Critical reflections on the use of Bourdieu's tools to understand the practices of learning in three musical sites

28 Jul 2017

Bourdieu’s rich conceptual tools of habitus, capital and field continue to be useful in multiple areas of sociological research; however, his tools take many shapes within his own writing and different disciplines. In this article, we reflect on our use of Bourdieu’s tools in order to enhance our understanding of how Bourdieu’s notion of ‘practice’ can be applied to practices of learning in sociological studies on music. Through comparisons of three separate studies (a secondary school, a conservatoire and an industry), we employ a comparative method of analytic induction where we think critically about how we used Bourdieu’s tools in overlapping but analytically distinct ways. After exploring the extent to which Bourdieu’s tools proved productive, or not, to think with, we end with a concluding synthesis, which highlights the challenges associated with representing forms of Bourdieu’s ‘practice’ as they relate to and inhere in practices of learning, inseparable from cultural and social immersion.