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Practice Theory

My work is heavily informed by Bourdieu’s practice theory (PT). In a nutshell, practice theorists take ‘practices’ (the doings, sayings and performances of humans) as the basic constituents of social reality and as the core units of analysis. My publications inspired by PT include:

My 2019 article in the International Studies Review journal: Institutional Habitus, State identity, and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this article, I study China’s MOFA and argue that it possess an ‘institutional habitus’. This rendering of habitus responds to sociology’s invitation to extend Bourdieu-inspired analysis toward organizations and organizational change and, more broadly, complements existing theorization of state identity by showcasing an important but omitted source of identity: the foreign ministry. To that end, I find that MOFA sustains this habitus through three principal ways: an iterative reinscription of institutional memory and invocation of history; through displays of fealty and third organizational and personal self-regulation, discipline, and taciturnity. These institutional practices, I add, supply and inform Others (non-Chinese diplomats and officials) of China’s identity.

Through PT, I also study how the BRI and the ‘China Dream’ is promoted and performed. My article: The ‘Chinese Dream’ and the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’: narratives, practices, and sub-state actors (published in 2019, in the International Relations of Asia-Pacific journal) studies the two narratives and its links with concrete political/diplomatic practices. Drawing again on PT, I trace an explicit link between narratives and practices to demonstrate how narratives activate, anchor, produces and contest political practices of sub-state actors in China, namely: diplomats, scholars and provinces. Through these sub-national actors, I argue that four narrative-practice processes are seen in the Chinese example: contestation, sustenance, activation, and production.

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