Bourdieu, linguistics and ethnography

This paper explores the relationship between Bourdieu, Linguistics and Ethnography. It begins by considering the extent to which Bourdieu can be understood as a ‘linguist’ and ‘ethnographer’ through his own empirical studies of Algeria and contemporary France. It argues that Bourdieu’s own preoccupations with language were central to these studies and addresses the development of his own theoretical ‘language’ as a way of operationalising the ‘breaks’ from both received and academic knowledge he was attempting to institute in his research practice. It suggests that Bourdieu’s approach is based on a philosophy of language which is at the same time a philosophical language that seeks to capture his ‘theory of practice’ as a method to be employed across the social sciences. The implications of this method for linguistics and finally ‘linguistic ethnography’ are then addressed. The focus of the paper is methodological, but from the point of view of principles of practice. The paper draws out a series of methodological principles which might guide a ‘linguistic ethnographic’ approach from a Bourdieusian perspective. It concludes by considering some the ramifications of adopting this methodology in linguistic studies
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