File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1998/bourdieu.9801, message 13

Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 10:39:56 +0100 (MET)
Subject: Re: Bourdieu and Mauss

Some long time ago (dec. 95, jan. 96, may 96) there was some
discussions/comments on this list corncerning incorporation, body etc. I
will send these messages as attached files, since I do not have them saved
as emails anymore. I change computer in the meantime.

In my master thesis (1994) I worked with Bourdieu and the question of body
and incorporation. Un fortunately it is written in Danish! My intentions
was to developt a humanistic and social scientific concept of nature based
on Ernst Blochs philosophy of nature and Pierre Bourdieus concept of
habitus. The main goal was to dissolve the dualism between human and

In this respect I found Bourdieus thoughts on incorporation and habitus
extremely usefull, because habitus can be used to think a integration
between the physical, social an mental aspekct ofthe human existence. The
social is at hte same time a mental and physical matter.

I am very sorry, that I do not have any reference to someone, who wrote
about these matters in english or german. Though Judith Butler might be
interesting, but I did not read her myself. I only heard others speak/write
of her.

Best wishes

>And another question: Do you know of others who deal with the aspect of
>incorporation in Bourdieus concept of habitus and can you give me any
>Ulle J=E4ger
>Department of Sociology at Frankfurt University

From: Malcolm Dunnachie Thompson <> Subject: Re: 'Actual past'
To: foucault-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 12:19:13
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Reply-To: foucault-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU

One more thing before I extricate myself from this thread. Vis-a-vis the
supposed linguistic idealism of my posts and quetzil's posts, I think the
notion of construction articulated by Judith Butler in _Bodies that Matter:
On the Discursive Limits of "Sex"_ is pertinent. What I am suggesting (and
what I think quetzil is arguing) is not linguistic idealism - rather, it is
a poststructuralist speech-act theory (of sorts - I'm reducing things here
of course). As Butler says:

"To claim that the materiality of sex is constructed through a ritualized
repetition of norms is hardly a self-evident claim. Indeed, our customary
notions of "construction" seem to get in the way of understanding such a
claim. For surely bodies live and die; eat and sleep; feel pain, pleasure;
endure illness and violence; and these "facts," one might skeptically
claim, cannot be dismissed as mere construction. Surely there must be some
kind of necessity that accompanies these primary and irrefutable
experiences. And surely there is. But there irrefutability in no way
implies what it might mean to affirm them and through what discursive
means. Moreover, why is it that what is constructed is understood as an
artificial and dispensible character?"

Thus, to postulate an actual past is a discursive act articulated towards
and within the present set of discursive regularities - and thus acquires
whatever meaning it acquires not from its nominal object (the past) but
from its function within a discursive regime. When one wants to understand
the function and tactical efficacy of a given history, the reality or
unreality of its object is totally irrelevant. Now, this is not to deny the
reality of an actual past. It is only to state that, within a Foucauldian
project (analysing the function and tactical efficacy of discourses), such
an object is beside the point. Under what conditions, and in whose
interests, can a specific history be produced? How does it circulate? What
criteria of evidence and truth does it rely on and construct anew?

Also, Derrida knows (why don't his disciples, or at least his quoters?)
that his project is always already doomed to failure, in that every attempt
to reach beyond language only circumscribes the other within it. But, of
course, it is doomed to failure and not doomed to failure at the same time.
Double-gesture, anyone?

Linguistic idealism or lingusitic monism is a silly charge to level at
quetzil and myself. Try actually *reading* our posts.

bye bye. my next post will be regarding the question of race in the context
of a Foucauldian analysis of pornography, that chloe brought up. Excellent
question - hopefully it'll generate more productive discussion than the
"actual past". I'm sorry I brought it up.

fight the power.

Date: Mon, 25 Dec 1995 18:22:10 -0600
To: From: Carolyn Pevey
<> Subject: Re: Using Pierre
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Hello all,

I am mainly a lurker on this list. After (finally) getting a copy of IRS, I
have almost finished the first chapter. It looks very promising to me. This
is my first brush with Bourdieu.

My interest in Bourdieu follows from an interest in Merleau-Ponty and a
suspicion that they are both saying important things about how we
understand our embodied existence, although I am not sure what either is

I am wondering what I will find out about the importance of bodily
transcendance as I interview people who have been told by their physicians
that they have 6 months or less to live.

I have chosen these subjects because they are extreme cases of a situation
in which it is assumed that people call into question, or focus, the
meaning of their lives. Since I have had several years of experience as a
hospice nurse, I feel especially qualified to ask such questions of such a

If anyone can help me better understand exactly what Bourdieu is saying
about embodiment, I will be grateful.

So far, I see only that he's saying that our bodies are inscribed with the
social. Profound enough, but is there more?

Best Wishes,


Date: Mon, 1 Jan 1996 13:28:42 +1100 (EST) From: Maude Frances
<> Subject: Re: Using Pierre
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On Mon, 25 Dec 1995, Carolyn Pevey wrote:

>If anyone can help me better understand exactly what Bourdieu is saying about
>embodiment, I will be grateful.

>So far, I see only that he's saying that our bodies are inscribed with the
>social. Profound enough, but is there more?

Much much more ... You need to see embodiment as more than 'inscription',
which implies somethimg that is written on a surface - bodies are moving
and dynamic - actively participating in the generation of habitus. Bourdieu
talks about habitus as the embodiment of historical and social relations.
This embodiment needs to be understood in the context of particular
particular fields of action.

Wacquant expresses this clearly in The first chapter of IRS: 'A field
consists of a set of objective, historical relations between positions
anchored in certain forms of power (or capital), while habitus consists of
a set of historical relations "deposited" within individual bodies in the
form of mental and corporeal schemata, appreciation and action.' (16)

Habitus entails practical and enacted beliefs. In The Logic of Practice
Bourdieu refers to practical sense as 'social necessity turned into nature,
converted into motor schemes and body automatisms.' (69) Common sense is
thereby incorporated into everyday bodily practices through which a person
comes to know her or his place in the world. Embodiment, as a vehicle for
social reproduction, engages everyday movements and actions so that 'social
relations present themselves with every appearance of nature ...[and] ...
the most fundamental social choices are naturalized' (71)

I strongly recommend a reading of the chapter in The Logic of Practice
entitled 'Belief and the Body'. Bourdieu goes on to talk about the body
believing in what it does so that what is learned by the body 'is not
something that one has ... but something that one is' (73).

I hope this is of some use.


Date: Tue, 02 Jan 1996 11:49:08 -0500 (CDT) From:
Subject: Re: Using Pierre: embodiment
To: Mime-Version: 1.0
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I think Bourdieu does indeed use terms such as 'bodily' and 'embodied' in a
literal and very physical sense. The essay "Belief and the Body" in _The
Logic of Practice_ makes this rather clear.

Pratical belief is not a 'state of mind', still less a kind of arbitrary
adherence to a set of dogmas and doctrines ('beliefs'), but rather a state
of the body. (68)

Bourdieu describes himself as a 'generalized materialist' in order to
somewhat distance himself form the 'positivist' strains of early twentieth
century materialism, but his social ontology can easily be read as
complicit with current monistic cosmologies that more or less fall under
the heading 'non-linear dynamics'. Habitus is is nothing other than a
negentropic force, for example. Bourdieu's social ontology bears a striking
resemblance to Deleuze's ontology in _Difference and Repetition_ and _The
Logic of Sense_. Boith Deleuze and Bourdieu were greatly influence by
Leibniz and Spinoza. Thus I think Bourdieu does attempt to be quite
literal, but not dogmatic, thus perhaps confusing some about his of
concepts as theoretical tools.


Morten Ranum
Institut for Historie, Kultur og Samfundsbeskrivelse - Odense Universitet
Institute of History and Western Civilisation - Odense University
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