Andrea Calabretta

Transnational fields under change. Investigating the impacts of the Tunisian revolution on the transnational political field

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Mainstream interpretations of Bourdieu’s theory have depicted it as centred on social reproduction and as marked by mechanist and determinist features, hindering his reception in many sociological domains, including transnational migration studies. This paper aims to transcend this limited reception of Bourdieu’s theory. By using field theory to explore the impact of the Tunisian revolution (2010-2011) on the Tunisian community living in Modena (Italy), this paper asks: what was the process of change triggered by the revolution in the transnational political field? What were their impacts on agents’ positions, stances and habitus? After addressing the dynamism of Bourdieu’s theory and its attempted applications to transnational migration studies, this paper delves into the case study. It draws on 24 in-depth interviews with politically involved first-and second-generation people of Tunisian origin in Modena. Observing the transformations (before, during and after the revolution) of the transnational political field in Modena and its related desynchronisation with agents’ habitus, this study shows the complexity and different temporalities of social change, as appreciable through Bourdieu’s lens. Through this case study, this paper reaffirms the possibility of using Bourdieu’s theory to enquire about social change, while also upholding its applicability for the study of transnational migration phenomena.


  • Bourdieu
  • social change
  • transnational field
  • transnational habitus
  • hysteresis


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