Practice Theory, Structuration and the Doxa
These three concepts all seek to help understand why things happen and the factors that lead to why things happen. They seek to understand how human agency and structure interplays in practice. They are all aspects of culture theory, a way of understanding the world through the understanding of cultural practices, and why those practices exist and function in the way they do. This kind of understanding can be helpful for archeologists to explain and understand the actions of people in the past. There are a lot of archeological questions that cannot be answered under traditional theoretical frameworks and modes of understanding, and these frameworks can help to aide in answering a different type of question.
Practice theory allows for an understanding of the human body in a different way. “At the core of practice theory lies a different way of seeing the body. Practices are routinized bodily activities; as interconnected complexes of behavioral acts they are movements of the body” (Reckwitz. 251). This is a different way of understanding the body. It feels like bodies are only shaped through culture and does not directly account for human agency to account for the way people act (although this is covered in other theories). Practice theory theorizes about how these learned routine practices lead to social practices and structure as a whole. “A social practice is the product of training the body in a certain way: when we learn a practice, we learn to be bodies in a certain way (and this means more than to ‘use our bodies’)” (Reckwitz, 251). These social practices become a cultural practice which become normalized throughout the culture through these routine practices. By looking at cultures in this way, the archeologist/researchers can look for evidence for these normalized routine activities.
The idea of unconscious practice theorized in practice theory also ties into the idea of the doxa and its affiliates. Doxa refers to the unconscious social practice, those which people do not talk about; the things that seem natural and that are unquestioned by the people in the culture partaking in. This is similar to the concept of conditioned bodies in practice theory. The routine actions of the body, talked about in practice theory, are also unconscious and unquestioned by the people partaking in the practices. However, once it starts to be questioned, it falls into other categories: heterodoxy and orthodoxy. For example, “orthodoxy is conservative and looks backward to the re-establishment of previous and its tactic beliefs and naturalized conventions:” (Holton, 43). It refers to the mode of practices that get normalized to people as it is traditional and has always been that way. Although these seem to be keeping the traditional the same, it is always being reinterpreted by people and gradually changing over time. Heterodoxy is the complete opposite; it is when practices are called into question to be actively changed (Holton, 43). It then becomes possible for active change of any cultural practice. Even though there are unconscious unquestioned practices leading to social behaviour, there still is the possibility for human agency to question these conditioned practices (heterodoxy) and lead to cultural change. Archeologists need to consider the possibility that human action can help in understanding cultural change over time.
The concept of the doxa can help in our understanding of the world. It can, however, also be used in conjunction with other theories as it it has quite a few similarities to them. For example, “Bourdieu’s use of doxa as a principle of epistemology thus means that he effaces perceiving a possible duality between doxa and reflexive discourse” (Myles, 96). There is also a strict duality in structuration theory to aid in understanding culture and how it works. Structuration theory attempts to explain the complicated relations between structure (political, economic, etc.) and human agency. Other theories in the past have tried to underplay the effect of human agency and the ability to change the world around them. Under this theoretical framework, structuration theory attempts to understand the complicated relationship between human agency and imposing structure. “Structuration theory attempts to recast structure and agency as a mutually dependent duality” (Rose, Scheepers, 218). Structuration theory is a basis for understanding the world and why thing happen the way they do, both in the archeological record and the present. This can interrelate with the doxa and practice theory as they are all aspects to understand how human agency interacts with pre-existing structure.
There is another way to understand structuration theory called AST or adaptive structuration theory. “AST provides a model that describes the interplay between advanced information technologies, social structures, and human interaction” (DeDanctis and Poole, 126). ATS leads to better understanding of structuration that includes technology and innovations being introduced into a society. New technology can call into question traditional practices which can be related to the aforementioned concept of heterodoxy.
I believe that using all of the aforementioned strategies to understand why culture functions the way it does can help to answer questions impossible to ask otherwise in archeology. Some such issues with understanding major aspects of culture that have not been definitively determined by material remains in traditional archeological frameworks are gender identity and gender roles. “…the acquisition of gender identity does not pass through consciousness, it is not memorized but enacted at the pre-reflexive level” (McNay, 101). A society with a binary understanding of gender identity and definitive norms could be going along with routine and through the guise of practice theory we can understand it as a routine bodily practice. The concept of the doxa keeps these roles the same and unquestioned, and if it was ever questioned, it would be reaffirmed through orthodoxy. This is just one example of how these theories can be used together to understand large scale social frameworks and why things function in culture the way they do.
In the context of space and place, these theories could be easily applied to organized, culturally sanctioned use of space. How we move through space are learned bodily behaviours such as those outlined in practice theory. These movements are often unquestioned (doxa) or reaffirmed through traditional beliefs and traditional ways of constructing spaces (ex. always use roads and streets, etc). Although these spaces are created through the structure, there is always room for human agency to reinterpret traditionally used space, especially with the advent of new technology (ATS) (ex. started making paved roads for cars, etc). These concepts are useful in the understanding of why people construct, interact with and change space, and the frameworks that allow it to happen.
Reckwitz A. () Toward a Theory of Social Practices A Development in Culturalist Theorizing. European Journal of Social Theory 5(2): 243–263 ONLINE: http://journals1.scholarsportal.info/pdf/13684310/v05i0002/243_tatosp.xml
Rose and Scheeps,(2001). Structuration theory and information system development – Frameworks for Practice Department of Computing Science, Aalborg University, ONLINE:
McNay L. Gender, Habitus and the Field; Pierre Bourdieu and the Limits of Relexivity. Theory, Culture & Society February 1999 vol. 16 no. 1 95-117 ONLINE
DeDanctis and Poole (1994). Capturing the Complexity in Advanced
Technology Use: Adaptive
Structuration Theory. Organization science/VO1. 5, No. 2, 121-147
Holton R. (1997) Bourdieu and Common. SubStance, Vol. 26, No. 3, Issue pp. 38-52 ONLINE http://www.jstor.org/stable/3685593
Myles J. (2004). From Doxa to Experience Issues in Bourdieu’s Adoption of Husserlian Phenomenology. Theory, Culture & Society 21(2) 91-107. ONLINE http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/21/2/91.short