Research Seminar: Friday 13 October – Sarah Leaney

The School of Education presented this seminar on Friday 13th October:

Habitus as foregrounded history: theorising the affective in the social formation of embodied practice
With Sarah Leaney

Sarah Leaney is a Sociology Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Science. She joined the University of Brighton in 2016 and teaches sociological theory and methods across the undergraduate programme.  Her particular interests are in the formation of classed identities.

Habitus as foregrounded history: theorising the affective in the social formation of embodied practice

Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of habitus provides a valuable tool in the connection of subjective experience with structural positioning. As a means to articulate the dualism of structure and agency, habitus became central in my analysis of formations of class during my ethnographic research on a British council estate.  In this paper, I reflect on data collected with a group of primary school children at two sites on the estate, the school and the community centre. Through an analysis of the inter-relationality of these fields, I explore the active role the children take in the management of their embodied practice. I consider processes of distinction, disagreement and resistance in the formation of social positionings, suggesting that the affective consequences of feeling difference should be central to theorisations of habitus. In this way, I use this paper to extend Bourdieu’s engagement with the question of how the social forms the body, to explore the affective consequences of this formation.

My aim in doing this is to outline a reading of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus with post-structural conceptualisations of class as performative. Drawing upon feminist work with and against Bourdieu, I suggest that habitus may be helpfully (re)conceptualised as ‘foregrounded history’. This foregrounding of the ‘history’ of habitus refers to a shift in analytic attention from continuity and regularity onto moments of rupture and change as the site of identity formation. I argue that a focus on the everyday making and remaking of classed identities may enable an analysis of the affective labour in formations of habits.

You can view Sarah’s slides and listen to her talk here (with apologies for slightly ropey audio)