Institutions | About Us | Help | Gaeilge
rian logo

Go Back
Bridging Classroom Language Ethnography
Paper #5: Bridging Classroom Language Ethnography, New Literacy Studies and Bourdieu?s Social Philosophy: Principles and Practice The purpose of this paper is to analyze and synthesize the various ways that classroom language ethnography, NLS, and Bourdieu?s social philosophy, were integrated. The goal of the analysis and synthesis is to provide a fresh perspective and fruitful insights on literacy in all its manifestations that provides the foundations for a more robust science of language in education. The four case studies sometimes lack uniformity of approach and they are occasionally partial or messy in their actuality. However, they do provide us with the means to objectify the main elements of our classroom language ethnography from a Bourdieusian perspective. Consequently, they demonstrate the way that Bourdieu?s social philosophy provides us with an understanding that is both stable but dynamic, and that concepts such as field and habitus are central for exploring the relations inherent in the language classroom. Classroom language ethnography needs to be guided not only by principles of theory and of practice but by a theory of practice. Bourdieu?s social philosophy provides such a theory of practice. For Bourdieu, ethnography must be shaped by a series of epistemological issues and questions which pertain to the nature of the scientific endeavour itself and the character of the resultant knowledge. The theoretical constructs of habitus and field are at the centre of four case studies. For example, in the study of student film making of autobiographical films, the innovative nature of the project set it outside of the conventional demands of official curricula. ; What emerged is a series of individual stories, themselves expressing `slices of life? ? a kind of `fractal habitus?. We can see the process underlying the project as an externalisation of aspects of life-history ? of `fractal habitus? ? and thus their re-internalisation as a form of reintegration. In Bourdieusian terms, this would be seen as an Objectivation of Subjectivity which, once objectified is re-subjectified as part of the artistic engagement. In the four case studies, we can see how fundamental aspects of communication were involved in the subordinate and super-ordinate positions created by the structural relations established between internal and external literacy forms, and the way these were played out in educational contexts. The key issue is not so much that particular literacy events are arbitrary in terms of underlying values, but that such values always need to be seen as a symbolic expression of the particular interests that generate them in the first place. In each chapter, there is description of a kind of `improvisation? or play being set up between the legitimate and the illegitimate, the consecrated and the non-consecrated forms through which the values of conformity and non-conformity are expressed. Such value products amount to `cultural capital? in Bourdieu?s terms; in other words, the medium for entry to and exclusion from what is considered acceptable in terms of literacy. This relation implies certain dilemmas of belief and behaviour of the part of the students ? what Bourdieu calls a `double bind? necessitated by the demands for a `double consciousness? ? and needs also to be understood in terms of the extra level of socio-cultural ambidexterity demanded from these students if they are to remain true to themselves and their background whilst embracing the dominant culture of the classroom; one which will eventually lead to their ultimate destiny in terms of academic success or failure. The structural relations inherent in the classroom, in surrounding external context, and the policy world of power enshrined in official documents is clearly influential in what actually occurs in classroom practice. Each of the case studies shows a way that both the external context and the `pedagogic habitus? of the teachers involved can be observed in terms of being `sedimented? in literacy events embedded in the classroom discourse; in other words, actualised in practice. Creativity then arises in this `coming together? of these sources and the (often) clash that takes place in their interaction. As a consequence, from a methodological point of view it was necessary to `re-conceptualise? classroom language ethnography in terms of field relations and the structural articulation of principles of practice set up between them. Moreover, that we need to concern ourselves with the particular habitus of those involved in the actual literacy event; in other words, the generating structures of individuals which, although derived from their own socio-cultural background, predispose them to think and act in certain (creative) ways in the face of present imperatives and necessities. Human Subjects Research Question Yes Online Repository Yes Presenter Information Michael Grenfell ( is PhD Pro...
Keyword(s): Classroom; Ethnography; Bourdieu; Literacy
Publication Date:
Type: Conference item
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Language(s): English
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Citation(s): Grenfell, M, Bridging Classroom Language Ethnography, American Educational Research Conference, Vancouver, Canada, 2012, 2012, 1 - 18
Alternative Title(s): American Educational Research Conference
First Indexed: 2014-05-13 05:53:07 Last Updated: 2017-04-26 10:36:44