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The Bourdieu paradigm

The origins and evolution of an intellectual social project

Derek Robbins

In two parts, the book examines, first, the attempts of three thinkers of the first half of the twentieth century to reconcile, in different socio-cultural contexts, the legacy of idealist philosophy with the claims of empirical social science, and, secondly, the trajectory of Bourdieu’s career in France from philosophy student to sociological researcher to political activist. It traces a progression from thought to action, but an emphasis on action informed by thought. It poses the question whether Bourdieu’s attempted integration of intellectualism and empiricism correlated with his particular socio-historical situation or whether it offers a global paradigm for advancing inter-cultural understanding. The book is of interest in confronting the question whether socio-political organization is best understood by social scientists or by participants in society, by experts or by the populace. It will stimulate general consideration of the relevance of a sociological perspective in everyday life and how much that perspective should be dependent on inherited concepts. Part I analyses the work of Alfred Schutz, Aron Gurwitsch and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Part II that of Pierre Bourdieu. The book is methodologically meticulous in situating these works socio-historically. It provides an introduction to some ideas in social philosophy and shows how these ideas became instrumental in generating a theory of practice. The book is aimed at post-graduate students and staff in all disciplines in the Humanities, and Human and Social sciences, but, more generally, it should interest all academics concerned about the contemporary social function of intellectuals.

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Between gang and family

Queering ethnicity and British Muslim masculinities in Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil (2012)

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Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter explores Sally El Hosaini's My Brother the Devil (2012), after a preliminary analysis of Muslim female homosexuality in her fictional short Henna Night (2009). The chapter suggests that, while focusing on the relationship between two British brothers of Egyptian heritage living in East London, El Hosaini’s narrative interrogates intersecting issues of ethnicity, religion, national identity, gender, and sexual orientation in a manner that disorganises Western expectations about British Muslim youth. The chapter illustrates how the older brother’s same-sex relationship with a French Arab challenges European ethnic absolutism. In the face of the central youth gang’s conjoining of masculinity, violence, and criminality, it is suggested Islam provides competing versions of Muslim masculinity that gradually relinquish violence and prize interpersonal empathy, while resisting Western views on Muslim women as invariably repressed and segregated. Finally, the film’s dealing with queerness, which rejects a Westernised ‘coming out’ narrative arc, is shown as challenging homonationalist models of sexuality prescribing cultural and sexual assimilation to the West’s constructed ‘Other’.

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‘Are we on the same wavelength?’

Interstitial queerness and the Ismaili diaspora in Ian Iqbal Rashid’s poetry and films

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Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter examines the poetry and film of Canadian Ismaili Ian Iqbal Rashid. It argues that Rashid’s debut feature film, Touch of Pink (2004), queers the heteronormative genre of the Hollywood romantic comedy while focusing on an underrepresented community, namely the East African Ismaili diaspora in Canada and Britain. The chapter suggests Rashid’s characters are placed at the interstices between Ismaili traditionalism, colonial and postcolonial modernity, and diasporic postmodernity. It begins with an analysis of Stag (2002), a short film resonating with Rashid’s poetry, and its critique of the lingering legacies of colonialism in postcolonial Britain. It also analyses Rashid’s first short film, Surviving Sabu (1997), arguing that it rehearses a building of bridges between two generations of diasporic Muslims. Lastly, it undertakes a reading of Touch of Pink suggesting that it constructs migrant Muslim women as less imperviously traditional than Muslims brought up in the West would want us to believe. It is argues that Alim, the film’s protagonist, needs to outgrow the constraining colonial legacies of Western film, while his white British boyfriend Giles is required to become attuned to the cultural distinctiveness of Alim’s experience as a member of an ethno-religious minority.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter discusses Bourdieu’s ‘activism’ of the 1990s. He consolidated earlier thinking about the field of politics with a view to inserting himself within that field. He reasserted his earlier disquiet about the consecrated status of academic philosophy with a view to exemplifying the need, instead, for the exercise of thought in action. The chapter discusses Bourdieu’s publishing ventures and his involvement with the International Parliament of Writers. It considers his interventions against neo-liberalism and analyses La sociologie est un sport de combat as an attempt to represent in film a mode of intellectualist social action.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter examines in detail the tension in Bourdieu’s thinking between ‘intellectualism’ and ‘practical sense’. It looks at three articles of the late 1970s as a prelude to consideration of his work in the new decade. It examines his analyses of Heidegger and his restatement of his thinking about cultural capital. It examines some of his ‘field’ articles and considers the implications of his appointment to a Chair at the Collège de France and the impact of his encounters with American academics.

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Derek Robbins

Bourdieu began in the 1970s to articulate an epistemological position which would protect the ‘practical sense’ of ordinary experience from the intrusions of the academic gaze. This chapter follows this development. Bourdieu developed a theory of social scientific understanding which would allow him to reconcile his inclination to respect the self-understandings of social agents with his equally strong inclination to subject social behaviour to systematic explanation. This chapter first examines Bourdieu’s articulation of his critique of structuralism. It then considers some of the texts in which he attempted to reconcile a constructivist orientation with its origins in structuralism.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter analyses the research which Bourdieu directed within the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, Paris. It discusses the publications which followed on education, photography and museums/art galleries, but it also examines in detail some ‘collateral’ texts where Bourdieu’s intellectual endeavour informed the development of the conceptual framework which he deployed in his empirical research.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter explores the beginnings of Bourdieu’s career. It was his enforced period of military service in Algeria which extinguished any aspiration to become a philosopher which may have lingered after his time at the École Normale Supérieure. What he saw in algeria and how he saw it crystallized the awareness of the tension between familial and scholarly experience which he had already sensed in his youth. His time in Algeria enabled him to recognize the abyss between the way in which indigenous culture operated intrinsically and the way in which this was interpreted in terms of their own rational criteria by observing anthropologists. The chapter focuses most on Bourdieu’s Sociologie de l’algérie and his Travail et travailleurs en algérie.

Open Access (free)

War

Ian Scott and Henry Thompson

By any standard, Stone has been a product of war; intrigued by it, physically and psychologically marked by it, propelled to action by it, and galvanised in opposition to it. The chapter takes Platoon as its starting point before considering how ideas of war have informed the construction and reception of later films like World Trade Center (2006) and W. (2008) as well as the Untold History (2012) documentary series. Stone’s perspective on war provides a firm footing from which to interpret not just his films or the wider Hollywood machinery, but to think more carefully about the American polity and its constant, historical and reiterating focus on the mantras of ‘just war’ and the ‘war on terror’

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Edited by: Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer

Chapter 5, by Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer, addresses veto player approaches. The main contribution of veto player approaches to the study of public policy has been to provide a toolkit for the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across regime types and policy areas. Specifically, veto player approaches suggest that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity depend on the veto player constellation, that is, the number of veto players and veto points, the distribution of preferences between veto players and their ability and incentives to employ veto power. While veto player arguments have already found their way into FPA, the chapter makes the case that the theoretical and empirical potential of such arguments for the study of foreign policy has not yet been systematically exploited. Against this background, the chapter first outlines the core tenets of veto player approaches and overview show they have been applied in public policy. Then, the discussion focuses on the transferability of such approaches to the field of foreign policy. This is followed by an empirical illustration of a veto player analysis of Germany’s policy regarding the foreign deployment of its armed forces.