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Title: The sexed and gendered body as a social institution : a critical reconstruction of two social constructionist models : Bourdieu's theory of habitus and the performative theory of social institutions
Author: Rafanell, Irene
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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By highlighting the embedded forms of social life contemporary debates in Social Sciences have made it necessary to newly explore two major binary oppositions, that of nature and society and structure and individual. In the current atmosphere of tension between constructivist and materialistic positions, it is fundamental to offer detailed analysis and definition of these core issues. The aim of this thesis is to explore new understandings of social constructionist accounts by focusing on sex/gender identity and critically comparing two constructionist views: Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and its core notion of habitus, and The Performative Theory of Social Institutions, the social theory of the Strong Programme, (a sociology of scientific knowledge developed by Barnes, Bloor). The Performance Theory claims that the realm of the ‘social’ is the result of the constitutive nature of self-referential performing practices (verbal or otherwise). Its basic tenet that social life is a collective achievement, that is, the result of the continuing realignment among individuals which occurs in the interactive, and its emphasis on the performative nature of the individuals’ self-referential inductive inferences, stands in stark contrast with that of Bourdieu’s notion of the stability of the habitus as the internalization of pre-existing macro-structures. I argue that whereas Bourdieu’s novelty is that he locates social effects at the level of the body, his theory, by envisaging this socialization as a Parsonian model of early internalization resulting in permanent fixidity, suffers from a macro-structuralist bais of ‘externality’. The Performance Theory, although not specifically concerned with the body, provides an analytical framework which resolves Bourdieu’s tacit reification of the ‘social’. By introducing Kusch’s notion of Artificial Kinds, closely connected with the main tenets of the performative theory of social institution, I develop a definition of an embodied habitus as a ‘social institution’, that is, as the result of the constitutive power of the dispositions, as a self-referential collective achievement, and to achieve a more accomplished synthesis of the dualisms individual/structure and nature/society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available