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Breaking from the field: participant observation and Bourdieu’s participant objectivation
chapterposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Emma RoweEmma Rowe
In this chapter, I will explore participant observation as a method within the academy, through a framework of Bourdieu’s field theory. This methodology is of interest to Bourdieu, who refers to it as ‘participant objectivation’ and ‘the highest form of the sociological art’ (Bourdieu 1992, p. 259). Despite Bourdieu’s enduring interest in ethnographic fieldwork and participant objectivation, over many decades of his work, there has been relatively little take-up or exploration of how he practises fieldwork, especially in comparison with the attention paid to many of his other contributions. In this chapter, I focus on three central concepts—the notions of objectivity for the sociologist, ‘objectivation’ and epistemic reflexivity. The central motif is the critique of power and the (in)visible mechanics of power which are produced, structured and constructed within the research field.