The place and meaning of the field of PE in Turkish young people's lives: a study using Bourdieu's conceptual tools

Koca C., Atencio M., Demirhan G.

SPORT EDUCATION AND SOCIETY, vol.14, pp.55-75, 2009 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 14
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13573320802615130
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.55-75
  • Keywords: Physical education, Sport, Gender, Social class, Bourdieu, PHYSICAL-EDUCATION, GENDER, CONSTRUCTION, REPRODUCTION, ATTITUDES, ABILITY
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


This paper draws on Bourdieu's notions of habitus, social field, and capital to provide a more complex examination of the place and meaning of physical education in Turkish young people's lives. Two secondary schools comprised of students from quite distinctive social, cultural, and geographical locations were involved in the study. Collected data from several focus group discussions, individual interviews, and class observations was analysed in relation to the themes of 'social class', 'gender', and 'students' positions within the social field of 'physical education'. The findings demonstrate how the national Turkish physical education (PE) curriculum became interpreted and deployed by each school in distinctive ways. Both schools promoted disciplinary and performance-based physical activities in the PE social field, even as they used different physical activities and had different reasons for privileging these types of activities. Physical education was used by the middle-upper-class school to reify and enhance the symbolic, cultural, and social capital of young people, who were regarded as future intellectual, business, and government leaders within Turkish society. In comparison, the school based in the poor suburb used physical activity as a means to create 'good' and 'productive' citizen-subjects. However, in using particular physical activities to create certain types of subjects with institutionally valued habitus (including physical 'abilities' and personal and social attributes), both schools ended up privileging only a few select young men and women whose physical capital was commensurate with the discursive requirements of the social field. From this perspective, we argue that both schools authorised certain individuals (mostly young men) who were able to take up ascendant positions because they could most easily convert their physical capital into social and cultural forms. These students were most able to determine acceptable forms of embodiment and could dictate patterns of use in the physical education classroom. In many instances, their dominance worked to prevent most of their peers from fully participating in PE.