Monday, 17 February 2014

Learning through writing 1: Easing into Bourdieu

Here goes. In my last blog I promised myself that I would write about areas of theory (or practice) that I feel that I need to know more about (that will be everything then!), and through that process both learn and engage with others who hopefully will help me think about the things that I write about. I also plan to consider the relevance of my reading to nursing education.

I am starting with Bourdieu. The reason for this is that I 'used' some of his theory in my PhD - I used it quite well but as I have read more, I realise that I didn't get to the depth of his work. I have ordered Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste today but am easing into my reading with a critique of this work (possibly the wrong way round to do this). The article's reference is:
Murdock, G. (2010). Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 16:1, 63-65.

What does the article tell us?

  • Bourdieu was born in 1930 in rural south-west France.
  • He was the son of a postmaster.
  • He was successful in gaining a place in an elite higher education institution in Paris.
  • Coming from provincial France, he was thrust into this cosmopolitan lifestyle in an era of importance for Paris - as the cultural and intellectual centre of the west at the time.
  • These differences - between what he had grown up with and what he was coming to know in his academic city life - led to his lifelong fascination with culture, class and power.
  • He approached this fascination through a body of empirical work that investigated cultural practices and institutions.
  • His military service was in Algeria after which he stayed on to train as an anthropologist - he investigated the Berber culture (apologies for the wikipedia link); the ways in which the organising principles of their culture were perpetuated through the rituals in their lives. He recognised that the 'modernisation' that was taking place was impacting negatively on the cultural lives of the Berbers.
  • As the Director of Sociological Studies in a university in Paris, he went on to focus his research on continuity and change in modern France. His time here coincided with the shift from industrial production as the valuable asset, to education and intellectualism as assets.
  • What he recognised was that education favoured those from the middle and upper classes, rather than those from working classes (social privilege).
  • He then went on to identify that those from the working classes did not feel 'comfortable' in environments such as museums
  • In 1979, Distinction was published and confirmed him as the leading social analyst of his time.
    • Cultural preferences are derived from the experiences and input one has in families, education and other social situations.
    • These are habituses and are not fixed (as we can gain capital in different ways as we progress through life) but impact on how we behave and feel in different circumstances.
    • "Class positions are defined by holdings of social and cultural capital as well as economic assets." These relate to the distribution of power, and generate views of what constitutes 'low' and 'high' culture - resulting in inequalities in what are perceived as personal qualities, and is an act of symbolic violence.
    • There are inherent barriers to cultural participation arising from these class positions and the 'amount' and 'types' of capital - thus excluding (often self-exclusion) people from particular situations.
So, how is this information relevant to nursing education? My own PhD seemed to indicate that there were problems with the way that some student nurses were able to engage with university education because of the differences in cultural preferences - many of the students in my study were first generation university goers and were therefore coming into a situation about which they may have had little or no experience or preparation. The power in the relationship described here is likely to have sat with the academics and others in the university rather than with the student - in these particular circumstances. I will leave it here as I want to explore the concepts further before I go on to consider the implications in more depth.

A bit of a tentative connection - but here is a picture of a beautiful village in France which I visited with my family a couple of years ago.


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  2. The landscape of university nursing students is rapidly changing. Thus, the cultural, demographic, social, and economic diversity is increasing in the work place. I enjoy continuing nursing education. I link Bourdieu’s theory, Mezirow’s transformational learning and Bandura’s social learning to learning from the classroom to the workplace. The work place expects nurses to engage in social interactions and become self-directed in changing the way they understand themselves, their environment, and how they see the world. Behavioral, interpersonal, situational, and cognitive interactions influence self-awareness, environmental view, and perception of the self within the environment. Bourdieu, Mezirow, and Bandura recognized that learning is impacted by environment and cultural norms. Values create lived experiences evolving into habit, and habit creates consistency in behavior. However, through the observation of other’s behavior and the consequences of such behavior, society will produce new behaviors within new social expected outcomes. Very cool!

  3. hiii

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