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

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Sun Jun 06 2004 - 04:30:51 PDT

My simple solution to that is to view the mediating tool - habitus - in
a similar role as Mike has (maybe inadvertently) introduced
mathematical modelling - the task is impossible without either the
agent or the tool (the mediational means). To use Jim Wertch's work
again tonight, the irreducible unit is
"individual-operating-with-mediational-means"... which attracts its own

On Jun 4, 2004, at 9:19 PM, Ares, Nancy wrote:

> 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?
> thanks,
> Nancy
>> 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>

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