This paper seeks to outline and evaluate Pierre Bourdieu’s work as it has appeared most recently in feminist studies and the field of gender and education. In particular, it suggests ways in which Bourdieu’s theoretical insights could be seen to more effectively contribute to cutting edge debates in both social theory and feminist thought regarding concepts such as agency, identity and domination. It also argues that a more creative and empirical engagement with the recent work of Bourdieu, alongside an interdisciplinary reading of more recent cultural and social theories of power, would be a fruitful way forward in advancing a feminist sociology of education. In the present historical moment and against the tide of postmodern and post-structuralist feminist accounts, Bourdieu is often read as a determinist who has little to offer contemporary feminist debates or who argues that masculine domination is too tightly woven to social practices of a given field. In short, this paper argues that such a view is not only a misreading of Bourdieu’s work on fundamental theoretical grounds, but fails to acknowledge the ways in which his more recent work on masculinity addresses both the cultural and social conditions underlying contemporary forms of symbolic domination. In short, the paper argues that Bourdieu’s theory offers an analytical breadth and range beyond the scope of anything that a normative, liberal account of masculine domination could provide. Yet, in drawing from such diversity, Bourdieu’s oeuvre is able to resist incomprehensibility. It stands as a highly focused, realistic and generative attempt to chart the problems of subordination, differentiation and hierarchy, and to expose the possibilities, as well as the limits, of gendered self-hood.
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