According to French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, a habitus is referring to a person’s way of thinking, acting, and behaving. A habitus is a structure that helps a person comprehend and deal with society. It can be simply seen as a merger of society and the individual. (Wysocka, Paulina, 2013). Habitus is both a “structured structure”—the effect of the actions of, and our interactions with, others—and a “structuring structure”—it suggests and constrains our future actions (Bourdieu, 1992). In other words, habitus is both the “embodiment of our social location” (i.e., class, ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender, generation, and nationality) (Noble & Watkins, 2003) and “the structure of social relations that generate and give significance to individual likes (or taste) and dislikes with regard to practice and action” (Laberge, 1995). Critically, the habitus is embodied, that is, “located within the body and affects every aspect of human embodiment” (Shilling, 1993). Theorists believe that stereotypes, narratives, ideologies and discourses all attribute to the shaping on the individual habitus. In this essay I will discuss and argue how each concept works according to various theorists and how they work in shaping the individual habitus.
A stereotype is a group concept that is usually negative and judgmental in nature. A Stereotype describes a group with certain personality traits and inhibits a more open and reflective understanding about the diversity among any given social group (Perkins 1997). Stereotypes work because they re-present a view in reality that we all recognize, otherwise they would fail to work as stereotypes (Lacey 2009). In today’s society most people believe everything they hear, and categorize people based on false standards that religion, the media and the government have given them and told them is right. Gender and racial inequalities, for example, are socially constructed and it is something we are automatically born into. Breaking away from this to create any form of change is considered not normal and ‘out of character’. This further encourages the molds of stereotypes as everything you do and everything you see others do can be categorized under any particular label whether it because of their gender, race, religion, class, sexuality or age. Stereotypes whether negative or positive help shape the individual habitus as they are the activation or encouraged thoughts about particular types of groups or specific ways of doing things from the view of society. According to Bourdier stereotypes have a real danger in creating a more of less long-term individual habitus. (Lane, Dr. Karen 2013) The habitus may be positive or negative. When it is negative and constantly reinforced through popular images of stereotypes we delimit people’s life chances drastically and unfairly.
When discussing discourse French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault stated that the idea refers to the production of knowledge through language which gives bounded meanings to material objects and social practices (McCorkle, N. Angela, 2013) In more detail discoures are groups of statements comprising language that represents knowledge about a topic and involve the individual analyzing context (historical and social forces) plus text (discourses embedded in programs) and audience reception. Discourses create different meanings and change realities for different people in time and over time. For example the way we picture the role of the family unit and what we believe to be true. (Lane, Dr. Karen, 2013) they regulate what can be said, who can say it and when and where they are allowed to. (Lane, Dr. Karen, 2013) Discourse works similarly to stereotypes as whoever has the power creates the knowledge. With Stereotypes the group who creates them has the power and we as the individual re-present the stereotypes as we recognize them (Lane, Dr. Karen, 2013). The way discourse works in shaping the individual habitus is...
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