The chameleon habitus: Exploring local students' negotiations of multiple fields

Jessica Abrahams, N Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (SciVal)


This study utilises an innovative creative method of plasticine modelling to explore the identities of local students (those who live in their family home) at the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. Students created models representing their identity, which were used as a springboard for in-depth discussion. Through drawing upon Bourdieusian theory this article attempts to shed new sociological light on the subject of local student experiences. In much of the literature this is presented as problematic and it is often argued that local students either 'miss out' on the conventional university experience or that they are stuck between two worlds. This paper, however, presents a more complex picture of local students' experiences of inhabiting local and university spaces. The data is analysed through a Bourdieusian lens in which the university and local worlds are seen as fields of struggle, this allows for a nuanced understanding of how students conceptualise their positions and dispositions in relation to both fields. The findings indicate that living at home can be both problematic and of benefit to the working-class students in particular. Despite being immersed within two somewhat contradictory fields they can sometimes develop various strategies to enable them to overcome any internal conflict. In this article we draw uniquely upon Bhabha's concept of a third space to expand upon Bourdieusian theory, arguing that a 'cleft habitus' is not always negative and can be a resource for some in their attempts to negotiate new fields.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2013


  • Local Students
  • Higher Education
  • Habitus
  • Field
  • Social-Class
  • Reflexivity
  • Bourdieu


Dive into the research topics of 'The chameleon habitus: Exploring local students' negotiations of multiple fields'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this