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Friday, November 18, 2011

Anthropology Study: Pierre Bourdieu

There is no singular argument I can posit from Bourdieu’s research. It’s evident that Bourdieu believes that anthropology is filled with diabolically obsessing theoretical forces and that culture is neither the “exclusive product of free will nor of underlying principles” (Moore 2009: p326). Culture is not the exclusive product of any such code or rule, but a dynamically changing force, which meets the needs of those who construct the boundaries. I do, however, have several observations.

First, Bourdieu explains the “game”, which is not the individual’s actions or a sole strategy. A game is, in my opinion, a practice and can have such codes and rules. Furthermore, a game can only be won using strategy, and the person who created the rules in the first place often enforces that strategy. Is there confusion in the game? There’s always some level of confusion within strategy, but Bourdieu postulates that strategy exists without confusion. No game, strategy, or practice is without its obstacles in my humble opinion.

Second, Bourdieu had a structuralism agenda. That agenda allowed him to observe Algerian society by contrasting the rudimentary structures of the phenomena in a system of binary opposition. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it does create contradictory social observations within society. These contradictory results forced, or rather, irked Bourdieu is such a way, that he sought for “perfect coherence in the system” (Moore 2009: p330). He took opposing ideas in structuralism, rather than using ethnographic evidence from Kabyle society.

In actuality, Bourdieu should have used his ethnographic evidence to understand the meanings of east and west and north and south. There were clearly contradictions in the way the Kabyle observed direction and what it meant, from a ritual and social aspect. Yet, Bourdieu believes that the creation of systems of knowledge is always politically based and this is hardly the case, especially when you read the geographic details of specific situations within Kabyle culture. What are some examples of this?

Why is it that seating a guest on the eastern wall is an offense? The Kabyle call this “the wall of darkness” (Moore 2009: p337). You would think, since east is associated with the sun rise, the source of all prosperity and the cardinal direction for ritual, that east would we associated with a completely alternative meaning that Bourdieu has explained. Furthermore, is there an assumption that guests who sit on the eastern wall, which is associated with a sinister area of the house, can remove or derail prosperity from the homeowner?

In essence I believe the Kabyle are a society who make their culture through practice, but I don’t believe that Bourdieu understands the opposing strategies that the Kabyle use to explain simple rituals or rules, because he was seeking equilibrium outside of structuralism. I also believe that Bourdieu is misusing the concept of culture because contradictory situations like the geographical explanations for sharing one’s abode, is not recognized as a masking of a society member’s actual objectives.


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