Class, gender and habitus
: a ‘Bourdieuian’ perspective of social reproduction and change in the contemporary sports field with a focus on adventure climbing

  • David Holland-Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The thesis draws upon six published and peer reviewed papers and a peer reviewed book chapter. An overview of each paper is followed by the publication and then an explanation of how each has contributed to the emerging research profile and methodology.

There follows a critical overview and rationale of the developing and emerging research profile and the move from a constructivist grounded methodology to a Bourdieuian theoretical and methodological position. This thesis focuses on the process of social reproduction and change in the contemporary mountaineering and climbing field. A central theme in this thesis is the relationship between social structure and individual agency. The adoption of the Bourdieuian approach represents a conceptual break with previous understandings of action, agency, objectivism, subjectivism, the individual and society. Habitus becomes a main mechanism to explore and analyse the process of social change and reproduction in the contemporary climbing and mountaineering field.

Habitus makes it possible to understand and account for the dynamic and spontaneous actions of individuals as well as the process of social reproduction and change. At the centre of the process of social change is the relationship between the habitus and the field. It is through a detailed analysis of the relationship between the habitus and the field that is possible to understand the process of structural change and the conditions where individuals are most likely and able to challenge doxa.

In the modern climbing context, women, particularly from the middle classes, are becoming empowered through the transformation of their bodies and the construction of often complex and contradictory identities. These women are placed to take advantage of new emerging social relations and opportunities occurring as a result of hysteresis. However, this has implications for the identities and position of established climbers, particularly men whose habitus was formed under a previous set of objective conditions, but also other women from subordinate social positions.
Date of AwardApr 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SupervisorJames Moir (Supervisor) & Wallace McNeish (Supervisor)


  • Bourdieu
  • Gender
  • Class
  • Habitus
  • Hysteresis
  • Social reproduction
  • Social change
  • Adventure climbing

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