chapter  3
“Life as a ride in the métro”: Pierre Bourdieu on biography and space
ByHÉLÈNE LIPSTADT
Pages 20

These days, space has a seemingly exponentially increasing number of friends, and biography, a similarly growing number of less-than-friendly critics. As the epigraphs for this essay suggest, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, considered by many to be the most important sociologist of the second half of the twentieth century, counts as both. In order to use Bourdieu on space for the telling of lives, need we defy his condemnation of biography? If we write biographies, are his insights on space forbidden to us? There is, I argue, no need to choose, for Bourdieu believed that the

study of lives is the study of space. Lives should be studied as if they were “a ride in the métro,” that is, by taking a “necessary detour through space.” After all, “who would think of evoking a voyage without having an understanding of the landscape in which it happened?”4