Exploring the Self Through Giddens and Bourdieu

  • Lily Lei YeEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective book series (CEGP)


In this chapter, the notion of identity is discussed, in particular, the modern development of this concept. I then examine the theoretical framework underpinning the book project. This study is mainly underpinned by Giddens’ (Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age, Polity, Cambridge, 1991) concept of “the reflexive project of the self” in which identity is seen as unfixed, fragmented, socially constructed and reflexive. Consistent with my aim to avoid “othering”, this approach challenges the notions of culture and identity as categorised, essentialised, imposed and united, and departs in important respects from other studies of the intercultural adaptation of Chinese students. Apart from Giddens’ self-identity theory, I mobilise Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of capital, field and habitus to understand students’ social positions and address the issue of structural constraints on individual’s agency and reflexivity.


  1. Adams, M. (2006). Hybridizing habitus and reflexivity: Towards an understanding of contemporary identity? Sociology, 40(3), 511–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adkins, L. (2004). Reflexivity, freedom or habit of gender? In L. Adkins & B. Skeggs (Eds.), Feminism after Bourdieu (pp. 191–210). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Allard, A. C. (2005). Capitalizing on Bourdieu: How useful are concepts of ‘social capital’ and ‘social field’ for researching marginalized young women? Theory and Research in Education, 3(1), 63–79.Google Scholar
  4. Asimaki, A., & Koustourakis, G. (2014). Habitus: An attempt at a thorough analysis of a controversial concept in Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Social Sciences, 3(4), 121–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bakhtin, M. (1984). The problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalisation: The human consequences. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Baxter, A., & Britton, C. (2001). Risk, identity and change: Becoming a mature student. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 11(1), 87–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  10. Blackledge, A., & Pavlenko, A. (2002). Ideologies of language in multilingual contexts [Special issue]. Multilingua, 21, 2–3.Google Scholar
  11. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University.Google Scholar
  12. Bourdieu, P. (1984) [1979]. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (R. Nice, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1985). The social space and the genesis of groups. Theory and Society, 14(6), 723–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  15. Bourdieu, P. (1988). Homo academicus. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power (G. Raymond & M. Adamson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Bourdieu, P. (2005). Habitus. In J. Hillier & E. Rooksby (Eds.), Habitus: A sense of place (2nd ed., pp. 43–52). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  20. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  21. Byram, M. (1991). Teaching culture and language: Towards an integrated model. In D. Buttjes & M. Byram (Eds.), Mediating languages and cultures: Towards an intercultural theory of foreign language education (pp. 17–30). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  22. Callero, P. L. (2003). The sociology of the self. Annual Review of Sociology, 29(1), 115–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cerulo, K. (1997). Identity construction: New issues, new directions. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 385–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  25. Crossley, N. (2001). The phenomenological habitus and its construction. Theory and Society, 30(1), 81–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Davey, G. (2009). Using Bourdieu’s concept of habitus to explore narratives of transition. European Educational Research Journal, 8(2), 276–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dervin, F. (2009, June 12–14). The solidification of Chineseness in academic mobility: Critical reviews of ‘intercultural’ research articles on Chinese students. Paper presented at CAFIC conference, Beijing.Google Scholar
  28. Dervin, F. (2011). A plea for change in research on intercultural discourses: A ‘liquid’ approach to the study of the acculturation of Chinese students. Journal of Multicultural Discourses, 6(1), 37–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dimaggio, P. (1979). Review essay: “On Pierre Bourdieu”. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 1468–1469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Edwards, J. (1985). Language, society and identity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Eriksen, T. H., & Nielsen, F. S. (2001). A history of anthropology. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  32. Feng, A. (2009). Becoming interculturally competent in a third space. In A. Feng & M. Byram (Eds.), Becoming interculturally competent through education and training. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  33. Ferrier, J. (1998). An investigation into the diffusion of innovation in technical and further education: Implementing e-mail through action research. Ph.D. thesis, Deakin University.Google Scholar
  34. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  35. Foucault, M. (1980). The history of sexuality. Volume I: An introduction (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  36. Foucault, M. (1992) [1984]. The history of sexuality Volume 2: The use of pleasure. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  37. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  38. Gill, S. (2007). Overseas students’ intercultural adaptation as intercultural learning: A transformative framework. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 37(2), 167–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday Anchor.Google Scholar
  40. Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  41. Grimshaw, T. (2007). Problematizing the construct of “the Chinese learner”: Insights from ethnographic research. Educational Studies, 33(3), 299–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Community, culture, difference (pp. 222–237). London: Lawrence & Wishart.Google Scholar
  43. Hall, S. (1993). Cultural identity and diaspora. In Patrick Williams & Laura Chrisman (Eds.), Colonial discourse & postcolonial theory: A reader (pp. 392–401). London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  44. Haugaard, M. (Ed.). (2002). Power: A reader. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Hawkes, L. (2014). The development of the social and academic identities of international students in English-speaking higher education institutions. Available at Accessed 8 Feb 2018.
  46. Heelas, P. (1996). The new age movement: The celebration of the self and the sacralization of modernity. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Hiller, J., & Roolsby, E. (Eds.). (2005). Habitus: A sense of place. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  48. Hong, Y., & Zhao, Y. (2014). From capital to habitus: Class differentiation of family educational patterns in urban China. Sociological studies, 4, 73–93.Google Scholar
  49. Hora, M. T, & Blackburn Cohen, C. A. (2017). Cultural capital at work: How cognitive and non-cognitive skills are taught, trained and rewarded in a Chinese technical college (WCER Working Paper No. 2017–02). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Available at Accessed 28 Mar 2018.
  50. Horvat, E. M., & Davis, J. E. (2011). Schools as sites for transformation: Exploring the contribution of habitus. Youth & Society, 43(1), 142–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Jackendoff, R. S. (1994). Language as a window on thought’ in patterns in the mind. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  52. Jenkins, R. (1996). Social identity. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Jo, H. (2013). Habitus transformation: Immigrant mother’s cultural translation of educational strategies in Korea (Asia Pacific Education, Language Minorities and Migration (ELMM) Network Working Paper Series 7). Available at
  54. Joseph, J. (2004). Language and identity: National, ethnic, religious. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kettle, M. (2005). Agency as discursive practice: From “nobody” to “somebody” as an international student in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 25(1), 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. King, A. (2000). Thinking with Bourdieu against Bourdieu: A ‘practical’ critique of the habitus. Sociological Theory, 18, 417–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lareau, A., & Weininger, E. B. (2003). Cultural capital in educational research: A critical assessment. Theory and Society, 32(5/6), 567–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lawler, S. (2008). Identity: Sociological perspectives. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  59. Lee, E. M., & Kramer, R. (2013). Out with the old, in with the new? Habitus and social mobility at selective colleges. Sociology of Education, 86(1), 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Li, C. (2009). The study of disciplinary identity—Some theoretical underpinnings. HKBU Papers in Applied Language Studies, 13, 81–119.Google Scholar
  61. Li, H. (2013). Rural students’ experiences in a Chinese elite university: Capital, habitus and practices. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(5–6), 829–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Li, H. (2015). Moving to the city: Educational trajectories of rural Chinese students in an elite university. In C. Costa & M. Murphy (Eds.), Bourdieu, habitus and social research: The art of application. Palgrave Macmillan: Houndmills. Available at Accessed 28 Mar 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lin, J. (2012). Coming to belong: A narrative analysis of international students’ experiences in an Australian university. Ph.D. thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia.Google Scholar
  64. Long, D. (2012). Theories and models of student development. In L. J. Hinchliffe & M. A. Wong (Eds.), Environments for student growth and development: Librarians and student affairs in collaboration (pp. 41–55). Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.Google Scholar
  65. Luxon, T., & Peelo, M. (2009). Academic sojourners, teaching and internationalization: The experience of non-UK staff in a British university. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(6), 649–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lyotard, J.-F. (1984). The postmodern condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  67. Ma, W. (2003). Habitus: Another means to interpreting the educational behavior. Journal of Jiangsu Institute of Education (Social Sciences), 19, 9–13.Google Scholar
  68. Mahalingam, R. (2003). Essentialism, power and culture: Representations of social class. Journal of Social Issues, 59, 733–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Marginson, S. (2014). Student self-formation in international education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(1), 6–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self & society from the standpoint of a social behaviourist. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  71. Mestrovic, S. G. (1998). Anthony Giddens the last modernist. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Mitchell, M., & Egudo, M. (2003). A review of narrative methodology. Edinburgh, SA: DSTO Systems Science Laboratory.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Mouzelis, N. (1999). Exploring post-traditional orders: Individual reflexivity, pure relations and duality of structure. In M. O’Brien, S. Penna, & C. Hay (Eds.), Theorising modernity: Reflexivity, environment and identity in Gidden’s social theory. London and New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  74. Mu, G. (2014a). Chinese Australians’ Chineseness and their mathematics achievement: The role of habitus. The Australian Educational Researcher, 41(5), 585–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Mu, G. (2014b). Heritage language learning for Chinese Australians: The role of habitus. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35(5), 497–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change. Harlow: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  77. Ochs, E. (1996). Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In J. Gumperz & S. Levinson (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 407–437). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Pavlenko, A., & Blackledge, A. (Eds.). (2004). Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  79. Perry, W. G., Jr. (1968). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  80. Reay, D. (2005). Beyond consciousness? The psychic landscape of social class. Sociology, 39(5), 911–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Reay, D., Crozier, G., & Clayton, J. (2009). ‘Strangers in paradise’? Working class students in elite university. Sociology, 43(6), 1103–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Reynolds, J., Wetherell, M., & Taylor, S. (2007). Choice and chance: Negotiating agency in narratives of singleness. Sociological Review, 55(2), 331–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rose, S. (1997). Lifelines: Biology, freedom, determinism. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  84. Sarup, M. (1996). Identity, culture and the postmodern world. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  85. Sheng, X. (2012). Cultural capital and gender differences in parental involvement in children’s schooling and higher education choice in China. Gender and Education, 24(2), 131–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Smith, M. K. (1996). ‘Self, selfhood and understanding’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. Available at Accessed 8 Feb 2018.
  87. Stivers, C. (1993). Reflections on the role of personal narrative in social science. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 18(2), 408–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Swartz, D. (1997). Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  89. Swartz, D. (2013). Symbolic power, politics, and intellectuals: The political sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tanaka, G. (2002). Higher education’s self-reflexive turn: Toward an intercultural theory of student development. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(2), 263–296.Google Scholar
  91. Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self: The making of the modern identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Thrift, N. J. (1985). Review essay: Bear and mouse or bear and tree? Anthony Giddens’s reconstitution of social theory. Sociology, 19, 609–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  95. Tsekeris, C. (2010). Reflections on reflexivity: Sociological issues and perspectives. Contemporary Issues, 3, 28–37.Google Scholar
  96. Urry, J. (1982). Duality of structure: Some critical issues. Theory, Culture and Society, 1(2), 100–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Volet, S., & Jones, C. (2012). Cultural transitions in higher education: Individual adaptation, transformation and engagement. In S. Karabenick & T. Urdan (Eds.), Transitions across schools and cultures (pp. 241–284). Bingley: Emerald.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wang, H. (2008). Teachers’ class behaviour in the field of school. Modern Education Science, 27–30.Google Scholar
  99. Wang, J., & Davis, D. (2010). China’s new upper middle class: The importance of occupational disaggregation. In C. Li (Ed.), China’s emerging class (pp. 157–176). Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  100. Wang, S., Davis, D., & Bian, Y. (2006). The uneven distribution of cultural capital: Book reading in urban China. Modern China, 32, 315–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Weedon, C. (1997). Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  102. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Wu, B. (2009). “Whose culture has capital?” Chinese skilled migrant mothers raising their children in New Zealand. Ph.D. thesis, Auckland University of Technology.Google Scholar
  104. Wu, X. (2014). School choice in China: A different tale? New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  105. Xue, H. (2008). Cultural adaptation and personal capital formation: The experiences of Chinese students in UK higher education. Ph.D. thesis, University of the West of England.Google Scholar
  106. Yang, Y. (2014). Bourdieu, practice and change: Beyond the criticism of determinism. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 46(14), 1522–1540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Zhao, K., & Biesta, G. (2008, July 2–4). Lifelong learning, identity and the moral dimension: The ‘reflexive project of the self’ revisited. Paper presented at the 38th Annual SCUTREA Conference, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  109. Zhao, K., & Biesta, G. (2012). Moral dimension of lifelong learning: Giddens, Taylor and reflexive project of the self. Adult Education Quarterly, 62(4), 332–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. Zhu, W. (2006). Beyond social determinism: Bourdieu’s concept of “cultural capital” revisited. Social Science in Nanjing, 3, 87–96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Beijing Institute of Fashion TechnologyBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations