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Tempo Social

Print version ISSN 0103-2070On-line version ISSN 1809-4554


PETERS, GABRIEL. Back to Algeria: Bourdieu’s ethnosociological crossroads. Tempo soc. [online]. 2017, vol.29, n.1, pp.275-303. ISSN 1809-4554.

Pierre Bourdieu’s years of “ethnosociological” apprenticeship in Algerian society have been the object of a renewed scholarly interest. Inspired by questions stemming from this recent literature, the present article explores, first, how Bourdieu’s experiences in a war-torn Algeria have influenced the theoretical and methodological tenets of his mature sociology. Second, it shows that Bourdieu’s early writings on the historical disruptions he witnessed in that society display themes and perspectives that depart from the most common images of his work. The practical assent to domination characteristic of “symbolic violence” gives way to open resistance, the “ontological complicity” between subjective dispositions and objective circumstances gives way to their historical mismatch, while the principled suspicion towards lay agents’ representations gives way to a high analytical reliance on long personal testimonies. Connecting Bourdieu’s sociological investigations to his use of photography, the third section of the text surveys the multiple functions that the practice of taking pictures performed in his ethnographic forays into Algerian communities. Finally, the essay presents Bourdieu’s connection between motifs of “modernization theory” and theories of (neo)colonialism as one of the first syntheses in his intellectual career.

Keywords : Pierre Bourdieu; Algeria; Photography; Ethnography; Colonialism.

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