From Rules to Strategies: An Interview with Pierre Bourdieu

Article Excerpt

Acknowledgments. This interview, conducted by Pierre Lamaison, was origi­nally published in Terrain No. 4, Carnets du Patrimoine Ethnologique. Mars 1985. Permission to reprint it is gratefully ac­knowledged. (Translation by Robert Hur­ley.)

P.L.-I would like for us to talk about the interest  you have shown,  in your work from "Bearne" and the "Trois etudes d'ethnologie kabyle" through to "Homo academicus," in questions of kinship and inheritance. You were the first to address the question of the choosing of marriage partners in a French population (cf. "Cel­ibat et condition paysanne,''  Etudes ru­rales,  1962, and "Les strategies matri­ moniales dans le systeme des strategies de reproduction," Annates,  1972) and to em­ phasize the correlation between modes of property inheritance-nonegalitarian in this case-and the logic of alliances. Each matrimonial transaction is to be under­ stood,  you said,  as ''the outcome of a strategy" and can be defined "as  a mo­ment in a series of material and symbolic exchanges . . . which depend largely on the position that this exchange occupies in the matrimonial history of the family.''

P.B.-My research on marriage in Bearne was for me the crossover point and the link between ethnology and sociology. From the very first, I had thought of this work on my own country of origin as a sort of ep­istemological experimentation. By analyz­ing, as an ethnologist in a familiar  al­ though socially distant world, the matri­ monial practices that I had studied in a much more remote social universe, Kabyle society, I would be giving myself the op­ portunity to objectify the act of objectifi­ cation and the objectifying subject I sought to objectify the ethnologist not just as a so­ cially situated individual but also as a scholar whose work is to analyze the social world, to conceptualize it, and who must therefore withdraw from the game. This means either that he will observe a foreign world, in which his interests are not in­ vested, or he will observe his own world, but while keeping to the sidelines, insofar as this can be done. I wished, not so much to observe the observer in his particularity, which holds no great interest in itself, but to observe the effects which the position of observer produces on the observation, on the description of the thing observed. I wished also to discover all the presuppo­ sitions inherent in this theoretical posture, as a vision that is external, remote, distant, or simply nonpractical, uncommitted, dis­ interested. It became apparent to me that a whole social  philosophy, a thoroughly mistaken one, derived from the fact that the ethnologist has "nothing to do" with the people he studies, with their practices, their representations, apart from studying them. There is a gulf between trying to un­ derstand matrimonial relations between two families in order to arrange the best marriage for one's son or daughter, with importance equivalent to the concern of people in our milieu to select the best aca­demic institution for their son or daughter, and trying to understand these relations in order to construct a theoretical model.

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