Bourdieu’s Legacy. London: Routledge, 978-0-415-49535-0, pp.1-13 Available here

Silva, E. and Warde, A. (2010) ‘Epilogue: Bourdieu’s Legacy?’ in Silva, E.B. and Warde, A. (eds) Cultural Analysis and Bourdieu’s Legacy. London: Routledge, 978-0-415-49535-0, pp.157-160 Available here

Silva, E., Warde, A. and Wright, D. (2009) ‘Using mixed methods for analyzing culture: The Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion Project’, Cultural Sociology, 3(2): 299-316, ISSN 1749-9755 Available here

Silva, E.B. and Wright, D. (2009) ‘Display, desire and distinction in housing’, Cultural Sociology, 3(1): 31-50, ISSN 1749-9755. Available here

Silva, E. (2008) ‘Cultural capital and visual art in the contemporary UK’, Special Issue on ‘The consequences of instrumental museum and gallery policy’,Cultural Trends 17 (4): 267-287, ISSN 0954-8963. Available here

Silva, E.B. and Wright, D. (2008) ‘Researching Cultural Capital: Complexities in mixing methods’ in Methodological Innovations, vol 2, issue 3, published 13/12.2007).  Available here

Silva, E.B. (2007) ‘Gender, class, emotional capital and consumption in family life’ in Casey, E. and Martens, L. (eds) Gender and Consumption: Domestic Cultures and the Commercialisation of Everyday Life Hampshire: Ashgate. ISBN: 0 7546 4386 7, 141-162. Available here

Silva, E.B. (2006) ‘Homologies of social space and elective affinities: researching cultural capital’ in Sociology, 40(6): 1171-1189, ISSN 0038-0385. Available here

Silva, E.B. (2006) ‘Distinction through Visual Arts’ in Cultural Trends, vol 15 (2/3): 141-158, ISSN 0954-8963. Available here

Silva, E.B. (2005) ‘Gender, Home and Family in Cultural Capital Theory’ British Journal of Sociology, 56 (1): 83-103. ISSN 0007-1315 [This article was the 4th most downloaded, with 954 hits, in 2005 from Blackwell Synergy Publisher]. Available here

Silva, E.B. and Wright, D.(2005) ‘The judgement of taste and social position in focus group research’ Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale, Special double issue, 76/77, pp.241-253. Milan: Angeli. ISSN 1121-1148. Available here

Silva, E.B. (2005) ‘CCSE Phase 3 Household Study, Technical Report’. Methodology paper, 59 pages. Available here  

Silva, E.B. and Edwards, R. (2004) ‘Operationalizing Bourdieu on Capitals: A Discussion on “The Construction of the Object”’. ESRC Research Methods Programme. Working Paper 7, 18 pages.   Available here

Susen, Simon and Bryan S. Turner (eds.) (2014) The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’, London: Anthem Press. Available here


Susen, Simon (2014 [2014]) ‘Towards a Dialogue Between Pierre Bourdieu’s “Critical Sociology” and Luc Boltanski’s “Pragmatic Sociology of Critique”’, in Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner (eds.)The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’, trans. Simon Susen, London: Anthem Press, pp. 313-348.   Available here

Susen, Simon (2014) ‘Reflections on Ideology: Lessons from Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski’, Thesis Eleven, 124(1): 90-113.  (Most-Read Article during November 2014). Available here

Varriale, S. (2014) Bourdieu and the sociology of cultural evaluation: lessons from the Italian popular music press Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, 1/2014, 121-148. Available here


Wayne Peter Dirk. July 2013.Constructing and Transforming the Curriculum for Higher education: A South African Case Study. PhD Thesis Available here

White, Ruth (2012) ‘Fly-on-the-wall’: social class in the art of Gillian Wearing. Salford Postgraduate Research Conference presentation – pages 22 – 30 available here