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The network of social relations, regulations and adaptive possibilities specific to a social group, which may be defined in terms of location (such as a town or village), profession (artists, academics, and so forth), or class (blue collar, white collar, etc.). Developed by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the field is an objectifiable structured space, which means its rules for inclusion and exclusion, as well as the nature of the strategies one may employ while operating within its boundaries, can be identified and articulated. As Bourdieu demonstrates in Homo Academicus (1984), translated as Homo Academicus (1988) and Les Règles de l'art (1992), translated as The Rules of Art (1996), it is possible to identify the structure of both academia and the art world and indeed any other sphere of life. With respect to art, Bourdieu dismisses the idea of the creative genius labouring in isolation as an impossibility—the artist, he shows, must be aware of a field (not just the ‘art world’ as it is sometimes said, but the very possibility of art itself looked at from a social perspective) in order to know what counts as art and to know where its ontological boundaries are so they can be pushed. It is in the encounter with this field that the artist is formed. Bourdieu developed this term in conjunction with habitus and practice.

Further Reading:

M. Grenfell Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts (2008).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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