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"Tristes Paysans": Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in Barn and Kabylia

Author(s): Deborah Reed-Danahay

Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 87-106
Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
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Tristes Paysans:
Bourdieu's Early Ethnography
in Bearn and Kabylia
Deborah Reed-Danahay
Universityof Texasat Arlington

PierreBourdieuconductedethnographicresearchin his native region of Bearn
and in Algeriaduringthe late 1950s and early 1960s. He rarelydrewexplicitcom-
parisonsbetweenthe two sites,despitestrikingparallelsin themessuch as notions
of honorin Mediterranean peasant ethos, the habitusas internalizeddispositions,
and peasant malaise in the face of socioeconomicchange. Bourdieucalled his
Bearnethnographyan inversionof Levi-Strauss' TristesTropiques,as a way to
"objectify"the familiar. I suggest that constructionsof traditionaland modern
that informedBourdieu'searly researchin both sites led to a nostalgic view of
"tristespaysans."[keywords:Bourdieu,habitus,Mediterranean, ethnography,ru-
ral France,Algeria]

Tristes Paysans: Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in B6arn and Kabylai

"Havingworkedin Kabylia,a foreign universe,I thought it would be interesting

to do a kind of Tristestropiques... but in reverse...: to observe the effects that
objectification of my native world would produce in me." (Bourdieu and
Wacquant,An Introductionto ReflexiveSociology)

"Penned inside this enclosed microcosm in which everybody knows every-

body...beneaththe gaze of otherseveryindividualexperiencesdeep anxietyabout
'people'swords'..."(Bourdieu1966, "TheSentimentof Honorin KabyleSociety")

"Inthis enclosed world where one senses at each moment without escape that
one is under the gaze of others..."(Bourdieuand Bourdieu 1965, ThePeasant
and Photography)

P ierreBourdieu(1930-2002)was from a ruralfamilyof modest origins,and a

nativeof the regionof Bearn,in southwesternFrance.Hewent backthereto
do fieldworkin 1959-60, after havingconducted his initialresearchamong the
Kabylesin Algeria.Inthe above quotation,Bourdieuemployedtermssuchas "for-
eign,""native,"and "objectification"that articulatea long-standing(somewould
say, defining) opposition anthropologicalfieldwork between near and far
(Fabian1983; Gupta and Ferguson1997). As with much of his ethnographic
work, Bourdieureturnedto materialfrom his originalstudy in Bearnat several
points over the course of his career.In his introductionto a recentvolume that
collects key writingson Bearn,Bourdieureiteratedhis desire to invertthe Levi-
Straussianmove to seek "theother"in TristesTropiques(1992).Bourdieuwroteof
"throwinghimself"into this veryfamiliarworldof his own regionthat he "knew
without knowing"(2002:10)and which he could now "objectify" because he had
distancedhimself by immersionin anotherway of life (and here one assumeshe
means Algeriaalthough he does not explicitlysay so).
Whatis the meaningof Bourdieu'sconstructionof his researchin Bearnas the
"inverse"of Levi-Strauss'part-ethnography,part-travelogue,and part-autobiog-
raphy TristesTropiques?Whatare the implicationsof his research"at home"
and "away"for the developmentof his theoreticalapproaches-in particular, the
concept of habitus? Bearn and Kabyliaserved as parallel worlds in which
Bourdieuworkedon similarthemes. Inthis essay,Iwill drawout the connections
between the two regionsof researchto each other,to Mediterranean studies,and
to Bourdieu'stheory of habitus.Bourdieuplaced both of these peasantsocieties
within a frameworkthat opposed traditionalvs. modern society.I will critically
examine Bourdieu'sconstructionof B~arnand Kabyliaas familiarvs. foreignuni-


verses, and his assumptions about objectification,closeness, and distance in

ethnographicresearch.Iwillalso examine Bourdieu'sclaimsto ethnographicau-
thority.In his workon B6arn,he stressed his objectificationand a scientificap-
proach,so as to avoid any claimthat he was too close to the material,but at the
same time also used his "insider"perspectiveto legitimizehis workthere. He al-
so sought to legitimizehis workin Algeriaby using his own ruralroots in France
to claim a sort of "insider"status among Kabylepeasants, and to distance him-
self from others associatedwith the colonial power of France.
Theworkin Algeriaand ruralFrancewas carriedout duringthe late 1950s and
early 1960s, and publishedat around the same time. It operated within, to use
of one of Bourdieu'sown terms, the same intellectual"field."It is significantto
point out, however,that the Algerianwork reached English-speaking audiences
over a decade earlierthan the ruralFrenchresearch,and most of the latter has
never been translated into English.1Bourdieu'spublicationson these two re-
gions constituted part of the interest in "peasantstudies"generallyduringthe
1960s and 70s and, more specifically,the Mediterraneanas culture area. His
work in southwesternFrancemay also be placed in the context of Occitanstud-
ies in France,as VeraMark(1987) has pointed out. AmongAnglophoneanthro-
pologists,Bourdieuis best knownfor Algerianethnography,studiesof education,
social class and distinctionamong the Frenchbourgeoisie, and/or theoretical
constructssuch as the habitus.The lackof attention to Bourdieu'sethnographic
researchin ruralFrance,2as well as, to a lesserextent,the lackof attentionto the
earlyAlgerianethnographicwork he carriedout, has keptthe parallelsbetween
the work in Algeriaand the work in ruralFrancefrom being fully recognized.
Michelde Certeauis one of the few to have noticedthe relationshipbetween the
two sites. He asked which is the "doublet of the other?"and wrote that they
"representtwo 'familiarities,'
the one determined-and haunted-by its distance
from the native land, the other by the foreignness of its cultural difference"
(Certeau1984:51).Althoughhe did not pursuethis beyond these brief remarks,
Certeaupointedto a significantarea for criticalinterrogationsof Bourdieu'swork.
Bourdieuhimselfcontinuedto referencethis earlywork,and used both ruralcas-
es as contraststo "modern"Frenchsociety,up until his very last writings.3

Bourdieu as "Native" and "Outsider"

Bourdieu'sroots in ruralFranceinformed both the Algerianand Frenchwork.
Bourdieu'spositionin Algeriawas, as a Frenchmen,that of member of the dom-
inant societyand colonizer-and he was keenlyaware of this. Hefirstarrivedin

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnography in B1arn and Kabylai

Algeriaas a young soldier,conscriptedto militaryduty,and assigned to the re-

settlement camps.4Bourdieu(2003:44)has writtenthat he experienceda "con-
version"fromphilosophy(inwhich he had receivedhis universitytrainingthusfar)
to ethnographyand sociologyafterthat experienceas well as throughhisethno-
graphicexperiencesin Bearn(Bourdieu2002:9). In his prefaceto the sociologi-
cal/ethnologicalstudy he conducted among Algerianworkers(Bourdieu1963),
Bourdieucited MichelLeiris's1950 articleon ethnographyand colonialism(Leiris
1950), in which Leiriswrote of the complicityof the ethnologistworkingin colo-
nial contexts and of the impossibilityof any "pure"science. Leirisstated that,
whetheror not they wish to be complicit,ethnographersare funded by theirgov-
ernments to do researchin areas colonized by these governments.Anticipating
discussionsin Anglophoneanthropologytwo and three decades laterabout po-
sition of the "nativeanthropologist,"Bourdieuasked "Mustwe think likethose
who often say that there is no 'pure'ethnology other than that done by the na-
tives?Butwhy this ethical and epistemologicalprivileging?" (1963:258).
Whenconductingethnographicresearchin ruralFrance,however,Bourdieu
positioned himself as the "nativeanthropologist."Bourdieuwas from a family
in ruralFrancewith peasant roots.Asa child, Bourdieuwas surroundedbythose
who spoke the local dialect and he was raised in an agriculturalmilieu-if not
strictlyon a farm, since his father was a postman. Bourdieudrew few explicit
connections between his two sites of fieldworkin his ethnographicor theoret-
ical writing,but he did discuss his understandingsof the relationshipsbetween
the two in later reflexive essays and interviews. Bourdieu remarkedseveral
times upon the reciprocalrelationshipbetween his fieldworkamong the Kabyles
and Bearnaise,and the ways in which this influenced his own theoretical de-
velopment. In his prefaceto the Logicof Practice(1990: 15), Bourdieumade ref-
erence to his social origins and the advantage this gave him as a rural
ethnographerin Algeria.He wrote: "Perhapsbecause I had a less abstractidea
than some people of what it is to be a mountain peasant, I was also, and pre-
cisely to that extent, more aware that the distance is insurmountable, irre-
movable, except through self-deception."HereBourdieulegitimizedhis claims
to understandthe Algerians,despite his associationwith the colonial powerof
France,throughreferenceto both his ruraloriginsand his theoreticalstance. He
continued in this passageto make a pointabout the need to be consciousof dis-
tancing oneself in the ethnographicsituationand to avoid naive perceptionsof
understanding"theother"through participant-observation research.Hewrote:
"...the distance lies perhaps not so much where it is usually looked for, in the
gap between cultural traditions, as in the gulf between two relations to the


world, one theoretical,the other practical"(1990:15).These themes of the dif-

ference between practicallogic and theoretical logic, and between the objec-
tive and subjective approach, were central to Bourdieu's work in both the
Algerianand ruralFrenchcontexts.
Although I have not found this phrase in Bourdieu'sown work, one can
speak of the "internalcolonialism"(Hechter1975) that occurredin Franceas re-
gional populations with their own languages and local particularismswere
broughtinto the control and under the hegemony of the dominant Frenchso-
ciety and culture. It is clear,however,that Bourdieuviewed the position of the
Bearnaisepeasantsas comparableto that of the Kabylesin the colonialand post-
colonial regimes. Bourdieu's1977 articleon the class position of the peasantry,
and his 1980 articleon the social constructionof the idea of region, both focus
on the peasantry in Franceand highlight the symbolic domination to which
they have been subject.Inthese articles,he discussedthe ways in which local cul-
ture and local language are devalued by dominant Frenchculture.The French
school, which Bourdieuhas treated at length, but which is beyond the scope of
this article,was instrumentalin the projectof reinforcingsocial class divisions,
and constructingunderstandingsof the nation and its regions.5
When Bourdieu died in January,2002,, he was in the process of writing a
memoir of his childhood that dealt with his ruralorigins and the symbolic vi-
olence he encountered as a boarding-schoolstudent when he left to continue
his secondaryeducation in the cityof Pau. Excerptsfrom this memoirwere pub-
lished in the Frenchmagazine le Nouvel Observateur.6 Bourdieuand I had dis-
cussed the emotional consequences of becoming educated for natives of rural
villagesa few yearsearlier,when I met with him in Pariswhile I was workingon
a study of published schooling narrativesin France.7Although I cannot quote
directlyfrom his memoir, he did address this theme in an earlier published in-
terview.Bourdieureferredto himself as a "classdefector,"unveilingthe shame
of his origins and guilt at being upwardlymobile, but also noted that his re-
search in B1arnwas part of a personal quest:

I spent most of my youth in a tiny and remote village of Southwestern

France,a very "backward"place as city people like to say. And I could
meet the demands of schooling only by renouncingmany of my primary
experiences and acquisitions, not only a certain accent... Anthropology
and sociology have allowed me to reconcile myself with my primaryex-
periences and to take them upon myself,to assume them without losing
anything I subsequently acquired...The research I did, around 1960, in

Tristes Paysans: Bourdieu's Early Ethnography in BMarnand Kabylai

this village helped me to discovera lot of things about myself and about
my object of study"(Bourdieuand Wacquant1992:205).

Those experiencesof being the "other"at school, and thereby being madeto
be self-consciousof one's differenceand of one's own ways of thinking,dressing,
etc., are centralto some of Bourdieu'seventual theoretical positionsabout re-
flexivity.ForBourdieu,reflexivitywas not about personalautobiographical details,
confessionalmodes of writing,or fieldworkaccounts per se; rather,it was about
being self-consciouslytheoretical, and realizingthat this is differentfrom the
"practicallogics"of oneself and one's informants.He has explicitlyacknowledged
that the experienceof boardingschool and upwardclass mobilityaffordedhim
a unique perspectiveon social life, the abilityto "cross"differentsocial milieu
(Bourdieuand Wacquant1992:205).Thisis a similarroleto what I have identified
elsewhere as that of the "autoethnographer" (Reed-Danahay1997a).
Toward the end of the chapter called "Disintegration and Distress"in
Bourdieu'searlybook TheAlgerians(1962a),there is a movingpassageaboutthe
"man between two worlds"that I cannot help but read as part-autobiography
for Bourdieu.8Althoughthe explicit referent is the young Algerianintellectual
in a rapidlychanging Algeria,I think Bourdieuhimself was also this "manbe-
tween two worlds":for him, the two worlds were the traditionalworldof rural
Francein which he grew up and the world of the urban intellectual,the social
scientist, he was becoming. I read this passage as one speaking to his identifi-
cation with young Algerianmen, due to his own background.He wrote:

Constantlybeing faced with alternativeways of behaviorby reasonof the

intrusionof new values, and thereforecompelled to make a consciousex-
aminationof the implicitpremisesor the unconsciouspatternsof his own
tradition,this man, cast between two worlds and rejected by both, lives
a sort of double inner life, is a preyto frustrationand inner conflict,with
the resultthat he is constantlybeing tempted to adopt either an attitude
of uneasy overidentificationor one of rebelliousnegativism."(1962:144)

Thisfigure is compelled, Bourdieusuggested, to make "a conscious exami-

nation of the implicitpremisesor the unconsciouspatternsof his own tradition"
and this was later to be part of the methods involvingreflexivityin Bourdieu's
work. Bourdieumade a strongstatement regardinghis stance toward reflexiv-
ity and postmodernismin his 2002 HuxleyMemorialLecturedeliveredin 2000
(Bourdieu2003). He rejectedany form of what he disparaginglyreferredto (fol-


lowing Geertzand Derrida)as the "diarydisease,"and advocated the reflexivi-

ty of what he called the "knowingsubject."Promotingwhat he referredto as
"participantobjectivation,"he wrotethat "one does not have to choose between
participantobservation, a necessarilyfictitious immersion in a foreign milieu,
and the objectivismof the 'gaze from afar' of an observer who remains as re-
mote from himself as from his object"(2003:282). Bourdieudistanced himself
in this lecturefrom his own autobiographicalreflections,such as those quoted
above, lending them the aura (and legitimacy)of scientificauthority.9

Bourdieu and the "Field" of Mediterranean Studies

Threeconferences held in Europein 1959, 1961 and 1963 shaped the develop-
ment of notions of the culturearea of the Mediterranean(Peristiany1966: 9). At
that time, this field consisted of studies of peasant societies undertakenin the
region from southern Europeto northernAfricathrough the lens of preoccu-
pationswith traditionand modernity,issues of kinshipand family,and the val-
ue complexof "honorand shame."Bourdieuhad essays publishedin two edited
volumes in English that resulted from these conferences: Mediterranean
Countrymen(Pitt-Rivers,ed. 1963) and Honor and Shame: The Values of
MediterraneanSociety (Peristiany,ed. 1966). These essays, drawing upon his
ethnographicresearchamong the Kabyles(one on concepts of time; the other
on concepts of honor),appearedalongside articleswritten by ethnographersof
rural France,such as LawrenceWylie (workingin southern France)and Isac
Chiva(who worked in Corsica.)It was Chiva,then editor of the Frenchanthro-
pologicaljournal EtudesRurales,who published Bourdieu'sfirstlengthy ethno-
graphicarticleon bachelorsin ruralFrancein 1962. Bourdieudoes not seem to
have maintainedties to the field of Mediterraneanstudies, as his own research
in Franceled him in differentdirections,and there is littleevidence in the recent
literatureon the Mediterraneanof his importantearlycontributions.Thereis, to
take just one example, scant referenceto his work in a recent collection of es-
says on the state of Mediterraneanstudies (Albera,Blok, Bromberger2002).
The assumptions of Mediterraneananthropology have been challenged by
severalauthors, most notably MichaelHerzfeld(1987). Herzfeldpoints out that
societies in this region of the world are "neither exotic nor wholly familiar"
(1987:7),a dilemma that Bourdieuscarcelyovercame in his characterizationsof
either BIarn or Kabylia.The notion of "honor,"claimed to be so centralto the
Mediterraneanregion, is seized upon, accordingto Herzfeld,as a Eurocentric
move to exoticize the regionand differentiateit from a more bureaucraticand

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnographyin B4arn and Kabylai

rational"modern"Europe.Bourdieuhimself used the concept of honor in his

analyses of both rural Frenchand Algeriansocieties but, as Herzfeldpoints
out (1987:8),did not explicitlyuse this concept to createany pan-Mediterranean
unity in his earlierwork.10
Mediterraneanstudiesduringthe early1960s were informedby a dichotomy
between urbanvs. ruralsocieties influencedby wider historicalideas centralto
Europeansocial thought (Baroja1963; Williams1973).Thishad been reinforced
by scholarshipsuch as Redfield's(1956) rural-urbancontinuumand the sugges-
tion that peasant societieswere "part-societies," and by Tonnies'Gemeinschaft-
Gesellschaftdichotomy (1957), in which the "community"of the village was
privilegedover the anonymity and anomie of the city. This theme is also, of
course, present in the workof EmileDurkheim(cf. 1951[1897]).The concept of
honor in Mediterraneanstudieswas tied to this system of ideas. In his introduc-
tion to one of the volumes cited above, Peristianyrevealedthis positionwith his
statementthat "Honorand shame are the constant preoccupationof individuals
in small scale, exclusive societies where face to face personal, as opposed to
anonymous, relationsare of paramountimportanceand where the social per-
sonalityof the actor is as significantas his office"(Peristiany1966:11).
Althoughhe employed the concept of honor in both the Bearnand Kabyle
ethnography,seemingto find similarculturaluses of this, Bourdieumade few ex-
plicitreferencesto this similarity.Mostof the comparisonshe did makewere in
the formof footnotes,or asides.Bourdieuwroteextensivelyin severalpublications
on the concept of honor among the Kabyles(cf. Bourdieu1966 and 1972), but
much less about it in his Bearnwritings,of which there are fewer in any case. In
a footnote to his articleon honor among the Kabyles,he stated that he deliber-
ately avoided comparisonswith western society in orderto avoid "ethnocentric
identifications."(1966:241,n.36).Heclaimedthat in the west, there is moreof an
individualorientationin behaviorconcerninghonor,while among the Kabyles,
behavioris connectedto relationshipsbetween groups.Whatis left unclear,how-
ever,is whetheror not Bourdieuwould have includedruralsocietyin Europewith-
in the same categoryas "westernsociety"in this opposition.
Bourdieu drew an explicit (albeit brief) parallel between the B1arn and
Kabylecontexts and uses of "honor"in an earlyarticleco-writtenwith his wife,
Marie-Claire, on the uses of photographyin the Frenchvillageof Lesquire.Inde-
scribingthe rigid,full-frontalposture and solemn expressionamong those pos-
ing in rural photographs, especially on the occasion of marriage, Bourdieu
described Lesquireas a society "that holds up the sentiment of honor, of dig-
nity and responsibility"and in which it is importantto providethe "mosthon-


orable"image of oneself to the other (Bourdieuand Bourdieu1965: 172). He

added in a footnote that "amongthe Kabyles,a man of honor is he who faces
you, who holds his head high, who looks others straight in the face, unmask-
ing his own face." (1965:7; my translation).There is a similar description in
Outlineof a Theoryof Practice,where Bourdieucompared the two societies as
those in which frontalityand honorare connected (Bourdieu1997: 94). The con-
cept of honor also came into play in Bourdieu'sanalyses of marriagestrategies
among ruralFrenchpeasants (cf. 1962 and 1972b).
Anothertheme of similaritybetween the two ethnographiclocations is that
of Bourdieu'sunderstandingsof peasant life and its emotional implications
for the individual. This is illustrated in two passages that twin Kabyliaand
Bearn.In his articleon "TheSentimentof Honourin KabyleSociety,"Bourdieu
referredto Kabylesociety as a "primarysociety"in which the group is central
to the individual.He describedthe feelings engendered by this: "Pennedinside
this enclosed microcosm in which everybody knows everybody, condemned
without the possibilityof escape or relief to live with others, beneath the gaze
of others every individualexperiences deep anxiety about 'people's words'..."
(1966:212).Despite Bourdieu'sclaims that he did not compare the two regions
in his work, in his article on the uses of photographyin Lesquirehe described
village life in Bearnas an "enclosedworld where one senses at each moment
without escape that one is under the gaze of others"(Bourdieuand Bourdieu
1965:172; my translation).In readingthese two almost identicaldescriptionsof
peasant village life, I cannot help but wonder why Bourdieu did not make
these resemblances between the two locations more a part of his theoretical
analysis. Bourdieurarely,however, made such an explicit bridge in his writing
between the two examples, preferringfor the most partto compare Algeriato
a "west"that is urban, individualized,etc. (as I have discussed elsewhere in
terms of "Occidentalism"; cf. Reed-Danahay1995), ratherthan to a ruralFrance
of peasants who share some features of life with the Kabyles.And he more of-
ten than not contrastedB1arnto urban Franceas well.

Habitus and Disruptions in Peasant Life

Bourdieu'searly ethnographicworkfocused on the disruptionof traditionalso-
cieties, in which he embraced an equilibrium model of social organizationas
the "natural"state of affairs. He continued to view both his ruralFrenchand
Algerianfield sites as places to observe an "experiment"havingto do with the
beforeand after of social change, in a way that seems to characterizesociety as

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnography in BMarnand Kabylai

not alwayschangingbut, rather,being disruptedat certain moments. Thereare

parallels,therefore,between his characterizationof the "experimentalsituation"
(Bourdieuand Bourdieu1965:164; my translation)of the village of Lesquirein
the early 1960s and his statement in a much later publication on Algerian
workersthat the war offered a "quasi-laboratory situation"(Bourdieu2000:17.)
Inthe firstcase he was referringto the diffusionof a "moderntechnique"(pho-
tography) into the "peasant milieu"; in the second, he was referringto the
"mismatch"between "precapitalist"and "rationalized"economic systems. His
model of peasant societies was marked by nostalgiaand by a view of a sort of
pristinetraditionalsociety (the "before")that most likely never existed.
For both Algeria and France, Bourdieu provided examples of how tradi-
tional societies reproducedthemselves (in the past),and he eventuallycame to
use the concept of habitusto explain how this happened. Bourdieuattributed
disruptionof these traditionalsystems in the Algeriancase to colonizationand
then war and rebellion. For France, Bourdieuargued that urbanizationand
changing economic relationscreated conditions of social disruption."1In The
Logicof Practice,Bourdieu,in a very Durkheimianvoice, explicitlyaddressedthe
"breakdown"of honor in terms of a rural/urbandichotomy:

Urbanization,which bringstogether groupswith differenttraditionsand

weakens the reciprocalcontrols (and even before urbanization,the gen-
eralizationof monetaryexchanges and the introductionof wage labour),
resultsin the collapseof the collectivelymaintainedand thereforeentirely
real fiction of the religionof honour. (Bourdieu1990 [1980]:110)

The themes of urban vs. ruralsocieties, and peasants vs. city-dwellers,is a

strong thread linking Bourdieu'searly work in these two societies also linked
through a relationshipof colonialism-France and Algeria.The penetrationof
a capitalist mode of production into traditional peasant economic arrange-
ments was the main source of social disruption for Bourdieu. In later work
(1989),he referredto globaltransformationsthat led to a unificationof the mar-
ket of symbolicgoods with differenttypes of effects in differenttypes of peas-
ant families. He would also later draw an analogy between the disruptionsfor
peasants in both postcolonialAlgeriaand postwarFranceand the currentprob-
lems of salaried workers in contemporary France,due to the policies of ne-
oliberalism(Bourdieuet al. 1999; Bourdieu2003).
The concept of habituswas centralto Bourdieu'stheoretical positionselab-
orated duringthe early 1970s in Outlineof a Theoryof Practice(orig.Frenchver-


sion, 1972), in which Bourdieuelucidated his meanings of this concept and the
ways in which he was breakingwith structuralismin his theory.Thisconcept al-
so figures prominently,associated with the cultural capital, in his educational
writingsof the same period-Reproduction in Education,Societyand Culture
(orig.Frenchversion, 1970). It is likelythat the firstexample of the use of habi-
tus by Bourdieu,however,was in his 1962 articleon the condition of bachelor-
hood in the villagewhere he grew up. Inthese earliestuses of the term, Bourdieu
associatedhabituswith the "traditional" and with the family,and it referredpri-
marily bodily habitus.This meaningof the term also appears(but less promi-
nently than in the ruralFrenchmaterial)in some Algerianwritingsof the early
1960s, as in the 1964 articleon uprooted (deracinds)peasants. Bourdieu'scon-
cept of habitusin its more developedformas articulatedin Outlineand the Logic
of Practicewas in part a synthesisof the more psychologicaltheory of habitus
used by NorbertElias(1982 [1939])and that of the theory of bodily habits and
habitus in the work of MarcelMauss(1979 [1950]). For Elias,habitus was asso-
ciated with drives and impulses that determine tastes and habits. It was con-
nected to what Eliascalled the "civilizingprocess,"throughwhich he referredto
a certainway of understandingthe relationof the individualto the social and
the mannersand tastes that reflectedthe perceived"civilized"person.
In his essay on "BodyTechniques,"Maussused the concept of habitusto re-
fer to customaryhabitsof movingthe bodywhich, as he wrote, "donot varyjust
with individualsand their imitations;they varyespeciallybetween societies,ed-
ucations, proprietiesand fashions, prestiges.In them we should see the tech-
niquesand workof collectiveand individualpracticalreason..."(1979[1950]:101).
AlthoughMausswas primarilydescribingthe physicalmanifestationof this in bod-
ily movement, ratherthan mental or psychologicalqualities, he did mention
that these bodytechniqueswere connectedto modes of lifeand manners.These
techniqueswere the productof training,and so could be connectedwith what he
noted was the psychologicala well as sociologicalconcept of "dexterity" or clev-
erness. Herewe see some originsof Bourdieu'slater use of the term habitusas
a "feelfor the game"in which the individualcan exercisevariousstrategieswith-
in the generativecapacitiesof his or her habitus.
There are telling parallels in Bourdieu'sthinking about peasants and his
use of the concept of habitus in two articles published in EtudesRuraleswith-
in two yearsof each other-an articleon Frenchbachelors(Bourdieu1962) and
an articleon uprootedand resettledAlgerians(Bourdieuand Sayad1964a).The
theme of ruptureand a breakwith traditionis prevalentin both works,despite
important differences in the ethnographic context. In the article entitled

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnographyin B1arn and Kabylai

"Paysans D1racines: Bouleversements Morphologiques et Changements

Culturelsen Alg'rie" (trans. "Uprooted Peasants: StructuralDisruptionsand
CulturalChangesin Algeria"),which drawsfrom material also appearing in Le
Deracinement(Bourdieuand Sayad1964b), Bourdieuand Sayaddescribedwhat
they called the "culturalcontagion"occurringas a result of peasant groups
from the mountains being resettled with other groups with whom they would
not normallyhave had contact. Bourdieudrew an analogy between these re-
settlement camps and cities-both of which were contrasted with traditional
clan social organization.Algerianpeasants mixed with those having had more
contact with the city in these camps, and Bourdieunoted the "devaluationof
peasant virtues,the breakdownof "collectivecontrols"(1964a:79)on behavior,
generational conflicts, and changes in women's roles. Changes in greetings,
cafe behavior,food and eating habits were also noted. It was the traditional
peasant (paysanempaysanne)who was left most emotionally displaced in this
setting, accordingto the analysis, no longer feeling comfortable in his bodily
habitus (1964a:87).The language of the peasant body was out of place in the
resettlement camp. The term empaysannd,for which there is no directtransla-
tion into English,implies a condition of being locked or enclosed within one's
"peasant-ness,"unable to escape the inculcatedhabitus. Bychoosingthis term,
Bourdieuwas referringto a disconnect between the traditionalhabitus(geared
towarda traditionalsocioeconomic and kinshipsystem)and the changingeco-
nomic structuresin which the peasant was living.
Inthe earlierarticleon Bearn,"Celibatet ConditionPaysanne"("Bachelorhood
and the PeasantCondition"),similarthemes of a rupturewith the past and dis-
locationfor the traditionalmale peasant are present.Here,Bourdieualso made
referenceto paysans empaysannis, enclosed within the condition of peasant-
hood. Itwas in this articlethat he firstmade extensive use of the bodilyhabitus
in his work.Thisarticle on bachelorswas producedduringthe postwarperiod
in France,a time of alarm about "ruralexodus"and the high rate of bachelor-
hood in many regions. Bourdieuargued that the traditionalsocial system, in
which marriagewas primarilya concern of the peasantfamilyand its interestin
inheritance,had been disruptedby socioeconomicchanges affectingthe mean-
ing of the dowryitself but also attitudestowardthe individual.Marriagehad be-
come, by the 1960s, more a matterof individualchoice than of the authorityof
the patriarchalfamily system. As girls became more educated, Bourdieuar-
gued, and had more accessto urbanways of life,they increasinglyignoredmale
peasants from isolated hamlets as potential husbands, despite concernsof in-
heritance.Inthe article,Bourdieuaddressedthe ways in which unmarriedmen


were producedwithin a marriagesystem that favored male primogeniture,and

in which women tended to "marryup"the economic and social scale. Menfrom
isolated hamletswere the most likelycandidatesfor remainingin an unmarried
state. Theywere also, he maintained,most awareof their conditionand the lim-
itationsof "peasanthood."
Thisarticle includesshort narrativesabout marriageand bachelorhoodtold
by marriedand unmarriedmen, mostly translatedfrom the local dialect, that
Bourdieucollectedin the field. In its collectionof interviewstatementsabout ex-
periencesof dislocation,Bourdieuused similarmethods in this studyto those he
used in his study of dislocatedAlgerianworkers(Bourdieu,Darbelet al. 1963).
He collaboratedwith one of the demographersfrom the Algerianstudy,Claude
Seibel, in the work in Lesquire.Just as he and his collaboratorshad done in
Travailet Travailleursen Algerie,Bourdieu combined a statisticaland "objec-
tive' analysiswith "subjective"materialfrom interviews.In orderto explainthe
high rate of bachelorhood, he outlined statisticalpatterns in the marriagesys-
tem and supplemented this with short first-personnarratives.Bourdieuprovid-
ed more ethnography here than he had in his Algerianresearch, which was
based largelyupon interviews.Hewrotea "thickdescription"of the settingof var-
ious dances in Lesquire-in particular,the Christmas-timedance. Herewe also
see the developing theory of habitus,which Bourdieuwould later characterize
as havingto do with symbolicdominationand the internalizationof feelingsand
habits so as to generate behavior.In this earlywork of Bourdieu's,he used the
terms "bodilyhabitus"(habituscorporal)and "hexis"interchangeably.Hewrote:

This is not the place to analyze the motor habits particular to the
Bearnaise peasant, this habitus, which reveals the backward peasant,
the lumbering peasant. The folk observation perfectlycaptures this hex-
is which fuels the stereotypes:"Thepeasant of olden times,"remarkedan
elderlyvillager,"alwayswalkedwith his legs curvedin an arc, as if he were
knock-kneed,with his arms bent backwards." (2002:114-5;my translation)

The structuralposition of these bachelorsmade it difficultfor them to mar-

ry, but the bachelorsthemselves embodied ways of moving and dressingand
acting that made it difficultfor them to attracta wife. Due to gender segrega-
tion in the community, chances for young males and females to socialize to-
gether were limited,and the dances permitteda rareoccasionfor social mixing.
The bachelors were clumsy in their movements, Bourdieu wrote, and their
clothingwas in outdated styles.Theydidn't reallyknow how to dance or to talk

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnographyin BMarnand Kabylai

to girls.The bachelors had a way of dressing,a way of moving, a way of drink-

ing, a way of singing,etc. that was partof their bodilyhexis,or "habitus."Atthis
point, Bourdieu had not yet articulateda theory of habitus that saw it as the
generatingstructureof the structure,or as a set of dispositionsthat createdvar-
ious limitsto strategies(cf.Bourdieu1977b and 1990).Althoughthere is also ev-
idence of the development of these latertheories in his earlyAlgerianwork,for
example, the descriptionsof riposteand honor among the Kabyles(1966), he
did not use the term habitus in that early work.
In his description,Bourdieufirstset the scene of the dance, whichtook place
in the backroomof a cafe. Therewere smartlydressedcouples, dancingto pop-
ulartunes. Therewere also some unmarriedgirlsand boysthere. Bourdieu'sstyle
of writingis distant,clinical,avoidingthe "I"(as he laterpointedout himself);and
yet, it can't help but conveythe emotional reactionhe had to this scene. The pic-
ture he painted is bleak,conveyedthroughterms like"sombermass."Hewrote:

Behind, on the margins of the dance floor, gathers a somber mass, a

group of men who are older,who look on, without speaking:all at least
30 years old, they wear a beret and a darksuit, of outdated style. Almost
as if tempted to dance,they come forward,takingsome of the spaceof the
dancers.They are there, all the bachelors.The men of their age who are
alreadymarriedno longer attend the dances (2002:111;my translation).

Wecan see in the passage the internalizedbody image and ways of moving
associatedwith this habitus, in turn associated with traditionalforms of behav-
ior confrontingemerging "modern"ways of operatingthat have been adopted
by the youth of the community.Bourdieubrieflydescribedother dances where
the entire community came either to dance or to gossip about possible mar-
riages.Thisdance, however,was a dance primarilyfor the youth, and he wrote
that "Atthe dances like this one at Christmastimeor New Year's,the bachelors
have nothingto do. Thoseare the dances for the youth;that is to say,those who
aren't yet married.They [the bachelors]aren't yet old, but they know they are
unmarriageable.These are the dances to which one goes to dance; yet they
don't dance"(2002:112;my translation).Occasionallya young girlwould askone
of these bachelorsto dance just to be polite, and they would revealtheir heav-
iness and clumsiness as they danced with the girls. As the night grew later,
Bourdieuwrote,"theystaythere, untilmidnight,barelyspeaking,in the lightand
noise of the dance, gazingat the inaccessiblegirls.Thenthey will go into the bar
and drinkface to face. Theywill sing together the old btarnaise tunes... and,


by twos or threes, they will slowlytake their leave, at the end of the evening, to-
ward their isolated farms"(2002:112; my translation).

Tristes Tropiques/Tristes Paysans

The dance at Christmastime was a setting in which Bourdieuwas native and
outsider,objective and subjectiveobserver.The articledoes not, however,state
that this is Bourdieu'snatal region,and an uninformedreaderwould not know
this. The stance of distance and objectivitytoward this materialwith which he
was so familiarwas deliberate.As Bourdieuexplained many years after writing
the initialarticle,"Thepoint of departureof this researchis a very personalex-
periencethat I recountedin the article,but in a veiled form, because at the time
I felt compelled to "disappear"' (Bourdieuand Wacquant1992:162). Healso ex-
pressed his attachment to this dance: "I can say that I spent nearly twenty
yearstryingto understandwhy I chose that village ball...I even believe-this is
something that I would never have dared say even ten years ago-that the
feeling of sympathy(in the strongestsense of the term) that I felt then and the
sense of pathos that exuded from the scene I witnessed were surelyat the root
of my interest in this object"(Bourdieuand Wacquant1992:164).12
In neither the case of his ethnographicresearchin late colonial Algeria,nor
that of ruralFrance,did Bourdieuseek what Lkvi-Strauss described as the "no
more thrillingprospectfor the anthropologistthan that of being the firstwhite
man to visit a particularnativecommunity"(Lvi-Strauss1992:326). In both cas-
es, Bourdieuimmersed himself in fieldworksituations that were impossibleto
close off from "the west,"or its influences. Levi-Straussalso wrote:

While remaining human himself, the anthropologist tries to study and

judge mankindfrom a point of view sufficientlyloftyand remote to allow
him to disregardthe particularcircumstancesof a given society or civi-
lization. (L1vi-Strauss

Bourdieuintended to invertsuch a stance by going to his own environment

in ruralFrancein orderto conductethnographicfieldwork.Itwas what Bourdieu
calledthe "objectification"
associatedwith structuralismthat he latercame to re-
ject as he developed his "theoryof practice."Bourdieudid, however, distance
himself from familiarsurroundingswhile undertakingresearchin BRarn.
Bourdieu'searlywritingson Algerianand Frenchpeasants show how he was
beginningto move from the bodily habitusto a more complex theory of habi-

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnographyin B1arn and Kabylai

tus which incorporatedinternalstates as well as external movements and be-

haviors,tied to a notion of the structureas generated by these internalizeddis-
positions. We also see, however,that these writingsbetray a nostalgicview of
peasant society-a melancholy,or "triste,"portraitof the disruptionand rupture
with pastwhich produceddislocated,marginalpeople. Whileculturalmediators
were key figures in the Franco-Algerian colonial discourseand in colonial poli-
cy (as, for instance, Colonna 1975 has shown in the case of teacher training),
Bourdieufocused on the tristesseassociatedwith being "betweenworlds."And
he found it not only in Algeria,but also in a Frenchsystem that producedmar-
ginalitythroughthe educationalsystem, as in his own case. Bourdieusubstitut-
ed Levi-Strauss's tristestropiques,and its critiqueof modern civilization,with an
image of the tristespaysans,and an attendantcritiqueof the influencesof mod-
ern capitalismon traditionalsocioeconomic peasant societies. As I have triedto
show in this article, much of this is due to his life trajectoryas a man of rural
rootswho positioned himselfas dislocatedin the bourgeoismilieu of academia
and felt that he had a privilegedview of peasantsdue to his own origins.Itmight
not be takingthis too farto suggestthat Bourdieu'sown tristesseand feelingsof
alienation played a part in his analyses of peasant societies. We must not lose
sight however, in seeking the originsof his thought in some of his own expla-
nationsarisingfrom his autobiographicalexperiences,of influenceson hiswork
that he did not explicitlyacknowledgein his laterreflexivewritings.Whilehe of-
ten cited the influencesof philosophyand of his reactionsto Frenchstructural-
ism in his work, Bourdieurarelyaddressed other ethnographicresearchin the
regions where he worked. Hisearliestwritingswere, however, markedby a di-
chotomy of traditionalvs. modern society that was also part of Mediterranean
studies in general during the 1960s, and which overshadowedat times even
Bourdieu'sown experience, so that he made little explicit connection in his
writings between his ethnographies of Algeriaand France.His early writings
were also markedby his desire to portrayan "objective,"scientificgaze even in
situationsthat evoked familiaremotional reactions.

Thisarticleisa muchrevisedversionof a paperdeliveredat the 2002American Anthropological
AssociationMeetingsin NewOrleans.Iwouldliketo thankJaneGoodman,andthe anonymous
reviewersforAnthropological for insightfulcommentsand suggestionson thisessay.
Sectionsof this articleare drawnfrommaterialthat will also appearin a forthcomingbook,


1Forexample,TheAlgeriansappearedin 1962, and other articleson the Algerianworkap-
pearedin Englishtranslationduringthe 1960s.TheearliestFrencharticledealingwith his ru-
ralFrenchethnographyalso appearedin 1962 (Bourdieu1962).Ithas neverbeen translated
into English.Itwas not until1976 thatthe firstEnglish-language publicationof the B1arnre-
searchappeared,in an articleon "marriagestrategies"includedin a compilationof Annales
articlestranslatedintoEnglish.AlthoughOutlineof a Theoryof Practice(1977)is devotedstrict-
ly to the Algerianmaterial,the reworkingof some of this materialin the Logicof Practice
(1990)was accompaniedby a chapteron marriagestrategiesin Bearn-but this did not ap-
pearin Englishuntil1990;moreover,it is fromthe sameAnnalesarticlealreadytranslatedin
1976. Tothe best of my knowledge,this is the only piece of writingspecificallydrawingup-
on Bourdieu'searlyethnographicworkin ruralFrancethat has been translatedinto English.
2LdicWacquant(1993)has usefullydrawnattentionto fragmentedreadingsof Bourdieuin the
U.S.Hedoes not, however,addressthe lackof attentionto Bourdieu'sethnographicworkin
ruralFranceand makesonly passingmentionof this bodyof Bourdieu'sworkin his essay.
3Thisis particularlyevidentin MasculineDomination(2000),where Bourdieucomparedtra-
ditionalBearnaiseand Kabylesocietiesto contemporaryFrance,and foregroundeda shared
Mediterranean cultureof androcentrism.Thathe workedon two books,publishedposthu-
mously,that dealt with the earliestresearchin both sites (LeBaldes Celibataires (2002)and
Imagesd'Algerie(2003)is also evidenceof his intellectual"return" to these sites laterin life.
41nnone of his laterautobiographicalreflectionsdid Bourdieudiscusshis role as soldieror
muchabout the violence he mighthave observed.Forsome of his recollectionsof that pe-
riod,see the recentImagesd'Algerie(2003).
SThetwo classicworkson educationare Bourdieuand Passeron(1964and 1970).A more re-
cent studyof educationis TheStateNobility(1996)I1have dealt with the nation-buildingas-
pect of rural Frencheducation in my own work (Reed-Danahay1996). Bourdieunever
explicitlyaddressedthe contentor historicalsignificanceof Frenchschoolingin national,eth-
nic, or regionalterms in his scholarlywritingsand sociologicalstudiesof education,choos-
ing to focus on the socialclass reproductionof the school.
6Thismaterialappearedwiththe title"J'avais 15 ans...."(Iwasfifteen...)le NouvelObservateur,
Jan.31,2002. Thereis controversy surroundingthisas the memoirwasviewedas unauthorized
by Bourdieu'sfamily,who sued the magazine,claimingthat it been givento the pressbythe
journalistDidierEribonwithouttheirpermission.Dueto the legal battleand subsequentre-
tractionof the memoirexcerptsbythe magazine,Iwill not quote from it here. I did, howev-
er, readthe publishedversionwhen it firstappearedin early2002. It is availableonline at 0243.html.
7Someof that workhas been publishedas Reed-Danahay1997b and 2002.
80n the "man between two worlds",see also the chapter on "LeSabir Culturel"in Le
Deracinement(Bourdieuand Sayad1964b).
9Bourdieuwould have more to say about reflexivityand science in his booksSciencede la
Scienceet Roflexivite(2001b)and PascalianMeditations(2000 [1997]).
10Anexceptionis his more recent book MasculineDomination(2000b).In a differentregis-
ter, Bourdieu(1996)employedsome concepts,such as honor,from his Kabylematerials,to
analyzeprocessesof socialreproductionin elite educationin Francein a more recentstudy.
"WhileBourdieucouldnot trulyescapethe violenceand war in Algeriain his descriptionsof
Kabylia,althoughhe did do so in Outline,he managedto avoidany directreferencesto the
SecondWorldWarin hiswritingson B~arn.Althoughthe regionof Pau,wherehe grewup,was
in the "freezone,"Bourdieu'searlyyouthwas spent in a countryalso at war.Bourdieuattrib-
uted the dislocationof Frenchpeasantsto the economicconsequencesof increasedurban-
izationand populationshiftsfollowingthe war,butdid not,even in his laterautobiographical

TristesPaysans: Bourdieu's EarlyEthnography in BMarnand Kabylai

reflections,considerthe effectsof the war itself.I am gratefulto an anonymousreviewerfor

pointingto this importantomissionon Bourdieu'spart.Bourdieufocusedalmostexclusively
on whathe termedthe "symbolicviolence"associatedwithsocialclassdominationin France.
121na fascinatingturn of events, Bourdieu'sson, EmmanuelBourdieu,has made a feature-
lengthmovie,LeVertParadis,based looselyupon the storyof an ethnographerwho returns
to his natalvillageto studybachelorhood.It is in post-productionat the time of thiswriting
and is to be releasedin early2004.

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