[This document is a note to the author's "Imagined Geographies: Representations of the Orient in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels."]
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) negotiates with the interlinkages between aesthetics and social spaces in his book titled Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste and his lesser known work on Language and Symbolic Power. His conceptualisation of the house as a book which inscribes a vision and structure of society works in tandem with my understanding of the novel as a spatial narrative. Bourdieu's analysis is primarily economic and class-based. However I will use certain conceptual categories proposed by him to intervene and analyse racial 'Other-ness' in the novels under consideration. Some of the terms which are central to understanding Bourdieu's conceptualisation of social spaces include
Habitus: The concept of habit or habitus is used by Bourdieu to refer to daily practices of individuals, groups, societies and nations. It includes the totality of learned habits, bodily skills, styles, tastes, and other non-discursive knowledges that are often 'taken for granted' for a specific group. He sees habitus as the key to social reproduction because it is central to generating and regulating the practices that make up social life. Habitus thus, helps to define both the place of the self, and by implication, of the other.
Nomos: Bourdieu defines nomos as the fundamental principles of 'vision and division' (the division between mind/ body, male/ female), or organizing laws of experience that govern practices and experiences within a field.
Symbolic Power: The 'power to make things with wordsÉa power of consecration of revelation' (Bourdieu 1989: 23). Symbolic power comprises a series of cultural codes which endow the novelist with the power to make the reader believe in a certain visions of the world rather than other(s).
Imagined Geographies: Representations of the Orient in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels
- 'I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies . . . it entertains me': Jane Austen's negotiation with slavery in Mansfield Park
- 'She bit me . . . like a tigress': Charlotte Brontë's construction of the 'Other' in Jane Eyre
- Collins's representation of the 'cursed Indian jewel': Orientalism in the sensation novel
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice Cambrige: Harvard University Press, 1984.
--- Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory. Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 1989: 14-25.
Last modified 23 July 2007