Bourdieu and the dead end of reflexivity: on the impossible task of locating the subject

Knafo, Samuel (2016) Bourdieu and the dead end of reflexivity: on the impossible task of locating the subject. Review of International Studies, 42 (1). pp. 25-47. ISSN 0260-2105

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Abstract

This article examines recent attempts by IR scholars to flesh out a reflexive approach inspired by the work of Pierre Bourdieu. The French sociologist pioneered the idea of turning the tools of sociology onto oneself in order to apply the same grid of social analysis to the object and subject of scholarship. This represents the culmination of a long tradition of seeking to understand from where one speaks and grasp our subjective biases through reflexive means. But as I argue Bourdieu – like most reflexive scholars – largely overestimated his ability to grasp his own subject position. For he assumed he could be objective about the very thing he had the least reasons to be objective about: himself. Instead of bending over backwards in this way and directly take the subject into account, I then propose to rearticulate the problematic of reflexivity by going back to a more classic concern with the question of alienation. Through a detailed critique of Bourdieu's reflexive approach and the ways in which it was received in IR, I set out a series of principles to reconfigure the agenda of reflexivity and offer a platform for a proper methodological alternative to positivism.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0481 Theory. Method. Relations to other subjects
Depositing User: Samuel Knafo
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2015 12:48
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2017 04:44
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53729

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