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Bourdieu conference and workshop: From Jenny Thatcher

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

A Successful Bourdieu’s Key Concepts: Postgraduate/ Early Career Conference and Workshop

The University of East London in conjunction with Queen’s University Belfast and University of Bristol recently sponsored a two day Postgraduate/ Early Career event that focused on the application of Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts to empirical research in the field of sociology and anthropology, with a substantive focus on the concepts outlined in Michael Grenfell’s (2008) edited book: Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts. The conference was hosted at the University of Bristol on Wednesday 28th – Thursday 29th September 2011

The two day event was centred on the presentations of five renowned academics who apply the theoretical concepts of Bourdieu to their work. The academics included: Prof. Michael Grenfell (Trinity College, Dublin), Prof. Diane Reay (University of Cambridge), Dr. Will Atkinson (University of Bristol), Prof. Derek Robbins (University of East London) and Prof. David James (University of the West of England). The four latter academics also conducted workshops over the two days with an average of eight participants in each. The participants were placed into four groups giving each group a chance to have a tutorial style workshop with all four academics at various points during the two days. This gave the participants an excellent opportunity to discuss their research as well as seek advice on their own research and gain valuable feedback from some of the country’s leading academics with international reputation specialising in Pierre Bourdieu.

At the end of the first day the academic and participants attended an organised dinner, providing  the opportunity for the postgraduate students/early career researchers to develop their network contacts with other researchers using Bourdieu in a relaxed and friendly environment.

The two day event was a great success and was an enjoyable and beneficial experience for all those that attended.  Although we had initially only advertised for applications from UK, we had postgraduates and early career researchers applying from all over the world. Therefore, we opened it up to an international audience and had attendees travelling from as far as America and Brazil. This event highlighted the increasing popularity of the application of Bourdieu’s concepts to current research internationally. We were inundated with applications and unfortunately had to turn many people away. The number of people applying to attend confirmed the need for more events centred on Bourdieu particularly for postgraduates and early career researchers. Some feedback from the conference included:

‘The conference was stimulating and has helped me to refocus on the theoretical concepts which inform my PhD. The key speakers were excellent and it was highly unusual to be able to have workshops with people who are so eminent in their field…excellent! I will be able to use the discussions that I had in my teaching as well as in my research.’

Tamsin Bowers-Brown, PhD student and lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University.

Prof Derek Robbins hosting a small workshop

The Bourdieu workshop was a great reminder of how much we can still develop his theories for contemporary use. It was an extremely valuable experience and has provoked deep thinking amongst everyone who participated. I would love to see this grow into an annual event.’

Billy Wong, PhD student, Kings College London.

Audience waiting for a keynote speech

‘For young researchers, it was a great possibility to hear from more seasoned researchers, some of their practical and theoretical experiences and understandings of working with Bourdieu’s ideas. The nature of the workshops also allowed individuals to ask about their own work and how it could be strengthened through more expert understandings of Bourdieu. It was therefore an excellent example of intellectual field communications.’

Adam Sales, PhD student and early career researcher, University of Bristol.

Prof Mike Grenfell’s keynote speech

‘I’d like to say thank you very much for the Bourdieu conference/workshop. I could not have had a better experience, the organisers were so helpful, organisers had put on a fantastic conference. I’m so impressed with the academics you had at the conference as they are the top people in our field. They were exactly as I thought they would be, i.e supremely knowledgeable and experts at what they do. They were also so friendly and approachable. The venue was fantastic! The conference has helped me immeasurably: I have a clearer understanding of Bourdieu’s Key Concepts, I feel I am part of a community and I have gotten a little more confidence. Thank you and well done! I’d be happy to attend a conference like this again. Thank you to all the funders’

Teresa Crew, PhD student, Bangor University

Following on from this event and because of the large demand from PhDs students, the organisers: Nicola Ingram (University of Bristol), Ciaran Burke (Queen’s University Belfast) and Jenny Thatcher (University of East London) established a British Sociological Association (BSA) Bourdieu study group http://www.britsoc.co.uk/specialisms/Bourdieu.htm. The aims of the Bourdieu Study Group are:

  • To encourage and support the discussion and application of Bourdieuian social theory within sociological research.
  • To bring together researchers interested in a range of substantive areas to generate and consolidate theoretical knowledge.
  • To facilitate networking and discussion through organised activities.
  • To support postgraduate students who are engaging with Bourdieu.

As the convenors of the study group, we would like to arrange meetings/activities twice a year and hopefully have an annual Bourdieu conference.

The Bourdieu Key concept’s Team would also like to thank the University of East London, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Bristol for sponsoring Bourdieu’s Key Concepts: A Postgraduate/ Early Career Conference and Workshop

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