Feminist analysis and Bourdieu: 1. Resistance

I am using Bourdieu’s theoretical framework to explore cultural entrepreneurship. However, I am aware that I’m no expert in Bourdieu’s theories, and I wanted to explore a feminist critique of his work to help me understand my own approach. Beverley Skeggs has done a lot of work using Bourdieu as well as using feminist and poststructuralist theory, to understand value and values beyond economic perceptions.

In an article in The Sociological Review, 2004, Skeggs states that:

Bourdieu is useful because of the parallels between feminist approaches to epistemology and methodology, in which theoretical frameworks and political programmes are always embedded in social relations. (Skeggs, 2004, p. 20)

For Skeggs, Bourdieu’s work includes three main strands:

  1. Linking of objective structures to subjective experience (structure and agency)
  2. metaphorical model of social space in which human beings embody and carry volumes and compositions of different capitals  – capitals
  3. methodological insights in which reflexivity, as a prerequisite to knowledge, provides us with a way of examining the positions from which we speak  – reflexivity

Skeggs is more specifically interested in issues relating to gender and class, which are not part of my study. However, I have found some thought provoking insights in her arguments. I have two issues  that I am trying to apply to my own study. In this post I explore the idea of ‘resistance’; people who do not ‘fit’ neatly into a position within the field, may be more likely to resistant dominant discourse or individuals.

Bourdieu would argue that dominated groups are more likely to be resistant because they are less invested in the games of power. (Skeggs, 2004, p.25)

In feminist research that might be women who do not identify with conventional and dominant male power. In my research, this could be influential individuals (policy makers, those deemed to be powerful within the social context) and/or the rhetoric of enterprise which has permeated the language of cultural work. Could it be the case that, for example, if a cultural worker is not looking for funding or support from local agents, he/she is in a better position to act autonomously. However, again referring to feminist research and women’s experience, Skeggs notes that this is not always the case. Rather, ambivalence and contradictions are found in women who can both:

produce a perfect critique of masculine traits and dispositions, yet this does not lead to resistance or change as Bourdieu would predict; rarely to women take on the ‘view of the dominant on the dominant on themselves’ (Bourdieu, 2001:42). (Skeggs, 2004, p. 26)

For me, this complexity is useful because it echoes Banks’ idea that cultural entrepreneurs are not ‘desocialized drones’ and that there is an opportunity for ‘uncovering alternative rationales’ for entrepreneurship and ‘morally diverse approaches to capitalism’ (Banks, 2006, p. 467).  My understanding is that I can expect an ambiguous response to entrepreneurship and to dominant cultural policies from the cultural workers I am studying.

 

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