Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Cultureby Nicholas Brown
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The work of Pierre Bourdieu, one of the most influential French intellectuals of the twentieth century, has had an enormous impact on research in fields as diverse as aesthetics, education, anthropology, and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Art, Literature, and Culture is the first collection of essays to focus specifically on the contribution of Bourdieu's thought to the study of cultural production. Though Bourdieu's own work has illuminated diverse cultural phenomena, the essays in this volume extend to new cultural forms and to national situations outside France. Far from simply applying Bourdieu's concepts and theoretical tools to these new contexts, the essays in this volume consider both the possibility and limits of Bourdieu's sociology for the study of culture.
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Nicholas Brown is assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Imre Szeman is assistant professor of English at McMaster University.
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Many of the essays are well worth reading; indeed, the last essay, Bourdieu's own contribution, makes essential reading. A persistent sub-theme in the collection is Bourdieu's North-American reception and the concomitant appropriation of his work by literary and cultural-studies scholars as well as sociologists. Bourdieu's commentary on this phenomenon is a brilliant piece of rhetoric; the primary grounds on which it can be criticized are, ironically, his own. Its very imperfections, e.g. its distorted understanding of the U.S. intellectual field, turn out precisely to prove his point about the incommensurability of knowledges produced within different institutional configurations. 'Proving him wrong' about his North American perception would only, in the larger context, prove him right! -------------------------
This book is excellent for any lay reader who is interested in philosophy, critical theory, or cultural studies, and wants to see what Bourdieu is all about and why he's so important. It might be more useful to start with the second half first to get a feel for how Bourdieu's models are used, and then go back to the first half to read the more theoretical material. But for someone who has wanted to know what the fuss was about but wasn't sure it was quite worth slogging through 'Outline of a Theory of Practice' or whatever, this is a great place to start.