The Development of Habitus Over Time

WCER Working Paper No. 2009-7

Catherine Compton-Lilly

August 2009, 32 pp.

ABSTRACT: A case study of one low income African American child, Peter Horner, is used to explore how children accumulate various forms of writing capital. Peter’s development was tracked over 10 years, from first grade through high school. The construct of time is explored by examining how capital contributes to the construction of habitus (Bourdieu, 1971) and how habitus may or may not have privileged Peter at his urban high school and in his future. The construct of capital, as described by Pierre Bourdieu (1986), is applied specifically to the various forms of writing capital that Peter displayed across his educational trajectory. This paper uses the framework of writing capital to analyze Peter’s writing and reveal the alignments, tensions, and disjunctures that existed between his success as a writer, his school success, and the ease with which his accomplishments extended into contexts beyond school. While Peter appeared to be developing various forms of writing capital and habitus as a writer, as evidenced by writing samples collected over time, structural and institutional constraints threatened to limit his ability to take advantage of this capital and enact the habitus he had assumed. The findings of this study challenge notions that unproblematically associate capital acquisition and embodied habitus with success in school and beyond.

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keywords: Writing; Habitus; Longitudinal