I will use this blog to explore topics and issues arising from my various assignments as part of my EdD at CEMP, Bournemouth University.
The first task is about habitus. If my understanding of habitus is correct even on a basic level, perhaps it is my own habitus which is inhibiting my ability to understand an article about ‘habits’ – which would seem somewhat ironic.
Habitus is the complex social and personal world which grows around an individual and/or their society, in response to various factors, to influence the way in which they subsequently interact and engage with other individuals/societies. In other words, none of us enters a relationship clean, cold and uncluttered by prior beliefs, deeply set expectations and our own ways of being and knowing. For example, I approach life as seen through the lens of my own experience, and the colour, opacity, magnification of that lens will necessarily change the way I interpret life. If others, then, view through their own lens, then the result of our interactions is, in the end, double-lensed, ever more complex as the result of our prior experience; of our ‘habitus’.
In a research context, is it enough for me to realise that I bring to the process a complex ‘habitus’ of my own, and to appreciate the need to dissect that (much like the autobiographical process Le Gallais advocated in her article (2008)) before I engage with the subject of my research? And also to be aware that all those with whom I interact when I conduct my research also carry their own habitus, like an untidy house full of hoarded clutter, and I need to endeavour to understand that as much as I do their responses to my questions and investigations, if I am to achieve clarity amid all the cloudiness? If so, then perhaps I am agreeing that “one cannot grasp the most profound logic of the social world unless one becomes immersed in the specicity of an empirical reality”. (Bourdieu, 1993, p. 271)
If I have correctly understood what ‘habitus’ is, then does the understanding of mutual habiti need to precede the research itself, or can one try to understand a subject’s habitus and responses simultaneously? On a lighter note, even my keyboard seems intent on simplifying things: every time I type ‘habitus’ it is intent on autocorrecting to habits. Perhaps that is significant…
To summarise, the understanding I have grasped of Bourdieu’s habitus is, I think, sufficient for me to be able to reflect on its relevance to my own research. If, as it seems to me, my ‘habitus’ is tantamount to a thick, coloured and distorted set of spectacles, fashioned out of 41 years of personal life experiences and interactions, and contaminated also by those of my society/ies, then it highlights the need for me either to find a way to remove those glasses when I conduct my research, or to acknowledge the clutter and dirt which will necessarily befoul my research. If Le Gallais (ibid) is correct in noting the importance of accepting and embracing one’s autobiography before, during and after any research journey, then I must sift through my own ontological and epistemological baggage myself, when embarking on each piece of my research. For example, reflecting back on my visit to King’s Madrid, I wonder whether I am influencing too much the responses I elicited through the bias of my questioning: in other words, can a passionate proponent of and advocate for radically democratic education conduct a dispassionate and impartial interview about the extent to which a child’s learning can/should be democratised? I would like to think I can; but I wonder, now, whether, perhaps, I cannot; and I am also beginning to wonder whether, given the possible inevitability and, indeed, importance of my habitus holding sway, it even matters either way.
Le Gallais, T. (2008): Wherever I go there I am: reflections on reflexivity and the research stance, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 9:2, 145-155
Bourdieu, P. (1993) Concluding remarks: for a sociogenetic understanding of intellectual works, in: C. Calhoun, E. Lipuma & M. Postone (Eds) Bourdieu: critical perspectives (Cambridge: Polity Press)