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Bourdieu and Data Analysis

Methodological Principles and Practice

Edited By Michael Grenfell and Frédéric Lebaron

Uniquely amongst the numerous publications to appear on the work of the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, this book deals with data analysis, examining a range of techniques and instruments. After an introductory chapter outlining the key principles of Bourdieu’s theory, the book presents detailed examples of data being collected and analysed in a Bourdieusian way across various social science contexts. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are addressed, including analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each method, as are common data collection procedures such as interview, observation and questionnaire. Examples of Multiple Correspondence Analysis are an important feature of the book, since this was an approach particularly favoured by Bourdieu. In each case study, the pros and cons of different approaches are highlighted and the qualitative/quantitative debate is thoroughly explored. Overall, the book offers readers a blueprint to develop their own methodological plans for using Bourdieu in research practice.
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Reference was made at the outset of this book to the way that Bourdieu’s approach to studying the social world promises to ‘restore to men the meaning of their actions’ and, implicitly, a collection such as the present one suggests that this way of viewing things has a premium over others. In the first part of this book, we aimed to explain the general background to Bourdieu’s viewpoint: where it came from, what it gave rise to, and the principles on which it was based. Here, we saw that a Bourdieusian perspective has to be founded on two salient elements: firstly, a philosophical base with an epistemologically charged set of analytical concepts; secondly, a commitment to empirical investigation. The first of these is based around structure as an organizing concept to express the multilayered relations that are set up within and between individuals. The second requires an openness to intervene in site specific contexts of the social world with an open mind and to look for and see beyond the conventional ways of interpreting it. And, of course, the two are co-terminus with the theory of practice guiding both the object and the subject of research. Part II then offered a series of practical exemplifications of applications of this theory of practice based around a methodological approach, which can broadly be termed ‘qualitative’. Here, such key concepts as ‘field’, ‘habitus’ and ‘capital’ were brought to analyses of education and art to elucidate the underlying generating structures of a...

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