The habitus

by Carl Dyke

Speaking of the habitus of ‘good students’: I’m currently sitting outside in the shade in my little suburban subdivision, poking around aimlessly on the internet; I hear voices; I look over at the street and a family is riding by on bikes. Family time seems like an unqualified good. As I watch, the sweaty adult guy with his shirt off is passed by the zippy young kid on the much smaller bike. I imagine a conversation about this later:

“Kid, stay behind your old man.”
“But I was having fun!”
“Do as you’re told.”

Here’s another version:

“Hey Dad, I beat you!”
“Whatever. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

Try this one:

“Dad, I’m way faster than you!”
“I saw that! Why do you suppose that is?”

I’m interested in how a kid happens who may notice status performances and weight-to-acceleration ratios as things she could figure out for herself.


9 Responses to “The habitus”

  1. Haven’t been able to locate it yet, but I remember an essay by Jean Briggs, an ethnographer who studied child-rearing among the Inuit. One of the things that disturbed her was the practice of setting problems for children, not providing the materials they needed, and teasing them when they failed to solve them. She initially thought it was cruel. She then came to realize that if, for example, an adult Inuit was out seal-hunting on the ice and some of his equipment broke down, the inability to improvise a solution would kill him.

  2. Yup. I’ve heard many times the appalling justification of child abuse “It’s a hard world – better to learn it from someone who loves you.” But the thing is that if the world really is hard, a soft kid will have no chance. As the cultural ecologists say, we raise the kids our habitus tells us they’ll need to be.

  3. I miss your blogging. It was very generous giving your space over to others, but…It was your space, an expression of you, not something that can be given over.

  4. Thanks Kevin! I feel like my space is still here, part of a larger and richer space.

  5. Yes. I know you feel that way. Unfortunately your space is still there, but you are not.

  6. Interesting. I wonder where I’ve gotten to.

  7. A worthy question of course, for any of us.


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