American Educational Research Association > SIG185 > Bourdieu in Educational Research
Bourdieu in Educational Research
SIG Purpose

For many of us working in the educational research community, Bourdieu’s theoretical tools have allowed us to take up the task of “uncovering the most deeply buried structures of the different social worlds that make up the social universe as well as the ‘mechanisms’ that tend to ensure their reproduction or transformation” (Bourdieu 1998, p. 1).  Bourdieu’s main problematic for researching education institutions was a critical analysis of how they tend to reproduce social-structural power inequalities. Across his career, Bourdieu developed and refined conceptual tools and methodological approaches to address this and other vital problems for sociological research, including major texts that give focal attention to education institutions (Bourdieu, 1990; Bourdieu, 1985; Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990).

This SIG will contribute to AERA’s core aims “to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good'. Furthermore, it will work toward building a closer community in sociology of education within AERA and beyond. Bourdieu was a broad-based scholar: he worked across quantitative and qualitative methods, and he published extensively in education, media, politics and policy. Bourdieu led the way in scholarship that links sociology, analyses of curriculum and pedagogy, and historical and cultural studies. His writings provide important integrations of philosophical, theoretical, and methodological issues for research of important social issues confronting education: the reproduction of status differences; issues of race and language, the symbolic violence of misrecognizing, and failing to recognize, student’s cultural-historical backgrounds; and much more.

Bourdieu’s work moved across areas of the sociology of social science; the need for methodological openness combined with rigor; and the need to think theoretically about social-scientific methods that fit the problematic being addressed. His own extensive empirical studies entailed complex mixes of methods: for example, his creative statistical “analysis of correspondence” joined to qualitative interview data in researching how people create capital out of social-cultural distinctions (see Bourdieu 1984). In the process, Bourdieu challenged binary separations such as qualitative/quantitative, or subjectivist/objectivist. Bourdieu’s “toolbox” approach to investigating social phenomena, which centers the problematic rather than fetishizing theories per se, or methodologies per se, has incited much inter-disciplinary research addressing problematics such as equity and inclusion in education; educational policy in relation to media; distinctions between elite and non-elite schooling; the roles of language and literacy; social psychology; sport; and, more recently, immigration, transnationalism and the globalization of educational spaces and fields.

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