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Call for papers: Special Journal issue on Bourdieu and Curriculum Studies

Published in Bourdieu, Latest Posts, Pedagogy & Curriculum by Mark Murphy on March 11, 2016

image by Alan Levine

image by Alan Levine

26 January 2016

Guest editor James Albright (The University of Newcastle, Australia)

Revisiting the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989)


The Curriculum Journal will publish a special issue on Revisiting the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989) in November of 2016 (Volume ?, Issue ?).

The issue aims to bring together a set of articles that take as their starting point Bourdieu’s (1984) theoretical and empirical contributions to curriculum studies and his pragmatic recommendations educational reform.

In 1984, responding to Mitterrand’s (the first socialist president of France’s Fifth Republic) commissioned reports on the future of education, Bourdieu led colleagues (comprised of leading College de France professors) to author a set of guiding principles for educational change. First published as Proposition pour l’ensignment de l’avenir (College de France, 1985) and later as the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989), the principles set out to restructure the division of knowledge; provide a new definition of the transmission of knowledge; eliminate outdated or outmoded notions; and introduce ‘new knowledge that stems from research as well as economic, technical and social changes’ (Bourdieu, 1989: 309).

At the core of these recommendations was the call for a curriculum that focused on the ‘genealogy of concepts, ways of thinking, mental structures…to give everyone the means to re-appropriate the structures of their own thinking’ (Grenfell and James, 2004: 75). Although Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989) may have had little lasting effect on the course of French educational policy, many aspects of Bourdieu’s principles for reflecting on the curriculum resonate with contemporary theoretical and pragmatic issues in the fields of curriculum studies and development.

Guiding themes for potential contributors to this special issue may include—but are not limited to—the following:

Guiding theme 1:  Understanding the historical importance of the Proposition pour l’ensignment de l’avenir (College de France, 1985) and later the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989);

Guiding theme 2: Reassessing their core recommendations in light of current theoretical and pragmatic issues in curriculum studies and development;

Guiding theme 3: Analysing why the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989) had little lasting effect on the course of French educational policy and, more broadly, why the academic field has had limited influence in reforming educational policy, generally;

Guiding theme 4: Analysing how the Principes pour une réflexion sur les contenus d’enseignment (Bourdieu, 1989) fits within Bourdieu’s empirical studies in education, culture, and economics;

Guiding theme 5: Debating Bourdieu’s contention that across the breadth of the school curriculum, ‘techniques or cognitive tools, which are totally indispensible in promoting rigorous and reflective reasoning’ (Bourdieu, 1989: 312) should be the focus of curricular theorising and planning;

Guiding theme 6: Evaluating those aspects of Bourdieu’s principles that resonate with the theoretical and practical desires for interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary education.

Bourdieu characterises school subjects are ‘interpretations’ of disciplines. As such, researchers and teachers must be mindful of the ‘logic and traditions of certain specialisms…where they are located in the curriculum’ and how each ‘contribute[s] to different thought processes’ (Bourdieu, 1989: 312). Arguing that the curriculum of the day seldom did this and, when it did, only tacitly, Bourdieu argues that transdisciplinary inquiry where teachers from various subject areas are brought together to collaborate in curriculum design may remedy this absence; and

Guiding theme 7: Bourdieu’s principles reflect the continental tradition of educational didactics. Didactics is broadly theorized as ‘not a normative theory…nor is it descriptive but reflective…an explication of how instructional processes in the institutionalized school may be experienced…useful as a thought model and a research model (Uljen, 1997: v). It may be interesting to English-speaking curriculum theorists to note that didactics is often broadly posited by European researchers as a science that focuses on the institutionally bounded ‘diffusion’ of knowledge (Chevallard, 1991).

For almost four decades American and, to some extent, curriculum theorising in the Anglosphere, with the exception of Bernstein (1999), has been dominated by a reconceptualist theoretical break with institutional focus on schooling and empiricism. Reconceptualism in Anglo–American curriculum has adopted broad perspectives from a wide range of philosophical, psychoanalytical, aesthetical and ethical standpoints, which runs counter to the didactics ‘down-to-earth, realistic point of departure’ (Bjerg et al. 1995: 33). Criticism has ranged from its need for greater verticality and disciplinarity (Pinar, 2007) to its loss of scientific authority and marginalization in the field of education (Ladwig, 1996). This issue invites historical, theory, and research papers that address this nexus of Anglo and Continental curriculum theorising.

Important dates and submission process

  • Deadline for proposal submission: 1 April 2016 (250-500 words)
  • Notification of proposal acceptance: 15 April, 2016
  • Deadline for full manuscript submissions: 1 August, 2016
  • Manuscripts returned to authors for revision: 1 September 2016
  • Final manuscripts due: 1 October, 2016 (6,000-8,000 words)
  • Publication: November, 2016

Proposals should be 250-500 words in length should be emailed to the guest editor by 1 April 2016.

The final manuscripts should normally be between 6,000 and 8,000 words, excluding tables, references, captions, footnotes and endnotes. Authors should include a word count with their manuscript. The Curriculum Journal uses ScholarOne Manuscripts (previously Manuscript Central) for its peer review process, so after proposals are accepted, full manuscripts will be submitted via ScholarOne. The guide for ScholarOne authors offers helpful information for new users; each author will need to create an account.


Contact information:

Prof James Albright

Professor James Albright
School of Education
Faculty of Arts and Education
The University of Newcastle
Callaghan, NSW, 2308



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About the author /

Mark Murphy is a Reader in Education and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow. He previously worked as an academic at King’s College, London, University of Chester, University of Stirling, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, University College Dublin and Northern Illinois University. Mark is an active researcher in the fields of education and public policy. His research interests include educational sociology, critical theory, accountability in higher education, and public sector reform.

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