Portrayal and betrayal: Bourdieu, photography and sociological life

Back, Les. 2009. Portrayal and betrayal: Bourdieu, photography and sociological life. The Sociological Review, 57(3), pp. 471-490. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Through an examination of Bourdieu's Algerian fieldwork the article raises general questions regarding the place of photography in sociological research. In the midst of a colonial war Bourdieu used photography to make visual fieldnotes and record the mixed realities of Algeria under colonialism. Bourdieu also used photography to communicate to the Algerians an ethical and political commitment to their cause and plight. It is argued that his photographs do not simply portrayal or communicate the realities of Algeria. They are, paradoxically, at the same time full of information and mysterious and depthless. In order to read them it is necessary to ethnographically situate them in their social and historical context. It is suggested that the photographs can also be read as an inventory of Bourdieu's attentiveness as a researcher, his curiosity and ultimately his sociological imagination. They betray his concerns as a researcher but also can be used to raise ethical and political questions beyond Bourdieu's own attempts at reflexive self-analysis. The article concludes with a discussion of how Bourdieu's sociological life might contribute to the craft of sociology today.

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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2010 07:24

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 14:10

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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