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Dec. 19, 2006

Photos by Renowned French Thinker Debut in North America

The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibit of images by the late Pierre Bourdieu Friday, Feb. 9, at 5 p.m. in the Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library at Smith College.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – By peering through his camera, the late French thinker Pierre Bourdieu sharpened his view of the world and brought it into focus for others. From January through March, Smith College will exhibit photographs captured by the internationally known scholar.

The exhibit“Pierre Bourdieu in Algeria: Research, Representation and Commitment” marks the first time his images will be displayed in North America.

“Bourdieu was the single most important voice for social justice in France and throughout much of the world,” said Rick Fantasia, director of the Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, which is sponsoring the exhibit. “He spent more than four decades refining the craft of social science in a way that broke many of its rules, and in the process became one of the world's leading intellectuals.”

Bourdieu used a camera to help him record life in Algeria from 1955 to 1960, which, at the time, was waging a war for independence from Bourdieu’s native country. The experience of documenting the effects of French colonial and military policy on Algeria’s economic and cultural life caused Bourdieu to change his research focus from philosophy to social science.

As Bourdieu once wrote: “In view of the dramatic situation in Algeria, I wanted to make myself useful … in order to make it a bit clearer to people back home what was happening in this country. I wanted to testify what was going on before my eyes.”

The author of more than 25 books – including three about Algeria – and several hundred articles, Bourdieu applied his theories about class distinctions and power structures to a range of topics, including education, television, masculinity, intellectuals and the media. His book “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste” was named one of the 20th century’s most important works by the International Sociological Association.

At the time of his death at the age of 71 in 2002, Bourdieu was widely known as the intellectual champion for the anti-globalization movement.

Bourdieu’s photographs will be exhibited from Jan. 15 through March 25 in the Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library, an effort coordinated with the Pierre Bourdieu Foundation and the art gallery Camera Austria. An opening reception will be held Friday, Feb. 9, at 5 p.m. at that location. Admittance to the gallery is free and open to the public during the library’s regular business hours.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a panel of European and American scholars will discuss Bourdieu’s work in Algeria Saturday, Feb. 10, at 2:30 p.m., in the Neilson Library Browsing Room. Panelists will include Tassadit Yasine, professor of anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris; Craig Calhoun, president of the Social Science Research Council and professor of sociology at New York University; Franz Schultheis, president of the Pierre Bourdieu Foundation and professor of sociology at the University of Geneva; and Fantasia.

Additional events surrounding the work of Pierre Bourdieu are listed at

The Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute supports collaborative research among Smith College faculty, students and visiting scholars without regard to the traditional boundaries of departments, programs and academic divisions. Each year the Institute supports long-term and short-term projects proposed, planned and organized by members of the Smith faculty.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from nearly every state and 61 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.


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