Siting Praxeology. The Methodological Significance of “Public” in Theories of Social Practices

The concept of “site” is at the center of current debates in theories of social practices as well as in cultural anthropology. It is unclear, however, how to assess the associated methodological assumption that overriding social structures or cultural formations can manifest themselves in sites. The article draws on the conception of social practices and introduces the notion of “publicness” in order to explicate how and why sociality and social structures can be accessed through “siting”. Sites as well as social practices, it is claimed, have to be conceptualized as essentially public and thus principally observable phenomena. This assumption of publicness implicit to both site ontology and theories of social practices is unfolded on the basis of a praxeological reformulation of the paradigm of joint attention elaborated in developmental psychology. To avoid presentist misinterpretations, we then conceptualize sociality as chains of practices across time and space, drawing on the works of Theodore Schatzki, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Anthony Giddens and Bruno Latour. The public carriers of practices (artifacts, symbols, media, bodies) and the translocal structures they establish acquire particular significance in these approaches. In a further step, we present some methodological consequences of the “publicness assumption” and support our arguments by referring to Pierre Bourdieu's study on Distinction
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2011.00466.x
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