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The peasant and his body
Pierre Bourdieu Ethnography 2004 5: 579 DOI: 10.1177/1466138104048829 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) Vol 5(4): 579–599[DOI: 10.1177/1466138104048829]

The peasant and his body

Pierre Bourdieu
Collège de France Translated and adapted by Richard Nice and Loïc Wacquant


■ Based on a study of his childhood village of Béarn in southwestern France in the 1960s combining social history, statistics, and ethnography, the author shows how economic and social standing influence the rising rates of bachelorhood in a peasant society based on primogeniture through the mediation of the embodied consciousness that men acquire of this standing. The scene of a local ball on the margins of which bachelors gather serves to highlight and dissect the cultural clash between country and city and the resulting devaluation of the young men from the hamlet as urban categories of judgment penetrate the rural world. Because their upbringing and social position lead them to be sensitive to ‘tenue’ (appearance, clothing, bearing, conduct) as well as open to the ideals of the town, young women assimilate the cultural patterns issued from the city more quickly than the men, which condemns the latter to be gauged against yardsticks that make them worthless in the eyes of potential marriage partners. As the peasant internalizes in turn the devalued image that others form of him through the prism of urban categories, he comes to perceive his own body as an ‘em-peasanted’ body, burdened with the traces of the activities and attitudes associated with agricultural life. The wretched consciousness that he gains of his body leads him to break solidarity with it and to adopt an introverted attitude that amplifies the shyness and gaucheness produced by social relations marked by the extreme segregation of the sexes and the repression of the sharing of emotions.


■ bachelorhood, marriage, peasantry, body, emotions, habitus, village culture, gender relations, Béarn, France

and psychological characteristics that are bound up with each of them. left to the initiative of the individual. why he proves to be so ill-adapted. through what mediations the fact of residing in the bourg or the hameaux. in the institutionalized occasions for encounters between the sexes.580 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) Plato in his Laws esteems nothing of more pestiferous consequence to his city than to let the youth take the liberty of changing their accoutrement. as we know. What needs to be better understood is why the peasant of the hameaux is intrinsically disadvantaged in this competition and. the balls that take place periodically in the bourg or in the neighboring villages have become the only socially approved opportunity for meetings between the sexes. given the disappearance of intermediaries and the loosening of traditional social bonds. Given the sharp separation between masculine society and feminine society.2 It follows that they provide a privileged occasion to grasp the root of tensions and conflicts. dances. and the economic. Whereas in the old society marriage was mainly the business of the family. so disconcerted. gestures. from one form to another. the search for a partner is now. can act upon the mechanism of matrimonial exchanges. pupils at the high schools and junior high schools of the neighboring towns. and the historical approach enables one to see the restructuring of the system of matrimonial exchanges on the basis of the opposition between the bourg and the hameaux as a manifestation of the overall transformation of the local society. In the middle of the brightly lit dance-floor. more precisely. how it is that the influence of residence does not affect men and women in the same fashion. most of them originating from the bourg.1 Yet it remains to be determined whether there is an aspect of this opposition that is more closely correlated with the vocation to bachelorhood. a dozen couples are dancing with great ease the dances in fashion. whether the fact of being born in town or hamlet is a ‘necessitating condition’ or a ‘permissive condition’ of bachelorhood. Cultural clash at the country ball The Christmas ball takes place in the back-room of a café. Essays. that is. employed as . (Montaigne. They are mainly ‘students’ (lous estudians). and whether there are significant differences between the people of the hameaux who marry and those who are condemned to celibacy – in short. I: XLIII) The data of statistics and field observation warrant establishing a close correlation between the vocation to bachelorhood and residence in the hameaux. exercises and songs. social. There are also a few poised paratroopers on leave and some young townsmen.

dance among themselves. toward their far-away farms. dressed and coiffured with studied elegance. lingering on dissonant chords until their breath fails. In the front bar. He stands firm. ‘This one’. As if caught there by the temptation to dance. hardly speaking. Among the girls dancing. From time to time. But at small balls like the one at Christmas or New Year. they have nothing to do. These are balls where people come to dance. several have come from the depth of the remotest hameaux. except once a year for the major village festival. and looks back laughing at his mates. There they all are. And then they will depart slowly. a couple of them sport Tyrolean hats and wear jeans and black leather jackets. Some young women.’ Everything returns to normal. rather as the old-timers do when they dance on the evening of the agricultural fair. Men of their age who are already married do not go to balls any more. deliberately accenting his clumsiness and heavy-footedness. while in the nearby dance room the band plays twists and cha-chas. These balls are made for the youth. and conjecture endlessly on possible marriages. even the old-timers. On that day. and these men will not be dancing. maids. ‘So you’re not dancing?’ ‘No. Some will sing old Béarn tunes at the top of their lungs. some to chat with friends. he goes and sits down and will not dance again. chatter. a ‘march’: a girl steps forth to the bachelors’ corner and tries to lead one of them onto the dance floor. The bachelors will remain there. and they know it. But the bachelors still do not dance. they lark about a little. drinking and chatting. and even some girls a dozen years old. They all have the appearance of the city girl. others to spy. forming a dark mass. while young boys chase and jostle each other among the prancing couples. the agricultural show. three bachelors are seated at a table. they are less conspicuous because the men and the women of the village have all come.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 581 factory-workers or clerks. . When the dance is over. Then they will retire to the bar room and drink face to face. or shop assistants. work in Pau [the main city and regional administrative center about a dozen kilometers away] as seamstresses. their gaze trained on the girls beyond their reach. as if to hide their embarrassment. in twos and threes. in the light and noise of the ball. Then he goes once round the floor. looking on in silence. but they are and they know they are ‘unmarriageable’. On those evenings. all the bachelors. A new dance is struck up. they are not so old. everyone is ‘on the promenade’ and everyone dances. The girl who went to invite him is a neighbor. we’re beyond that (ça nous a passé) . She made him go for a dance to cheer him up. born in Lesquire. someone tells me. in other words those who are not yet married.’ My . embarrassed and delighted. they move forward and tighten the space left for the dancers. is a group of older spectators. . until midnight. Standing at the edge of the dancing area. some others. ‘is A’s son (the name of a big landowner).

its techniques of the body. Dancing isn’t for a man my age anyhow. ‘always walked with their legs bowed. the whole world of the city. ‘You see. bursts into peasant life. which bore the stamp of peasant culture in their names (la crabe.’ Thus this small country ball is the scene of a real clash of civilizations. as if they were knock-kneed. lou mounchicou. Another: Oh. I’d dance. difficult. The villager: Yes. a villager. even when he treads the tarmac of the carrère [the main street]. they’d have a wife. they stop in their tracks. And young people don’t know how to waltz anyway. Spontaneous observation perfectly grasps this hexis that serves as a foundation for stereotypes. you know. and the words that accompanied them. The critical observation of the urbanites. its dances. bound up with a whole cultural context. their music. you can be sure of that .-M [see appendix]).). I’m waiting till midnight. two bachelors are slowly leaving. it must be recognized that techniques of the body constitute genuine systems. well. A car starts up. There’s no way out. In this realm as in others. that I would dance. To explain this attitude. . The dances of the olden days. and muddy ground. they’re looking at this car the way they were gazing at the girls earlier. with its cultural models. swift to spot the habitus of the peasant as a synthetic unity. the lead belongs to the people of the bourg. . I promise you. says to me in a stage-whisper: ‘What a joke! They’ve never danced.’ said an elderly villager. – So you think there might be some older girls tonight? – Yes. . That’s not for me. you shouldn’t worry about us. A nice waltz. I’m going off to eat something and I’ll be back. but they don’t play any. etc. Those young girls could be my daughters . there are only youngsters. if I had a wife.582 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) companion. always walks on uneven. have made way for dances imported from the town. The traditional patterns of festive behavior have been lost or yet have been superseded by urban patterns.’ Another: Me. well we’ll see. with their arms bent’ (P. puts the emphasis on the slowness and heaviness of his gait: for the dweller of the bourg. the one who drags heavy . its music. the lumbering peasant. he evoked the posture of a man using a scythe. lou branlou. that habitus which betrays the paysanás. the man from the brane [‘uplands’] is one who. At the end of the ball. Through it. I had a look in there earlier. in their rhythms. Now. And you. They’re going to hang around like that for as long as they can. . This is not the place to analyse the motor habits proper to the peasant of Béarn. ‘Peasants in the olden days. L. we’re not unhappy. And they’re in no hurry to get home anyway. and if they danced. why aren’t you dancing? Me.

Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 583 clogs or big boots even when he has put on his Sunday shoes. it suggests that it is no doubt at the level of rhythms that one would find the unifying principle (confusedly . the poor cut of the clothes. 1960) but. the townsman’s spontaneous ethnography grasps the techniques of the body as one element in a system and implicitly postulates the existence of a correlation at the level of meaning. and. and the clumsiness of the expression. between the heaviness of the gait. No doubt this is not a genuine anthropological description (Pelosse. as when he walks. on the one hand. turning back from time to time to call forth the oxen who follow him. with the goad on his shoulder. the one who always advances with long slow strides. on the other hand.

6 Now. Consider dances such as the Charleston or the cha-cha in which the two partners face each other and hop. the peasant is loath to adopt the rhythms of modern dances: B. to gestures and attitudes. clumsy (desestruc). in staccato half-steps. in the relations between the sexes. he is not presentable. literally: ‘He’s not at the fair’ (to go to the fair. Indeed. unsociable and churlish. those most dynamic and innovative in their occupational activity. as testified by simple observation and interviews. grumpy (arrebouhiec). He never concealed his spleen at never being able to dance properly. and especially by the girls. you trod on people’s feet or worse.3 so too modern dances are linked to urban civilization. Being particularly attentive and sensitive. three-step or four-step tunes. but what mattered was the speed. he used to get well ahead of the band. bodily hexis is above all a social signum. (P. You lunged in and you marched. owing to all their cultural training. to clothing and a person’s whole presentation [tenue]. that upon which conscious action has no grip.584 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) grasped by intuition) of the system of corporeal attitudes characteristic of the peasant. readier to deduce deep personality from external . they call for a veritable change in ‘nature’. without ever embracing:4 could anything be more alien to the peasant? And what would he do with his broad hands that he is accustomed to hold wide apart? Moreover. a third of them nonetheless go to the ball. one’s ‘bearing’ [tenue] is immediately perceived by others. ill-shaven. ‘somber (escu). He quickly found himself reduced to the rank of spectator. there was no two-step. ill-attired. C. For him. the ‘empeasanted’ peasant. since bodily habitus is what is experienced as most ‘natural’.). it is clear that the empaysanit peasant that is.-M. Moreover. sometimes gross (a cops groussè). do not manage to shake off. just as the dances of the olden days were bound up with the whole peasant civilization. both in itself and in its capacity as social signum. What is called the ‘peasant look’ [allure paysanne] is no doubt the irreducible residue that those most open to the modern world. one put on one’s smartest clothes). is not in his element at the ball.) Two-thirds of the bachelors cannot dance (as against 20 percent of the married men). as a symbol of one’s economic and social standing. If he is in any way clumsy. graceless with women (chic amistous ap las hennes)’ (P. danced a few paso-dobles and a few javas. For anyone who has in mind Marcel Mauss’s (1935/1979) anecdote about the misadventures of a British regiment marching to a French band. It is said of him that ‘n’ey pas de here’. By demanding the adoption of new corporeal uses. Indeed. the whole bodily hexis is the primary object of perception. the peasant is immediately perceived as the hucou (the tawny owl). L.5 This is perhaps particularly true for the peasant.

It follows that he is embarrassed by his body and in his body. on the contrary. Thus the repugnance to dance is only one manifestation of this acute consciousness of peasantness that is. To put one’s body out on display. the root of shyness and gaucheness. as in dancing. ‘em-peasanted’ body. This wretched consciousness of his body. bearing the trace of the attitudes and activities associated with peasant life. even when it is a mere stereotype. to a consciousness fascinated by its corporeality. Because he grasps his body as ‘empeasanted’. and they thus judge the men according to alien criteria: gauged against this yardstick. It is no exaggeration to assert that the peasant’s coming to awareness of his body is for him the privileged occasion of his coming to awareness of the peasant condition.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 585 appearance. Indeed. he has a consciousness of being an ‘empeasanted’ peasant. the girls are more open to the ideals of the town. One finds a confirmation of this in the fact that among the bachelors one finds either the most ‘empeasanted’ peasants or the most selfaware peasants – those most aware of what remains ‘peasant’ within them. First.7 Sentiments and social structure It is to be expected that the encounter with the young girl brings the unease to its paroxysm. Indeed. being embarrassed by his body. that leads him to break solidarity with it (in contrast to the town-dweller). forbids him from the dance. presupposes that one consents to externalizing oneself and that one has a contented awareness of the image of oneself that one projects towards others. he is awkward and clumsy in all the situations that require one to ‘come out of oneself’ or to offer one’s body on display. Thus economic and social condition influences the vocation to marriage mainly through the mediation of the consciousness that men attain of that situation. The fear of ridicule and shyness are. linked to an acute awareness of oneself and of one’s body. that inclines him to an introverted attitude. Placed in such a situation. He comes to perceive his body as a body marked by the social stamp. also expressed in self-mockery and self-irony – particularly in the comic tales whose unfortunate hero is always the peasant struggling to come to grips with the urban world. the country men are worthless. It is because he grasps it as a peasant’s body that he has an unhappy consciousness of his body. forbids him from having simple and genuine attitudes in the presence of the girls. . as an empaysanit. as we have seen. the peasant who attains self-awareness has a strong likelihood of grasping himself as a ‘peasant’ in the pejorative sense of the word. it is an occasion upon which the peasant experiences. the peasant is led to internalize the image that others form of him.

with this . one or two a year. went on outings organized by the parish priest. fairly rare.586 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) A view of the market-town. the awkwardness of his body. The girls remain in a closed circle throughout these outings. Coed outings with girls from the same association. you have the impression that nothing can happen between participants of different sexes. on account of the provocative swimsuits. For the majority of the young boys. In addition. more acutely than ever. Camaraderie between boys and girls does not exist in the countryside. Not too much going to the beach.8 These excursions. the JAC. with everything mysterious about girls. take place before military service. Although there is some shared singing. a girl is a girl. You can be friends with a girl only when you experience friendship and when you know what it means. owing to the separation of the sexes. a few timid games. girls are entirely shrouded in mystery: Pi.

that’s little. It’s certainly too little to be able to go from ball to ball further afield with any chance of success.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 587 A farm in a typical hamlet. You watch them till two in the morning. One of the best ways to come into contact with girls (the only one there is in the countryside) is the ball. that’s to say every fortnight or every month. Just one or two dances each ball. didn’t go any further. it becomes serious: how are you to get close to a girl you . and a gulf that is not easily crossed. great difference that there is a gulf between the sexes. Pi. That’s the way the gap widens. that’s very little. and some learning that never took him further than the java. That’s how you end up as one of those who watch the others dance. then you go home thinking that those who are dancing are having fun. They fetched him a neighbor’s daughter who doesn’t dare refuse – for one dance at least. If you would want to marry. After a few timid attempts.

For example. Everything that relates to intimacy. ‘In the old days. . . You also need to be able to chat to girls a little. he is supremely discreet when it comes to his own sexual life and even more so his emotional life. when the harvest was still done with sickles. they are more strongly motivated than men due . father and son would feel a definite embarrassment to find themselves together at the café. for the young man as much as for the young woman. (R. Shyness. the fact of coming out of the backwoods. You can overcome shyness when you have everyday contact with women.588 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) fancy? How do you find an opportunity. . affection between parents and children is expressed much more in concrete attitudes and gestures than in words. In a general way. especially when the latter has learned from women’s magazines and serialized love-stories the stereotyped language of urbanite sentimentality: To dance. . The lack of relations and contacts with the opposite sex is bound to give a complex to the most audacious young man. there’s no salvation. as he saw that I was getting tired. but it can get worse in the opposite case. L. C. to put one foot in front of another. The same modesty dominated relations between brothers and sisters. Outside the ball. The verbal awkwardness that compounds corporeal clumsiness is experienced as embarrassment. after you’ve danced and while you’re dancing. no doubt because it could happen that someone would tell lusty stories in their presence or utter smutty talk. Fear of ridicule. . feelings are not something it is appropriate to talk about. It’s even worse when he has a slightly shy nature. to ‘nature’. . which would have caused unbearable embarrassment to both of them.). who was working beside me. How do you keep up a conversation and lead it to an embarrassing subject? It’s a hundred times easier in the course of a tango. Not so long ago. to give me some relief’ (A. can also hold a man back. this is for various converging reasons. My father. B. You’ve got to be able to talk during the dance about something other than farm work and the weather. (P. all that creates a gulf between a girl and a worthy young man. which is a form of pride. the harvesters would move forward in one row. And even that isn’t so easy for some. sometimes a bit of false pride. especially if you’re not the go-getter type? There’s only the ball. While the peasant may enjoy making or hearing the most unrestrained remarks.) If women are much more adept and quick than men to adopt urban cultural models with regard to the body as well as dress. it’s not enough to know the steps. would cut in front of me without saying anything.) The cultural norms that govern the expression of sentiments contribute to making dialogue between boys and girls difficult. First. is banned from conversation. And there aren’t too many who are capable of that.

When life’s too hard. a postman or even a gendarme [military police]. You don’t have feelings any more. since. Do you think that’s a life worth living? There is not a girl who would want that life. don’t you? You think all these fields and vineyards belong to you? You think you’re rich? Well. you’re but a slave to your tractor. You see. he’s done for. And then what? Compute how much you’re earning: go ahead. your sister who are all helping you. four or five millions [of old Francs]. you have millions worth out there under the sun. Placing all their hopes in marriage. you think you’re the master on the farm. one of the richest farmer in the region. fed up with weariness (harte de mau)? The daughters of peasants know the life of the peasant. of the ideals of courtesy or of the forms of entertainment offered by the town. . Where is the love then? What does it mean? You get home exhausted. do you hear me? That’s for sure. let me tell you.’s. you don’t even have the time to love each other. Fashion comes from Paris. rightly or wrongly. Thus they look first and foremost to marriage for the fulfillment of their wishes. it’s over now with the old methods. you don’t have loving any more. with civilization tout court. who does not always have his pen and paper with him.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 589 to the fact that the city represents for them the hope of emancipation. she’ll prefer to get married to a postman. identified. ‘The daughters of peasants know the life of the peasant too well’ You see. the other day I went to R. from the city. They know it too well to want a peasant. Compute what you give per hour of labor to your father. they circulate upwards. The attraction and the grip of new products or new techniques in matters of comfort. now. You’ll see that you’ll take out your wallet and throw it out in the courtyard! Say you love this girl: do you think that she would want to come here. ‘You. No one would want to cause them grief. the model is imposed from above. It follows that they present a privileged example of this ‘prestigious imitation’ of which Mauss ([1935]1979: 101) spoke. your mother. according to the very logic of matrimonial exchanges. What do you have. I told him. Women strongly aspire to urban life and this aspiration is not unreasonable. to slave away all day and come back home at night to go milk the cows. And then you have the old ones. take a pen and paper. they are strongly motivated to adapt by adopting the outward appearances of the women of the city. with all this land? Yes. You’re slaving away all day. And to get up at five every morning? Even if she loves you. are due for the most part to the fact that one recognizes in them the mark of urban civilization. The peasant who does not compute. compute what you earn.

Although some stores are reserved for the few. The young girls now they want to have their independence.. What peasant men and women perceive. because it is discouraged by social sanction. everything contributes on the contrary to foster among them the churlish and coarse. whereas the women adopt first the external signs of ‘urbanity’. 42. they want to be able to buy things that they like without having to give accounts. rough and pugnacious attitude. primary education. This attitude is encouraged and fostered by the whole cultural system. by virtue of the norms that dominate their early upbringing. There is . the city is first of all the department store. They have a statutory monopoly over the judgment of taste. most are aimed at all the classes. so that a certain uniformity tends to obtain in this regard. to stroke them. ‘As for clothes’.e. remarks Halbwachs (1958[1955]: 95. the men borrow deeper cultural models.590 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) You’d want to wheedle them. For the peasant woman. now a shopkeeper in the market-town But there is more: women are prepared by their whole cultural training to be attentive to the external details of the person and especially to everything having to do with ‘tenue’. born in a nearby village. and conduct]. from bodily hexis to cosmetics. whether it be clothing or techniques of the body. bearing. It follows that. It is not uncommon to hear a tenyear-old girl discussing the cut of a skirt or a blouse with her mother or with her friends. dress. And one readily understands why it would be so. is thus a function of their respective cultural systems. In a society dominated by masculine values. It follows that. and she hears it well because the ‘structure’ of her cultural language predisposes her to it. deportment. And yet you’re having fights with them because you’ve got too many worries. ‘everyone wears them on the street and the people of the different classes confront and observe each other. A man too attentive to his dress and appearance would be regarded as too ‘emmonsieuré’ [literally. whereas the men. because you’re too tired. women are much more apt to perceive urban models and to integrate them into their behavior.10 The peasant girl speaks the language of urban fashion well because she hears it well.C. both in the city-dweller and the world of the city and in other peasants. particularly in the technical and economic sphere. too effeminate. This type of behavior is rejected by the boys. there isn’t one who would come live here.’ L. No.. ‘en-misterized’ or ‘gentrified’] or (which amounts to the same). in the different senses of the term [i. translation modified). are struck by a kind of cultural blindness (in the sense in which linguists speak of ‘cultural deafmuteness’)9 for everything having to do with ‘tenue’ as a whole.

of enfranchisement – in short. a number of families used to place their daughters in apprenticeships.’ Given the unilateral and superficial character of her perception of the city. the good side of it. and. with a seamstress for example. that she borrows from the city woman the outward signs of her condition. a consequence of the differential penetration of urban cultural models among the two sexes. she sees only. shepherdess. that is to say. Since the creation of the cours complémentaire. It then . are you so cruel? Et bous moussù qu’et tan amourous? (And you. that the city holds a veritable fascination for her. You qu’aymi mey u bet hilh de paysà … (I would rather take a good peasant’s son) Why. In this way a whole system of expectations is built up which the peasant simply cannot fulfill. why are you so amorous?) I cannot love all those fair ladies … E you moussù qu’em fouti de bous … (And I. as soon as they left school. The ‘gentleman’ has his revenge. they have been more readily persuaded than boys to pursue their studies to the brevet [until 16].Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 591 a common market for food and to some extent for clothing. sir. We are a long way from the shepherdess in the traditional ballad whose only ambition was to marry ‘a good peasant’s son’. women judge their peasant menfolk by criteria that leave them no chance. At all times. the women listen to the radio more).12 In the town. And thus one understands. and through it the city man. through women’s magazines. sir. as the phrase goes. manifest signs. it is normal that the young peasant woman associates urban life with a certain type of clothes and hair-styles. ‘film stories’ and songs on the radio (as they spend more time at home than the men. the better to prepare them for marriage and also because they were less indispensable to the farm than were the boys. in her eyes. give not a damn for you) Owing to the duality of frames of reference. collected in Lesquire in 1959)13 Fair shepherdess. Ballad of the shepherd (local song. will you give me your love? I will be forever true to you. girls also borrow models of the relations between the sexes and a type of ideal man who is entirely the opposite of the ‘empeasanted’ peasant. on the one hand. what she knows of her. on the other hand. serials.11 which can only increase the attractiveness of the town and widen the gap between the sexes.

when he has a fine property. They have brought in new cultivation methods. and so on. they go out a lot.’ They hung their heads and crept away. . That we had to be the ones to do that. a bachelor was never really an adult in the eyes of society. the women. otherwise he’s diminished. Some have equipped their houses. to their defects and their shortcomings: When they belong to a great family.) In the old days.’ When he has a strong personality. We threw them out of the house. (M. have to be put among the ‘unmarriageable’. We said to them. perhaps among the most intelligent and dynamic of the region. at the farm of two bachelors aged 40 and 37: We said to them: ‘What a mess we found!’ Those birds (aquets piocs)! Just touching their crockery! Filthy! We didn’t know where to look. many have not married. he’s intelligent. such as the town council. so that it has ceased to appear imputable to individuals. in this domain. You would need a wife to do that for you. Thus 14 percent of the farms where bachelors are found. P. that is to say to the unmarried. ‘It’s a pity. as a neighbor. shows that there is an obvious correlation between the state of the holding and bachelorhood.. ‘Aren’t you ashamed! Instead of marrying. B. neighbors or relatives. -B. . . people find excuses for them – especially when the allure of the great family combines with the allure of a strong personality. It’s enough to make you think that. . have been modernized. among the members of the JAC and the CUMA14 in particular. as against only 16 percent of the holdings owned by married men. When there is a daune [mistress of the house].15 Nowadays failure to marry appears more and more as an inevitability. In the new rural elite.) This will be seen more concretely through the story told by a woman who. which made a clear distinction between the responsibilities left to youths. . all belonging to relatively well-off peasants. (P. he manages to make his mark anyway. . But when there are no wives.. new crops. for example the preparation of holiday feasts. went to help with the pélère. C. the slaughter and processing of the pig.592 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) becomes understandable that a number even of modernizing agriculturalists remain unmarried.. Even when it helps to confer a definite prestige.) The fact that 42 percent of the farms run by bachelors (of which 38 percent are owned by poor peasants) are in decline. the women [who come to help] have to decide everything. Pi. modernism in the technical realm does not necessarily foster marriage: Lads like La. Even though they dress properly. People say. Po. but the decline of the property can be as much the effect as the cause of . are there to help. imbeciles do better than the rest. (A. and the responsibilities reserved for adults.

you know. . you know. He lost his father and mother around 1954 and now he’s about 50. When you live alone. resulting from the absence of a long-term future. But.’ he said. He has a well-kept farm house surrounded by pine-trees. . on this side of the house [the custom is to build up the house when the . . I would have liked to have a family. This can be seen in this testimony: I went to see Mi. You have never come. in the Houratate neighborhood. ‘I’m ashamed that you see me looking like this. He lives alone. I would have made up things a bit. ‘I’d have wanted to invite you in and do you the honors. He was blowing on a fire he had lit in the courtyard to do his laundry. bachelorhood induces in many cases an attitude of resignation and renunciation. it’s a real mess inside. Girls don’t want to come to the country any more. I’m desperate..Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 593 bachelorhood. Experienced as a social mutilation.

’ The judgments of spontaneous sociology are by nature partial and one-sided. But she can’t stay here. She’s married to a man who works for the SNCF [the national railway company]. But now the land is ruined. this selection cannot fail to see itself for what it is. it’s terrible. The primary task of sociology is perhaps to reconstitute the totality from which one can discover the unity of the subjective consciousness that the individual has of the social system and of the objective structure of that system. The non-marriage of men is lived by all of them as the sign of the mortal crisis of a society incapable of providing the most innovative and the boldest of its eldest sons. this is because he can no longer grasp his condition as determined by a necessity that weighs upon the whole of the peasant class. because it appears as a web of relationships that have to be untangled one by one. have not yet married. who despair at seeing him reduced to this state. talking to one of her son’s mates.594 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) eldest son is married]. to offer itself as provisional. No doubt everyone makes it a point of pride and honor to conceal the despair of his situation. already aged. presents itself as an infinite plurality of aspects. perhaps by drawing on a long tradition of bachelorhood for the resources of resignation he needs to endure an existence without present or future. she does come from time to time. Sure. he should have married at the same time as you.’ said a mother whose two sons. If the bachelor expresses his distress by saying that ‘the land is blighted’. I can’t bring myself to work on it. ‘I give them an earful. because the social fact. . She comes with her husband and her little daughter. Yet bachelorhood is the privileged site through which to understand the poverty of the peasant condition. incapable of safeguarding the very foundations of its order at the same time as it makes room for innovative adaptation.) The bachelor’s tragedy is often redoubled by the pressure of family members. But. trustees of the heritage. said: ‘He’s going to have to be told that he has to find a wife. with the possibility of perpetuating their lineage – in short. . and to supersede itself through the analysis of the other aspects. No doubt the constitution of the object of research as such also presupposes the selection of one aspect. whatever it may be. I’m telling you for good. B. Conclusion ‘Young girls don’t want to come to the country any more .). aged 84). And another. my sister came. ‘I tell them “Are you afraid of women? You spend all your time à la barrique [drinking]! What will you do when I’m not there any more? I can’t take care of it for you any more!” ’ (widow. There won’t be anyone anymore.’16 (A. We’re both alone and as lost as can be’ (related by P. . C.

and. interviews in French. B. mid-level administrator. married.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 595 The sociologist endeavors. born in Lesquire. to grasp and understand the spontaneous consciousness of the social fact. interviews in Béarnais. if it were to forget that it is dealing with men and women. does not reflect upon itself. education: level of the Brevet élémentaire. born in Lesquire. interviews in French. education: level of the certificate of primary education (CEP). even when those contradictions do not rise as such to the consciousness of those who are its victims. 32. C. widower. lives in the bourg but spent all his youth in a hameau. by virtue of its essence. widower. she is only thematizing the lived experience of the men who concretely feel those contradictions in the form of the impossibility of marrying. J. if it did not assign itself the task of restoring to those people the meaning of their actions.. to apprehend the fact in its own nature. married. education: level of the Brevet élémentaire [mid-secondary schooling]. 60.. for example. in short. he or she must aim to reconcile the truth of the objective ‘given’ that her analysis enables her to discover with the subjective certainty of those who live in it. on the one hand. P. Appendix: the informants Instead of a phonetic translation. 85. in the manner of puppets. A. When she describes. L. .. That being so. and she can be satisfied only when she manages to embrace in the unity of a single understanding the truth immediately given to lived consciousness and the truth laboriously acquired through scientific reflection. interviews alternated between French and Béarnais. lives in the bourg. born in Lesquire. play a game of which they ignore the rules. P. A. Sociology would perhaps not be worth an hour of effort if its end were only to discover the strings that move the actors it observes. 88. a consciousness that.-P. born in Lesquire. education: level of CEP. the testimonies given in the local dialect have been transcribed in the spelling conventionally used in Béarnaislanguage literature. lives in the bourg. the sociologist takes that consciousness seriously enough to try to discover its real foundation. lives in a hameau. breaking occasionally into Béarnais. While she forbids herself from granting credit to the consciousness that the subjects form of their situation and to accept literally the explanation they give of it. the internal contradictions of the system of matrimonial exchanges. thanks to the privilege provided him by his situation as an observer renouncing to ‘act upon the social’ in order to think it. farmer. even when those men and women. on the other hand..

R. lives in a hameau. 32–136. the section titles have been added. born in Lesquire. L. L. born in a neighboring village. L. lives in a hameau. The section that precedes the present article in the 1962 text marshals historical. Acknowledgements This article is excerpted from Pierre Bourdieu.. farmer. born in Lesquire. Études rurales. The Ball of the Bachelors (Cambridge: Polity Press. education: level of CEP. April 1962. 84. interviews in French... lives in a hameau. can read and write. interviews in French. born in Lesquire. C. 42.596 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) P.. read Bourdieu (1962) [translator]. L.. 2005). 2 For a fuller examination of the structure and flow of gender relations in Lasseube around the same period. married. 45. F. A. peasant farmer’s wife. primary education (CEP). ‘Célibat et condition paysanne’. interviews in Béarnais. interviews in Béarnais. 35. primary education (CEP). farmer. and published here in English translation for the first time by kind permission of Jérôme Bourdieu and the journal. A. interviews in Béarnais. 5. shopkeeper. married. L. shopkeeper. can read and write. married. 6.-M. can read and write. vol. interviews in French and Béarnais.. peasant farmer. lives in the bourg. lives in the hameau. born in Lesquire.. born in Lesquire. 81. Mme J. B. interviews alternatively in French and in Béarnais. married. statistical and interview data to draw out ‘The Opposition between the Market-Town and the Hamlets’ that serves as the dynamic pivot of the local society [translator]. lives in a hameau. interviews in French. Notes 1 The small town or market-village (bourg) referred to here as Lesquire (in reality Lasseube. bachelor. The full text is forthcoming as part of Pierre Bourdieu. Mme. pp.-P. widower. where Pierre Bourdieu grew up) is surrounded by small clusters of farm houses known as ‘hamlets’ (hameaux).. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. can read and write. The title is from the original text. no. 88. lives in the bourg. 65. lives in the hameau. 88. born in a neighboring village. A. born in Lesquire. can read and write. A. . widow.

as he did the other night. It’s only when the mother in the family is up-to-date or. the text quoted above p. who would take pleasure in moving about. But he’s never known how to dance properly [cf. it has seemed preferable to relate the image that the ‘urbanite’ forms of it. 8 Jeunesse Agricole Catholique. Most of the bachelors wear the suit made by the village tailor. with societies where descent operates through men. 4 Curt Sachs. and elegance as much as strength. It is in this area that one sees most clearly the men’s ‘cultural blindness’ to certain aspects of urban civilization. The games that. where people tend to dance in place by shaking. or his looks should have prevented him from finding a wife’ (P. who’s managed to modernize his farm. 15 August. (See also the text quoted below. C). quoted by Mauss (1979: 115–16). 6 A whole category of bachelors matches this description: ‘Ba. C. ‘Some try wearing sports outfits. 9 The term is used by Ernst Pulgram (1959). 5 That is why. who has a fine estate. 10 Clothing is an important aspect of overall appearance. The rugby team – rugby being a city sport – is made up almost entirely of ‘urbanites’ from the bourg. lous jete-barres (throwing the bar). Having attended games from their earliest childhood years. who are more apprised of fashion. used to be played on feast days (lou die de Nouste-Dame. Here too. opposes feminized societies. the case of P. in the old days. He always stands watching the others.). and very good-looking. his situation. the movement of ‘young catholic farmers’. 586].) 7 A number of boys from the bourg are objectively as lumbering as some peasants from the hameaux. ‘Co. They get it all wrong in combining the colors. an image that the peasant tends to internalize willy-nilly. when his sisters. take the matter in hand that you see well-dressed peasants’ (P. One might suggest that the repugnance to dance manifested by many young male peasants could be explained by a resistance to this kind of ‘feminization’ of a whole. 62–4). to pretend to invite anyone other than “peasant girls’’’ (P. rather than sketch a methodical analysis of bodily techniques. but they are not aware of being such. C. In a general way. the fact that he . better. founded in 1929 and active in the region through the 1960s [translator]. danced correctly. He’s a typical example of a young man who has lacked opportunities to approach the girls. skittles – demanded first and foremost athletic qualities and gave the peasants an opportunity to show off their vigor. until two in the morning. the ‘students’ and carrèrens [bourgdwellers] are prepared by their whole cultural training to hold their place in a game that demands skill.). cunning. deeply buried. see also Trubetzkoy (1969: 51–5. but without for that ever being able. they have a ‘feel’ for the game even before they play it. the feast of the village patron saint) – lous sauts (jumping). as at the ball.Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 597 3 Sport provides another opportunity to confirm these analyses. running. based on his style. image of one’s self and of one’s body. is an intelligent man. Nothing about his intelligence.

as the phrase goes. Maurice (1958[1955]) The Psychology of Social Class. There are 50-odd of them like that who haven’t married. Marcel (1979[1935]) ‘Techniques of the Body’.). he may even learn to dance with them. ‘fall into line’ (‘se ranger’): ‘Ca. Young people of bad repute have often been seen to suddenly change their behavior and. All that is over with. . Mauss. 15 Marriage marks a break in the course of life. P. C. hung out at all the balls. 12 As attested by the distribution of pupils in the cours complémentaire in Lesquire in 1962 by sex and socio-occupational category of the parents: Parents’ socio-occupational category Sex Farmers Farm employees Shopkeepers Craftsmen Junior Manual Other Total executives workers administrators 2 5 7 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 3 7 2 2 4 21 31 52 Male Female Total 9 17 26 2 0 2 13 This song is imported here from the previous section of the original 1962 article [Translator]. 14 Coopérative d’utilisation du matériel agricole: the local cooperative for the pooled acquisition of farm machinery. typically obtained after four years [Translator]. ‘They have no taste for work. Halbwachs. 16 The judgments of public opinion are often severe but they converge with the conclusions of the bachelors themselves. . Through them. set up in 1956 [Translator]. in Sociology and Psychology. he can get to know other girls. the Brevet is equivalent to a Basic certificate of secondary schooling. London: Heinemann. Pierre (1962) ‘Les relations entre les sexes dans la société paysanne’. pp. References Bourdieu. If you want them for drinking on the carrère . He had three children with her in three years. though she’s dying to. From one day to another. . 11 The Cours complémentaire refers to additional years of schooling after primary education. Les Temps modernes 195 (August): 307–31. He’d never think of taking her to a dance or to the movies once. They don’t even dress up any more’ (P. 99–100 London. They are winebags.598 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) has sisters can only increase a man’s chances of marrying.). it is over with balls and with night-time outings. The land is ruined’ (B. He married a girl younger than him who had never gone out. Boston and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul. She never goes out.

1996). Algeria 1960 (1977. 1998). Nicolai S. 593 © Pierre Bourdieu/Fondation Pierre Bourdieu. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979. J. Homo Academicus (1984. 1977). tr. Revue internationale d’ethnopsychologie normale et pathologique 1(2). Ernst (1959) Introduction to the Spectrography of Speech. 1984). Society. tr. tr. (1969) Principles of Phonology. Geneva. 1964). Curt (1933) World History of the Dance. He is the author of numerous classics of sociology and anthropology. tr. Graz. Courtesy: Camera Austria. tr. The Weight of the World (1993. 1977). London: Allen & Unwin. ■ ■ Photographs on p. including Reproduction in Education. .Bourdieu ■ The peasant and his body 599 Pelosse. and Le Bal des célibataires (2002).-L. Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972. tr. Berkeley. Photographs on p. 583 and p. (1960) ‘Contribution à l’étude des usages traditionnels’. Courtesy: Editions du Seuil. tr. PIERRE BOURDIEU held the Chair of Sociology at the Collège de France. where he directed the Center for European Sociology and the journal Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales until his passing in 2002. Sachs. CA: University of California Press. The Hague: Mouton. and The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Artistic Field (1992. Among his ethnographic works are Le Déracinement. 586 and p. Trubetzkoy. 1979). La crise de l’agriculture traditionnelle en Algérie (with Adbelmalek Sayad. Pulgram. and Culture (1970. 1988). 587 © Pierre Bourdieu/Fondation Pierre Bourdieu. Geneva.

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