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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter abstract This chapter argues that Pierre Bourdieu’s research program is less compatible with ethnography than it first appears. Bourdieu was critical of structuralism, that perspective on the social world that prioritizes general patterns over lived experience, whereas ethnography claims as its raison d’être the elucidation of lived experience. A close reading of Bourdieu’s entire body of writings, however, reveals multiple reservations about the ethnographic method. At various points Bourdieu argues that ethnography is partial knowledge, impotent knowledge, and dangerous knowledge. This chapter elaborates each of these critiques, and gives ethnography a chance to respond. Ultimately, it concludes that it is possible to do ethnography from within the Bourdieusian research program. But ethnographers must take care to contextualize their field data in its extra-local context; they should deploy systematic research designs; and they must exercise reflexivity as to how one’s position as a scholar shapes one’s experience of others’ social worlds.

Keywords: Chapter, Bourdieu, methodology, ethnography, research, knowledge

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