RE: another view of Panofsky: what is "habitus"?

From: Ares, Nancy (
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 07:19:07 PDT

        I appreciate the question about habitus and cultural practices or
cultural repertoires. It is helping me think about something that has been
nagging at me through this discussion -- units of analysis. Habitus, as
defined by numerous sources people have cited in this discussion, is very
much an individual construction. When we start to invoke cultural practices
and repertoires, we are nodding to work that focuses more on groups and
activity at that level. I guess one of the things that has drawn me to
sociocultural, cultural historical theories is the explicit recognition of
people-in-activity and the important frameworks available for thinking
about/understanding culture, change, and difference across groups in
productive ways. How do others think about units of analysis around these
constructs? Why does the focus seem to move to individuals so readily?


> From: Steve Gabosch
> Reply To:
> Sent: Friday, June 4, 2004 5:56 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: another view of Panofsky: what is "habitus"?
> Thanks so much for this discussion of habitus, great posts and references,
> all very helpful. The definition below from
> does not include the aspect of class
> that Andy emphasizes nor some of the other points made, but it offers
> other interesting angles to think about. (Maria, your discussion of
> Aquinas was especially helpful, much appreciated).
> Phil's term "embodied subjectivities" is a very interesting term to bring
> up. It seems like it captures important aspects of the terms Dan
> discussed of Jacob von Uexull's, Umwelt (for all animals) and Lebenswelt
> (for people), referring to the world-as-lived of the individual, which, as
> Dan explained, for a person, includes their "cultural constructions." I
> wonder - could the term "habitus" be substituted for "cultural
> constructions" in that previous sentence? What meaning is changed if we
> say instead Lebenswelt refers to the world-as-lived of an individual,
> which includes their "habitus" (instead of "cultural constructions")?
> Another question: how do the terms "cultural practice" and "cultural
> repertoire" (Gutierrez, Rogoff) compare with the concept of "habitus" - to
> what extent can one have more than one "habitus" at their disposal?
> - Steve
> [The following is from the Wikepedia Encyclopedia:]
> In post-structuralist thought, habitus, a concept defined by Pierre
> Bourdieu, refers to the total ideational environment of a person. This
> includes the person's beliefs and dispositions, and prefigures everything
> that that person may choose to do. The concept of habitus challenges the
> concept of free will, in that within a certain habitus at any one time,
> choices are not limitless?here are limited dispositions, or readinesses
> for action. A person is not an automaton, for there exists flexibility in
> a habitus, but neither is there complete free will.
> A large part of the concept of habitus is that it brings attention to the
> fact that there are limitless options for action that a person would never
> think of, and therefore those options don't really exist as possibilities.
> In normal social situations, a person relies upon a large store of scripts
> and a large store of knowledge, which present that person with a certain
> picture of the world and how she or he thinks to behave within it.
> A person's habitus cannot be fully known to the person, as it exists
> largely within the realm of the unconscious and includes things as
> visceral as body movements and postures, and it also includes the most
> basic aspects of thought and knowledge about the world, including about
> the habitus itself.
> [This Wikepedia entry includes a "discussion" tab with this comment:]
> This particular nuance of the usage for the term may be recent, but the
> term is common in Thomas Aquinas and may, for all I know about the history
> of philosophy, be all over the place much earlier. I am fairly sure that
> Aquinas's usage is a Latin translation (all the word literally means is
> "habit") from an Aristotelian term from the ethical works. --Michael
> Tinkler
> <end>

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Nov 09 2004 - 11:42:57 PST