Shadowboxing with the Ghost of Bourdieu

Cole, Simon and Dumas, Maria. 2010. Shadowboxing with the Ghost of Bourdieu. Working Paper. Goldsmiths, University of London, London. [Report]

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Abstract or Description

In this paper we attempt to move beyond the heated debate between Mitchell Duneier and Loïc Wacquant on urban ethnography, by returning to Bourdieu's methodology. In 2002, Wacquant's attack on Duneier's ethnography Sidewalk which documented the lives of black booksellers in Greenwich Village, opened up a fresh round of academic mudslinging, in which both sides attacked eachothers’ self-ascribed “reflexive” methodologies. The publication of Wacquant's Body and Soul in 2004 on the world of boxing in the Chicago black ghetto, allows us to close this rhetorical gap between Duneier's and Wacquant's sociology; by demonstrating how they struggle with the same inherent contradictions between ethnographic ethics and politics, and how they both attempt to work through the concepts of 'race' and 'capitalism' within a reflexive framework. We argue that, by returning to Bourdieu's concepts of radical doubt and participant-objectivation, we can move beyond the superficial differences between Duneier and Wacquant's positions and towards a constructive debate over the real differences between these two reflexive currents in sociology. We argue that Bourdieu's sociology, born out of a concern for object-construction, is to some extent incompatible with the American prioritisation of ethical representation, and that more attention needs to be given to this tension in future debate and application of Bourdieu's ideas in Anglo-American sociology.

Item Type:

Report (Working Paper)

Additional Information:

First published in Great Britain 2010 by Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW.

©Goldsmiths, University of London/Simon Cole and Marie Dumas.


urban ethnography, boxing, ethics, politics, race, capitalism, object-construction

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR)



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Date Deposited:

01 Aug 2023 13:01

Last Modified:

01 Aug 2023 13:08


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