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Lisa Wade - The Emancipatory Promise of the Habitus

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Lisa Wade - The Emancipatory Promise of the Habitus

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Pierre Bourdieu argued that social mobility is inhibited not just by our access to income and wealth, but by the inscription of our social class onto our very body in the form of our habitus. Our knowledges, appearance, and abilities are class-dependent, such that our bodies reveal our origins.  This disadvantages those who occupy subordinated positions in society by making it difficult for them to fit in amongst the advantaged.  While most research on the habitus has emphasized how it inhibits social mobility, I draw on scholars who argue that the uneven nature of the social world can create a fractured habitus.  If we stumble upon emancipatory spaces, then, we may learn bodily habits that empower us.  Drawing on an ethnography of lindy hop -- a vintage swing dance -- I show that dancers are taught to use their bodies in ways that disrupt the conventional masculine and feminine habitus.  I conclude that progressive social change may very well be advanced by focusing on the body as well of, or ahead of, the mind.

More at www.lisa-wade.com

Pierre Bourdieu argued that social mobility is inhibited not just by our access to income and wealth, but by the inscription of our social class onto our very body in the form of our habitus. Our knowledges, appearance, and abilities are class-dependent, such that our bodies reveal our origins.  This disadvantages those who occupy subordinated positions in society by making it difficult for them to fit in amongst the advantaged.  While most research on the habitus has emphasized how it inhibits social mobility, I draw on scholars who argue that the uneven nature of the social world can create a fractured habitus.  If we stumble upon emancipatory spaces, then, we may learn bodily habits that empower us.  Drawing on an ethnography of lindy hop -- a vintage swing dance -- I show that dancers are taught to use their bodies in ways that disrupt the conventional masculine and feminine habitus.  I conclude that progressive social change may very well be advanced by focusing on the body as well of, or ahead of, the mind.

More at www.lisa-wade.com

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Lisa Wade - The Emancipatory Promise of the Habitus

  1. 1. Lisa Wade, PhD Professor of Sociology Occidental College The Emancipatory Promise of the Habitus
  2. 2. CASE: Lindy Hop
  3. 3. CASE: Lindy Hop “Theory building isn‟t about adding new knowledge, it‟s about changing the nature of the knowledge that we have.”
  4. 4. CASE: Lindy Hop THEORY: The role of the habitus in facilitating and constraining social mobility.
  5. 5. Pierre Bourdieu
  6. 6. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got.
  7. 7. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got. • Social Capital: people you know.
  8. 8. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got. • Social Capital: people you know. • Cultural Capital: culturally-valorized resources.
  9. 9. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got. • Social Capital: people you know. • Cultural Capital: culturally-valorized resources. – Objectified: things you own.
  10. 10. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got. • Social Capital: people you know. • Cultural Capital: culturally-valorized resources. – Objectified: things you own. – Institutionalized: nods from important and recognized institutions.
  11. 11. Pierre Bourdieu • Economic Capital: money you got. • Social Capital: people you know. • Cultural Capital: culturally-valorized resources. – Objectified: things you own. – Institutionalized: nods from important and recognized institutions. – Embodied: external wealth converted to bodily appearances, capacities, and knowledges.
  12. 12. Pierre Bourdieu Habitus: Our body and its knowledges, as it is shaped by a lifetime of physical repetition.
  13. 13. Maurice Merleau-Ponty “I can type and to that extent „I know‟ where the various letters are on the keyboard. I do not have to find the letters one by one... My fingers just move in the direction of the correct keys. Indeed, when I am in full flow, I seem actually to be thinking with my fingers in the respect that I do not know in advance of typing exactly what I will say.”
  14. 14. Maurice Merleau-Ponty “It is not just that I do not need to think about where the keys are... The break with reflective thought is more severe than this. I could not give a reflective, discursive account of the keyboard layout. I do not „know‟ where the keys are and to make any half decent attempt at guessing I have to imagine I am typing and watch where my fingers head for when I come to the appropriate letter.”
  15. 15. Maurice Merleau-Ponty “… pushing the brakes becomes as „natural‟ a way of stopping to me as halting in my stride, [and] I incorporate the external space of the car; its power, velocity, and acceleration... I feel its size and speed as surely as that of my own body... I do not think about the car. I think as the car, from the point of view of the car…”
  16. 16. Fit: When your habitus is well-suited to a social context.
  17. 17. Sandra Lee Bartky “In groups of men, those with higher status typically assume looser and more relaxed postures; the boss lounges comfortably… while the applicant sits tense and rigid on the edge of his seat. Higher-status individuals may touch their subordinates more than they themselves get touched; they initiate more eye contract and are smiled at by their inferiors more than they are observed to smile in return.”
  18. 18. CASE: Lindy Hop THEORY: The role of the habitus in facilitating and constraining social mobility. QUESTION: Can we facilitate social change by intervening at the level of the body?
  19. 19. David Holmes Photography
  20. 20. Beginning Dancers • A feminist-friendly community
  21. 21. Beginning Dancers • A feminist-friendly community – Performances
  22. 22. Beginning Dancers • A feminist-friendly community – Performances – Gender-neutral language
  23. 23. Beginning Dancers • A feminist-friendly community – Performances – Gender-neutral language – Role switching
  24. 24. Beginning Dancers “When I‟m dancing with Rebecca, we switch off all the time. I lead, she follows. She leads, I follow. Sometimes she initiates the switch and sometimes I do. Sometimes it looks like she‟s following, but she‟s leading, and vice versa.”
  25. 25. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For men, shaking off hypermasculinity and fear of femininity
  26. 26. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For men, shaking off hypermasculinity and fear of femininity • No brute force
  27. 27. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For men, shaking off hypermasculinity and fear of femininity • No brute force • Add feminized body movements
  28. 28. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For women, shaking off hyperfemininity.
  29. 29. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For women, shaking off hyperfemininity • Drop feminine habits
  30. 30. Beginning Dancers • A lindy hop habitus – For women, shaking off hyperfemininity • Drop feminine habits • Have weight
  31. 31. Intermediate Dancers • Disconnection
  32. 32. Intermediate Dancers • Disconnection – Leads offer follows independence
  33. 33. Intermediate Dancers • Disconnection – Leads offer follows independence – Follows take it
  34. 34. Intermediate Dancers “The leader can suggest something to the follower. But I pay attention to how strong the lead is. If it‟s not very strong, I may do something different. I‟m still not breaking what he wanted me to do because I sensed how strongly he meant it.”
  35. 35. Intermediate Dancers “Take the suggestion that the lead gives you. If you don‟t like it, you can change it once you have it.”
  36. 36. Advanced Dancers • Connection
  37. 37. Advanced Dancers • Connection – via bodies
  38. 38. Advanced Dancers “Someone‟s got to initiate, but it‟s not that one person is leading and one person is following. Both are leading and following. I don‟t even like those words. I use initiating and following through. Both leads and follows do both…”
  39. 39. Advanced Dancers “Flow with your partner. Whatever they do—adjust.”
  40. 40. Advanced Dancers The “dynamic is a lot more complicated that the lead leads and the follow follows.”
  41. 41. Advanced Dancers • Connection – via bodies – via the music
  42. 42. Advanced Dancers “Ideally, not all leads and follows react the same way to music because they‟re two different people. Watch a movie together and there are different opinions. Dance explores these same kinds of differences. When I dance with Joy, I try to listen to her [with my body] and I think, „Oh, I‟ve never heard that song that way before.‟”
  43. 43. CASE: Lindy Hop THEORY: The role of the habitus in facilitating and constraining social mobility. QUESTION: Can we facilitate social change by intervening at the level of the body? RESULTS: The habitus can be emancipating as well as constraining.
  44. 44. Questions? Lisa Wade, PhD www.lisa-wade.com @lisadwade Credits: • David Holmes Photography • Laura Malischke Photography • Kevin St. Laurent and Jo Hoffberg, iDance.net • PBS, People Like Us • Missouri Historical Society • www.prblog.typepad.com • www.theclassywoman.blogspot.com

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