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19 2 • Social Theory and Everyday Life In recent years, studies of everyday life have become a central aspect of multidisciplinary social theoretical discussions (Gardiner 2000; Highmore 2002a, 2002b; Lüdtke 1995; Sheringham 2006). The aim of critical everyday life theorizing is not just to describe daily life but also to show how understanding it provides a critical knowledge of human societies. Critical perspectives on everyday life demonstrate how people construct their social world through daily practices and expose the structural constraints and power relations that exist for and among individuals in society and how these practices affect and are affected by day-to-day interactions. A focus on everyday life allows exploration of the intersection of people and their societies and cultures, because culture and society are not abstractions that are exterior to people: people create and experience social structures throughout their daily lives. It is this sense of everyday life that Raymond Williams (1989: 4) gets at in his influential essay “Culture Is Ordinary” where he states, “Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.” Taking everyday life seriously allows scholars to move beyond Cartesian and Platonic dualities (objective/subjective, body/mind, macro/micro , structure/action, material/ideal, and so on). These dualities have been at the heart of traditional theorizing in the West and have forced theoretical developments to fracture into opposing camps that, for example, address material or ideal aspects of social life (for example, cultural ecology versus symbolic anthropology) instead of modeling social life as a place where the material and ideal intersect. For the past thirty years, scholars have paid heightened attention to the question of how to break down dualities (e.g., Bourdieu 1977; Ortner 1984), but as Williams (1973) discusses, 20 · Everyday Life Matters: Maya Farmers at Chan dualities are so deeply embedded in Western society and culture that they are difficult to forsake (also see Ingold 2011; Joyce and Lopiparo 2005). But as Kaplan and Ross (1987: 3) note, “Everyday life is situated somewhere between the subjective, phenomenological sensory apparatus of the individual and reified institutions. Its starting point is neither the intentional subject dear to humanistic thinking nor the determining paradigms that bracket lived experience.” Understanding everyday life not as some impoverished domain of habitual activity but as a means and medium through which people simultaneously construct (objectify) and experience (subjectify) their world dissolves Cartesian and Platonic dualities. This chapter explores critical social theories on everyday life by focusing on and bridging five strands of everyday life thinking across the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries: (1) Henri Lefebvre’s pioneering work in the mid-twentieth century on the centrality of everyday life, (2) 1970s to mid-1980s work by practice theorists and feminists, particularly Pierre Bourdieu and Dorothy Smith, who develop a rationale for how everyday living can socialize people into existing social relations, (3) postcolonial and feminist theory at the end of the twentieth century, particularly the work of Michel de Certeau, James Scott, and Susan Willis, who explain how everyday life can provide a space for creative or counternormative actions that can question the status quo and lead to change, (4) work across twentieth-century everyday life scholarship from German, Hungarian , and Russian schools as well as the previously discussed French and Anglo-American traditions that focuses on the emancipatory potential of everyday life (particularly highlighting the work of Alf Lüdtke and Hans Medick and the Alltagsgeschichte [history of everyday life] school, Agnes Heller and the Budapest school, and the Bakhtin Circle), and (5) as a segue to chapter 3, this chapter concludes by looking at recent work of the first decade of the twenty-first century by archaeologically trained anthropologists Tim Ingold and Daniel Miller, who are furthering perspectives on the spatial and material dimensions of everyday life. The everyday life thinkers I highlight in this chapter are not meant to exhaust the gamut of social theoretical perspectives on everyday life, and in this sense this chapter is not a literature review (for reviews see Gardiner 2000; Highmore 2002a, 2002b; Sheringham 2006).1 The scholarship I present represents strands of everyday life thinking, which can fruitfully combine to develop a critical theory of everyday life. Together Social Theory and Everyday Life · 21 with archaeological theory (chapter 3), the ideas in this chapter can further develop an understanding of the material and spatial dimensions of everyday life. I begin this chapter with the work of Henri Lefebvre, but not because he was the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813048567
Related ISBN
9780813044996
MARC Record
OCLC
867742191
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2013-12-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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