Archive for the ‘ Feminist theory ’ Category

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.


Feminist Theories of Entrepreneurship and Subjectivity



One aspect of my research is to challenge dominant discourses in entrepreneurship studies. Much of the academic literature exploring entrepreneurship is US-based and explores high growth business models or the impact of entrepreneurship on the economy. Research methodologies favoured by this type of research tends to be quantitative – ‘scientific’. In contrast, women researchers of female entrepreneurship argue that a subjective approach can expose different insights. Bringing their own subjective experience enables women to investigate the subject of entrepreneurship from a new perspective.

…drawing on personal knowledge, in the light of feminist theory, allows women to express their experiences of living gendered lives in conditions of social inequality” (Ramazanoglu and Holland, 2004).

Inspired by this approach, I draw on my first hand knowledge and experience of cultural work, as someone who ran a small textiles business, to inform my study of cultural entrepreneurship. The intention is to listen more carefully to aspects of cultural work based on my own perspective and experience. Furthermore, the dynamic between researcher and interviewees is based on this shared and acknowledged understanding that the researcher is ‘one of us’ rather than an ‘objective’ observer. The idea that I know how it feels to be involved in cultural work, to some extent, removes the opportunity for exaggeration or for excessive invention from the interviewees. They know that I know. This is not born from a sense that cultural workers will ‘lie’ but rather that in my experience, they are often caught in ‘talking up’ their work and experience. In an environment in which the individual worker is often the brand and continuously selling their skills, there can be a lack of critical reflection.

In addition to having some insights into cultural entrepreneurship first hand, I also know the interviewees, having selected them from my personal contacts. Again, this has revealed an opportunity to be informal and created a ‘gossip’ style of interview. Throughout the interview, we will refer to individuals we both know. The process enables a form of self-identification in relation or in comparison to others.