Ageing, The Body and Social Change: Agency and Indentity by Tulle Emmanuelle

By Tulle Emmanuelle

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The attempt to rethink or transcend the mind–body dualism in his treatment of the body, and to render the structure and agency binary meaningful (Shilling 2003), is an example of this influence. However, as a sociologist, Bourdieu’s main objective was to incorporate the conceptual and philosophical frame handed down by phenomenology into a theory of structurally situated social action. Bourdieu’s (1980) objective was to link structure and social action and to situate the body therein. His basic tenet was that action is consonant with power struggles, the search for distinction and the accumulation of capital.

Bourdieu’s (1980) objective was to link structure and social action and to situate the body therein. His basic tenet was that action is consonant with power struggles, the search for distinction and the accumulation of capital. Furthermore, one’s social location generates particular modes of actions and of being. His work hinges on three key concepts – habitus, dispositions and capital – which were described and illustrated in two key books: La distinction: Critique sociale du jugement (Bourdieu 1979) and Le sens pratique (1980), the latter translated into English, tellingly, as The Logic of Practice.

The relationship needs to be rebuilt and normalised under these new circumstances. What this analysis does is lay the groundwork for a dynamic apprehension of human embodiment, one that is in a process of becoming. It also provides a stepping stone to a more processual, complex and, I would argue, more open-ended conception of embodiment. The question is not whether embodiment is a useful tool to make sense of experience – because this is now established – but what its modalities are and in what context they are shaped.

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