Oxfam GB’s UK poverty programme: a case for organisational habitus

Conference paper


Pickering-Saqqa, S. 2016. Oxfam GB’s UK poverty programme: a case for organisational habitus. British Sociological Association, Bourdieu Study Group Biennial Conference: The contemporary relevance of the work of Pierre Bourdieu. University of Bristol 04 - 05 Jul 2016
AuthorsPickering-Saqqa, S.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Debates around the application of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus to organisations reveal the tension between those who point to an anthropomorphic error, unintended by Bourdieu (Atkinson 2011), and those who argue for a more pragmatic use of the concept in empirical research (Wacquant 2014). To-date only one study of NGOs in India makes use of the organisational habitus approach within development studies (Ibrahim 2005). This paper contributes to this debate, with evidence that the application of the concept of habitus to NGO case studies provides a dynamic understanding of their programmes.

The paper considers Oxfam GB’s (OGB) controversial decision to establish its UK poverty programme in 1995. It explores the factors that drove the decision and what this reveals of the organisational habitus of OGB, the domains in which it works and the doxa beyond which questions are not asked (Bourdieu 1977). The paper uses data collected in 2010-2011 from semi-structured interviews with OGB staff and partners and corporate documentation. The study compares OGB with three other international non-governmental organisations (NGO): Islamic Relief, Save the Children Fund, Denmark and Oxfam America.

The case of Oxfam GB’s UK poverty programme offers empirical evidence of the constituent elements of the organisational habitus. In addition, findings indicate that each NGOs’ habitus is differently situated in relation to multiple domains or sources of authority. The dynamic relationship between these domains, in which boundaries are constantly negotiated and adjusted, offers rich insights into how Oxfam GB can begin to conceptualise its future organisational habitus.

Keywordshabitus; development; Oxfam
Year2016
ConferenceBritish Sociological Association, Bourdieu Study Group Biennial Conference: The contemporary relevance of the work of Pierre Bourdieu
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Feb 2018
Accepted01 Mar 2016
Completed04 Jul 2016
Accepted01 Mar 2016
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/85227

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