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1 Embodied social capital and geographic perspectives: performing the habitus Louise Holt University of Reading, UK 4 th International.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Embodied social capital and geographic perspectives: performing the habitus Louise Holt University of Reading, UK 4 th International."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Embodied social capital and geographic perspectives: performing the habitus Louise Holt University of Reading, UK 4 th International Population Geography Conference, Chinese University of Hong Kong, July

2 2 Structure I Introduction - Is social capital dead? II Geographical accounts of social capital IIIRetheorizing social capital as a mechanism for reproducing privilege IVEmbodying social capital V Discussion and conclusion

3 3 Introduction – Is social capital almost dead? Mainstream geographical debates have disengaged with social capital Despite vibrant discussions in other social sciences And policy arenas (e.g. World Bank, Social Exclusion Unit) This is problematic 1.Policy approaches continue unabated 2.Social capital has analytic value – and can help to theorise how social inequalities are reproduced within populations at a variety of interconnected spatial scales Critique is tied to its capture by dominant, approaches Here I engage critical social science approaches (e.g. Morrow, 2001; Adkins, 2004; Reay, 2004a) > embodied social capital how inequalities are reproduced via embodied identities Bourdieu’s habitus/capitals & Butler’s performativity/subjection

4 4 Diverse interpretations of social capital, from Bourdieu, Coleman to Putnam (Schaefer-McDaniel, 2004) Dominant policy interpretations are tied to Putnam’s vision of social capital and/or ontologically incompatible approaches Putnam criticised on methodological, conceptual and theoretical grounds (e.g. Amin, 2005; Foley and B.Edwards, 1999; etc.) Troubling ontological, universalising tendency: ‘an impressive and growing body of research suggests that civic connections help make us healthy, wealthy and wise’ (Putnam, 2000: 228) Particularly unappealing to geographers A lack of a critical conceptualization of space. Putnam treats spaces as static, pre-existing, and ‘given’ Geographical accounts of social capital

5 5 Despite its many critics some aspects have proved enduring The nature and formation of social capital Social capital has been equated to both being and as constructed by membership of formal civic organizations even in critical accounts (e.g. Li et al, 2003; Mohan et al., 2005). Sub-themes of: informal social relationships generalized norms of trusting-ness trustworthiness and reciprocity are also evident. Putnam’s social capital

6 6 ‘…it is untenable to posit social capital as an independent variable and poverty as a dependent variable because the economic-political conditions of poor people have an enormous constraining effect on social capital itself and its supposed material benefits for the poor’ (Das, 2004: 27) Putnam’s social capital

7 7 Has been widely utilised in broader social sciences, and urban studies Posits social capital as inter-dependent with other fo rms of capital cultural (embodied, objectified, institutional) economic symbolic Differing values of social capital Social networks and relationships to maintain advantage in particular, interconnected ‘fields’ (objective arenas of social relations, e.g. economic, political, educational etc.) Reproducing privilege and advantage rather than a generalised social good Tied to informal and formal social relationships Retheorising social capital as a mechanism for reproducing privilege

8 8 Capitals reproduced via unreflexive & reflexive practices Move away from a fully conscious and rational actor Deconstruct objective/subjective dichotomy Habitus ‘internalized capital’ embodied dispositions, largely subconsciously inculcated primarily in childhood (Bourdieu and Thompson, 1991). “…embodied rituals of everydayness by which a given culture produces and sustains belief in its own “obviousness”’ (J.Butler, 1999: 114) Deconstructs mind/body, conscious/unconscious (Lawler, 2004) and body/society (Shilling, 2003) dichotomies As a property of: Individuals (e.g. R.Nash, 2003) A Collective consciousness, mapped onto spaces (e.g. T.Butler and Robson, 2001; D.Smith and Phillips, 2001). ‘…the internalisation of the social order, which in turn reproduces the social order’ (Cresswell, 2002: 381). Habitus: a more nuanced conception of agency

9 9 …often prioritizes social reproduction above transformation (via habitus/field distinction) Economic reductionism - the political-economy as at the root of all capitals > theories of agency & applicability for theorizing differences other than class / class faction (although see Bourdieu, 2001). Not particularly sensitive to spatial differences (dualistic distinction between objective/social space) – could more fully explore performative understandings of space (Gregson and G. Rose, 2000) Critiques of Bourdieu’s (social) capital / habitus

10 10 Synthesising Bourdieu’s capitals and habitus with J. Butler’s performativity/subjection overcomes some critiques of Bourdieu (and Butler) Commonalities between both theorists Emphasise on beyond conscious, on everyday practices to reproduce embodied inequalities Beginning to deconstruct body/society dualism Butler – reproduction of embodied inequalities via everyday practices – a variety of axes of difference Identity performances are not entirely conscious, rationalized or staged; they are often just ‘done’ Contextuality of performativity and the performativity of space (Gregson and G.Rose, 2000) Negotiates transformation and endurance Has been critiqued for underplaying the material consequences of everyday performances Performing the habitus

11 11 Value accorded to different embodiments Process of becoming an embodied individual is bound up with socio- spatial contexts, social networks and relationships An individual’s previous social encounters are embodied and influence their future social performances Destabilizes the benign norms presented in dominant accounts of social capital, by drawing upon theorizations of the diffuse power of normalization Individuals becoming recognized as knowable subjects/agents is always configured within a normative frameworks of personhood (J.Butler, 1997, 2004) Interdependence of human beings. This interdependence is both physical and emotional ‘…desire is always a desire for recognition and that it is only through the experience of recognition that any of us becomes constituted as socially viable beings’ (J.Butler, emotional interdependence is a central mechanism for the inculcation of norms that ultimately confer embodied capital Embodied social capital

12 12 E.g. performances of disability as dependent within particular socio- spatial school contexts – often internalised and accepted by disabled children – reproduces broader patterns of inequality tied to disability and dependence As Ben, a boy with mind and body differences, states: ‘‘[My friend] always comes with me at playtime ’cause he didn’t have a friend, and now, whenever I’m lonely and he’s there, he always comes and cares for me’’ (Holt, 2004a: 225). Embodied social capital

13 13 These norms are socio-spatially variable, and, importantly, intersecting This focus on things coming together in specific spatial contexts provides an opening for a more spatially sensitive theory of capitals Capital reproduction occurs within specific spatial moments – themselves not neutral and pre-existing, but becoming though everyday performances and within broader ‘power geometries’ (Massey, 1994) Individual embodied identities are specific moments within broader social (economic, political, ‘cultural’) processes that emerge from a variety of intersecting spatial scales from the individual (including dynamic bodily materiality) to the global Allows for transformation Via conscious acts, such as re-signification (J.Butler, 2004) or contestation. Slippage Spatiality and transformation

14 14 Young people: resignify the meaning of both disability and composite components of dominant representations of disability forge relationships of recognition wherein mind-body-emotional difference is either suspended or not understood within a framework of otherness (Holt, forthcoming) The positive or negative relationships forged within one context can become embodied within individuals and influence their negotiation of future social situations (see also Valentine and Skelton, 2003). However Dominant facets individual tragedy models of disability are often (re)produced, rather than transformed. Attention needs to be paid to how individuals’ socio-spatial positionings influence their capacity to transform broader societal processes and representations (McNay, 2004) Without negating the potentialities for a range of non-conforming practices, ranging from ‘resilience’, ‘reworking’ to ‘resistance’ (Katz, 2004). A brief empirical example

15 15 Difficult Move beyond uncritical analyses of formal social relationships that have little conceptual basis and which exclude certain groups Messy, gratifying and difficult social and cultural relationships that feature in everyday life (both formal and informal) Reconnect with other capitals (cultural and economic) Deconstruct the qualitative/quantitative dichotomy to utilize a variety of methods, either in conjunction within specific projects or via collaboration between researchers across the field (see Holt, 2006 for fuller discussion) Network analysis provides useful insights into the type and extent of individuals’ networks (Savage et al., 2004) However, it does little to demonstrate the normative power embedded within such relationships. Innovative methods could be utilized, that seek to point to limits of representation (see for instance Morton, 2005), Ethnographies (see McNay, 2004, for an exploration of Bourdieu’s phenomenology). Discussion - Empirical Mobilisation

16 16 Has focused policy attention to social networks and relationships – which are significant in people’s lives (what is most important to you)? Can help to refocus upon mechanisms for reproduction of privilege and disadvantage, and inequalities within populations It is utilised extensively, and thus needs critical resignification Embodied social capital provides one way forward – reconnecting the cultural, social and economic - drawing upon concepts of bodies as interconnected rather than bounded The paper provides an impetus to re-open debate and discussion about the usefulness and mobilization of ‘social capital’ for geographers. Such debates can promote the cross-fertilization of conceptualizations of social capital and spatiality between geography and the broader social sciences. Conclusion: why bother with social capital?


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