Struggle for Inclusion: The Narratives of Religious Converts from Pakistan

Struggle for Inclusion: The Narratives of Religious Converts from Pakistan

Ambreen Shahriar (University of Sindh, Pakistan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1955-3.ch014
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The chapter explores the struggle for inclusion at home and society faced by four young people when they quit the religion they inherited from their parents. Using life-story interviews, it discusses reactions of their families about their decision to quit religion. Furthermore, the chapter sheds light on the ways these young individuals coped with the social problems that they faced after they made a difficult, socially unacceptable choice of switching from their inherited religion. The promotion of symbolic violence in the field and its use by the agents around the participants of this study is discussed through Bourdieu's concepts of habitus and field. The chapter aims to understand and highlight the dilemma faced by the participants due to their decision of conversion in a society which is still not ready for this.
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Bourdieu’S Concepts Of Habitus And Field

“Body is in the social world but the social world is also in the body” (Bourdieu, 1990b, p. 190). Bourdieu’s concept of ‘Field’ along with different ‘Capitals’ in it explains the former part of the idea, whereas that of ‘Habitus’ explains the latter, resulting in his famous conceptual triad – habitus, capital and field. Agents are formed out of the social structure and in return, they define the social structure.

Habitus is a disposition formed through socialisation of an agent in the force field. Although habitus keeps changing and developing throughout life, it has the greatest impact on early life socialisation. Change and choice are at the heart of habitus, even though choice is limited by social structures. The formation of habitus is also affected by the capital owned by the agent. Bourdieu considers all assets as agent’s capitals, ranging from education, language, friendship, religion, customs etc. including, of course, money and financial assets. Field is “the site of struggles” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 14). Jenkins (1992, p. 84) explains it further by mentioning that each agent aims at maintaining and improving his position by acquisition of more and more capital. Different kinds of capital are recognised by different force fields, for example, some capitals are considered significant in one force field but not in another.

All social agents have their conceptual triad in society, which positions them in the social field. The field positions the agents on the basis of the kind and degree of capital they and their family possess, and the agents also perceive the field and other agents in it on the basis of the kind and degree of capital each individual possesses. This, in turn, determines the habitus, a way of seeing and understanding the social world and its practices, of each agent.

Bourdieu viewed habitus “as a system of lasting, transposable dispositions which (…) functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions, appreciations, and actions” (Bourdieu, 1977, pp. 82-83). The method of construction of habitus, as discussed by Bourdieu (1977, 1990a), with the balance of structure and agency, make it both vast and vague. Bourdieu makes habitus accommodating and developing on one hand, and unpredictable on the other. However, it is made adaptable to the conditions of agents, in order to fit it in the complex social world (see Reay, 1995). The transformation and restructuring that helps enrich habitus is only possible through adopting and adapting, experiencing and internalising processes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dispositions: A spectrum of cognitive and affective factors: thinking, feeling etc., everything from the classificatory categories to the sense of honour.

Habitus: Dispositions that are formed through early socialization, which however, continue to develop and change throughout life.

Capital: Assets available for use in the production of further assets. In Bourdieu’s terminology, these include social class, customs and traditions, friendships etc., apart from money and other material things. These are also expected to benefit or at least place an agent in the social hierarchy.

Agent: An individual, anyone who is part of the society and has to respect social norms.

Life History: An interview covering the story of life of a participant, including all those incidents that s/he wants to share with the researcher.

Social Space: The whole world or practical space of everyday life.

Field: Any social space with certain social norms, which are equally accepted by all agents as the rules of life in that field.

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