Pierre Bourdieu’s Symbolic Violence as Depicted through The Wire


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This activity will generate an interactive discussion of the concept of symbolic violence (as well as the related concepts of misrecognition, and field), and will encourage students to use the concept in interpreting two video clips from the television show The Wire. By describing whether and how symbolic violence acts in these video clips, students will actively unpack the operation of it. Students will understand that symbolic violence does not affect exogenously over individuals, but it requires actors’ misrecognized participation. Students will describe the ways in which symbolic violence makes existing social stratifications (class, age, education, and race) invisible and will identify how its operation varies according to social fields.


Resource Type(s):
Yalcin Ozkan, University of Massachusetts Amherst 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
College 300 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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The activity is designed for a 300-level sociological theory course. It can also be used for any other advanced level of theory course and three and four hundred level courses focusing on social inequalities and culture, in which the concept(s) of Pierre Bourdieu are assigned.

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Illuminate that symbolic violence operates not as an external coercive power. Rather symbolic violence acts through actors’ taken for granted assumptions, norms, and behaviors, thereby only when individuals participate in its operation.
Assessment 1:
Students will be assessed through evaluating the word clouds on violence and symbolic violence, and the worksheets of two video clips.
Goal 2:
Illustrate how symbolic violence is dependent to social and symbolic spaces in its operation.
Assessment 2:
Students will be assessed during class discussions based on how they differentiate two settings of Video Clip 1 and 2 as different social and symbolic fields.
Goal 3:
Students will better understand how symbolic violence turns explicit social stratifiers (such as class, education, age, and race) into hidden cultural domination.
Assessment 3:
Students will be assessed through evaluating the worksheets, based on how they answer the questions of “Who are the producer(s) and victim(s)? What social stratifications are legitimized by symbolic violence? And, how?”

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