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Pierre Bourdieu and History

Pierre Bourdieu et l’histoire

Influences, inspirations, interactions

Influences, inspirations, interactions

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Published on Thursday, April 14, 2022


The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu died in 2002. His work continues to be highly influential, as evidenced by an ongoing editorial activity and the international dissemination of his writings. While Bourdieu left his mark on many intellectual areas through the breadth of his theories, he established a privileged dialogue with history as a discipline. Twenty years later, this conference aims to shed further light on the links between history, historians, and Bourdieu’s scientific legacy.



Twenty years after the death of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), his work continues to raise questions, as evidenced by an ongoing editorial activity, from the recent publication of lectures given at the Collège de France (Anthropologie économique, 2017) to a new scientific edition of Travail et travailleurs en Algérie (2021), to the very exhaustive Dictionnaire international Bourdieu (2019). Outside France, the international circulation of Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas continues with further translations of his works, handbooks and other syntheses. New scientific publications testify to the continuing reception of Bourdieu’s thought within different intellectual traditions.

While Pierre Bourdieu has left his mark on many disciplines through the sheer breadth of his theories and the diversity of his research topics, the affinities and the points of friction with history are particularly striking. In April 2022, a conference at the Maison française d’Oxford aims to shed further light on the links between history and Bourdieu’s scientific and political activity, from his early work on Algeria to his public engagements at the turn of the last century. How far have we come concerning the project of a unified social science that Pierre Bourdieu wished for, “where history would be a historical sociology of the past and sociology a social history of the present” ?

Bourdieu as a historian. – Philosopher turned anthropologist and sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu always paid attention to historical contexts and the effects of history in the present. Contrary to some preconceived ideas, Bourdieu did propose a theory of socio-historical change. Some of his concepts, e. g. the ‘field’ (with its sociogenesis), and the ‘habitus’ (resulting from embodied history), make it possible to explain not only the permanence of social spaces but also the emergence of discontinuities in history. Bourdieu repeatedly analysed crises and ruptures : in peasant societies, in colonial contexts, at the emergence of avant-garde art and literature, during the socio-political upheavals of the 1960s and 1990s. In what ways should we view the methods and analyses of Bourdieu as a historian, particularly in relation to historiographic schools ?

Bourdieu, witness to history. – In post-war France, Bourdieu experienced first-hand the changes affecting rural society and the ambiguous effects of the national education system. In Algeria, he witnessed colonial domination and the resulting armed conflict. At the same time, Bourdieu acted on history himself, both through the influence of his research and through his political commitments. Bourdieu demanded that researchers permanently reflect on their categories and positions. But could he go so far as to historicise his own person ? Is it possible to elucidate the blind spots in his own history that might have escaped his self-analysis ? 

The historians’ Bourdieu. – Finally, Bourdieu established a permanent dialogue with history as a discipline, engaging in debates with professional historians in France and abroad. Through the criticisms he deployed, rightly or wrongly, against the academic practice of history (the “teleological illusion”, the “cult of good writing”, “distrust of concepts”, “spontaneous positivism”, “incorrectly formulated problems”, “latent statements on the present”, etc.), Bourdieu outlined a new approach to history. In the course of his work, Bourdieu sketched out a redefinition : history as a reflexive science looking at its own functioning, firmly anchoring its theory in practice, envisaging a way of working collectively, going beyond disciplinary divisions and adopting a comparative and transnational approach. These proposals have undeniably renewed the approaches adopted by historians who have consequently defined innovative research topics, explored new types of sources and placed Bourdieu’s concepts at the heart of neglected historical fields. In what ways do historians use Bourdieu’s theories and methods today ? Are there partial appropriations, inspirations or borrowings, more or less avowed, or on the contrary criticisms ? How has the international reception of Bourdieu differed in research on different historical periods, in different historiographic schools and different countries ? If we can assess Bourdieu’s influence in historical science, is it possible to identify a potential for future research in a critical dialogue with his work ?

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Pierre Bourdieu’s work has had a sometimes late but nonetheless sustained reception in the UK. On several occasions, Bourdieu travelled across the Channel to London, Cambridge and Oxford. In February 1996, he gave a lecture at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in Oxford and then held a dialogue with the philosopher Jacques Bouveresse at the Maison Française. In 2012, at the 10th anniversary of his death, a conference was organised at the Maison Française d’Oxford, bringing together French academics, but the proceedings were not published. In 2022, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, and again at the Maison française d’Oxford, a dialogue between Bourdieu specialists and especially between English or American and French historians will be organised. Bourdieu reconsidered by history, and by historians : the event will make it possible to evaluate the posterity and the fruitful reception of a work that deserves to be read again and again.

Anne Friederike Müller-Delouis – Arietta Papaconstantinou


21 April 2022

St Peter’s College, New Inn Hall St

9 :30 : Introduction

  • Pascal Marty (CNRS, director of the Maison française d’Oxford) – Welcome
  • Anne Friederike Müller-Delouis (Université d’Orléans) & Arietta Papaconstantinou (University of Reading) – Twenty years later

9 :45-10 :45 Keynote 1

  • Derek Robbins (University of East London) – Homo historicus

11 :15-12 :45 Session 1

  • Ingrid Holtey (Universität Bielefeld) – Histoire et sociologie: un parcours personnel 
  • Franck Poupeau (CNRS, Paris) – Beyond the differentiation of modern societies: field theory and its analytical shifts

14 :30-16 :00 Session 2

  • Nathan Schlanger (École nationale des chartes – PSL, Paris) – From technology to material culture: reading Bourdieu with objects in mind 
  • Andrew Gardner (University College London) – Bourdieu and the practice turn in archaeology: an incomplete revolution

16 :30-18 :00 Session 3

  • James McDougall (University of Oxford) – Space, language, and symbolic power
  • Bella Sandwell (University of Bristol) – Bourdieu, habitus and cognitive science: on the possibilities of religious change in late antiquity

22 April 2022

Maison française d’Oxford, 2-10 Norham Rd

9 :30-10 :30 Keynote 2

  • Gisèle Sapiro (EHESS) – Reproduction, structural transformation and crises: Bourdieu’s historical sociology

11 :00-12 :30 Session 4

  • Marie Legendre (University of Edinburgh) – Bourdieu and the early Islamic state
  • Antoine Destemberg (Université d’Artois) – Were medieval theologians sociologists? Pierre Bourdieu and the astonishment of the Middle Ages

14 :00-15 :30 Session 5

  • Anaïs Albert (Université de Paris Cité) – The usefulness of Pierre Bourdieu for the 19th-century social history: working classes, domination and agency
  • Lilian Mathieu (École normale supérieure, Lyon) – Bourdieu and May 68: from student demography to political crisis

15 :50-18 :00 Session 6

  • Benoît de l’Estoile (CNRS Paris, CMH) – Dancing on a tight rope: Bourdieu and anthropology

Round table – The sociologist between history and anthropology : a unified social science ?

  • Sondra Hausner (University of Oxford)
  • Adam Kuper (London School of Economics)
  • Arietta Papaconstantinou (University of Reading),

moderated by Anne Friederike Müller-Delouis (Université d’Orléans)

Organisation committee

  • Anne Friederike Müller-Delouis, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology, University of OrléansVice-Rector for International Relations / Europe
  • Arietta Papaconstantinou, Associate Professor of Ancient History, University of ReadingAssociate Faculty Member in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford

Scientific committee

  • Franck Poupeau, Directeur de recherche au CNRSUniversity of Arizona, IRL iGLOBES - Interdisciplinary and Global Environmental Studies
  • Gisèle Sapiro, Directrice de recherche au CNRSDirectrice d’études à l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique
  • Derek Robbins, Emeritus professor of International Social Theory, University of East LondonSchool of Education and Communities
  • Alan Strathern, Associate Professor in History, University of OxfordTutor and Fellow in History, Brasenose College

MFO coordinator

  • Olivier Delouis, CNRS, Research FellowMaison française d’Oxford

Practical information

The conference will take place on-site at St Peter’s College and at the Maison Française, and will also be livestreamed on Zoom.

To attend the event onsite or receive a link to join on Zoom, you will need to register here.

After registering, you will receive an email with all the details to join us onsite and online.


  • 2-10 Norham Road - Maison française d'Oxford
    Oxford, Britain (OX2 6SE)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Thursday, April 21, 2022
  • Friday, April 22, 2022


  • Pierre Bourdieu, historiographie, histoire des sciences sociales, dialogue interdisciplinaire


  • Anne Friederike Delouis
    courriel : anne [dot] delouis [at] univ-orleans [dot] fr

Information source

  • Anne Friederike Delouis
    courriel : anne [dot] delouis [at] univ-orleans [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Pierre Bourdieu and History », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Thursday, April 14, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/18qg

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