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MFS Modern Fiction Studies 47.2 (2001) 522-526

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Book Review

Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture

Nicholas Brown and Imre Szeman, eds. Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture. Lanham, MD.: Rowman, 2000. xii + 256 pp.

Neither an introduction to Bourdieusian theory nor exclusively for inveterate consumers of French theory, Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture is the product of a 1995 Duke University conference, "Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Art, Literature, and Culture," and is worth the attention of those who seek to become familiar with Bourdieu or to engage with a more well-rounded familiarity with the usefulness of his social theory. Divided into a preliminary section of theoretical exegeses and a larger and most productive section of case studies, the introduction by Brown and Szeman sets the stage for an intended progression from a dialogue of Bourdieu's methodology as a "Philosophy of Fieldwork" to one of "Fieldwork in Philosophy": an intellectual practice that might be true to lived human experience as it considers questions of philosophic import. On the subject of construing "fieldwork" as related in the title: those in social sciences take heed that, for Bourdieu, "fields" are tableau of cultural phenomena, but also "sites of struggle over specific kinds of power," generally evaluated within logics of the economy at hand. Thus, the "fields" to be cultivated here are those of television sitcoms (Carole A. Stabile); the academic discipline of French in the U.S. (Marie-Pierre Le Hir); the world of nineteenth-century women novelists (Marty Hipsky); a textualist reading of George Sand's Le Compagnon du Tour de France (Carolyn Betensky); and the genre of the author-study with Bo Ekelund, a literary biographer of John Gardner. [End Page 522]

The introductory pieces of the theory section launch the book on a dual trajectory of exploration of Bourdieu's work: that of the potential for increased application of Bourdieu's methodology outside that of the French National setting to specific engagement within the American cultural terrain; and, a broadening of cultural forms which might be evaluated within Bourdieusian thought on cultural production. To the former theme, the first essay, by John Guillory, as well as several others are devoted: that of Bourdieu's critical reception in American cultural theory, the problem of initiating Bourdieu's methodology into an Anglophone context (Daniel Simeoni), and the prevailing notion of Bourdieu's thought as irreconcilably deterministic (Robert Holton); these essays may be less a point of engagement for those unfamiliar with Bourdieu than for those already immersed in French theory, or with a particular interest in the related theoretical politics. Further, the essay by Bourdieu in this volume is preoccupied with these same issues. The case study section, however, is commendably accessible both interdisciplinarily and intertextually.

Most effective as a departure point for the second trajectory, that of the potential germination of Bourdieusian thought within a broader scope of cultural formations, Carol A. Stabile's contribution, "Resistance, Recuperation and Reflexivity: The Limits of a Paradigm," launches directly into a confrontation with the familiar polemic of Gramscian-based, resistance/recuperation dialectical frameworks of analyses, specifically that of feminist "resistance readings" of popular texts, to which she opposes Bourdieusian analysis as an antidote. Stabile implicates critical practices as being caught, in Bourdieusian terms, in a "logic of distinction" in which resistance readings, undeniably more fertile ground for critical theory in recent years than those that would gravitate toward the recuperative pole in the scheme of Gramscian hegemony, hold a hegemony of their own as a dominant paradigm in the arena of cultural studies. Stabile targets readings that promote a progressivist sense of the possibility in texts (indeed, including those she identifies as "textualist," deriving from literary models), in which through a distinction of their own they may impart to readers/viewers idealistic potential for struggle and backlash to produce true "progress." For those of us who have invested in these models (Stabile takes on Fiske here, even the hallowed work on Madonna, as well as popular culture critics such as Pribram and Gledhill), Stabile offers a worthy dose of reflexivity, and chooses a weighty...


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