multiple habituses?

August 12, 2008





[notes from high key in-camp training]


My army buddy Alan (not his real name) is a Harvard-trained lawyer. He’s in public service and is a martial arts expert. He’s heavily involved in church activities and volunteers at certain outfits. These are enough to alert one to Alan’s habitus and cultural capital in his professional field and the specificity of his relative position within this field.


However, Alan is also prone to “lying low” in the army. We adopt a low profile together to avoid being arrowed and are happily subscribed to the old SAF mantra – “I stop thinking the minute I put on the no. 4”.


If habitus is a set of acquired patterns of thought, behavior, and taste (or “dispositions”) which are the result of internalization of culture or objective social structures through the experience of the individual, can we have multiple habituses? The habitus’ negotiation of the field must necessarily be premised on the nomos and illusio of this particular field. And there is little doubt that Alan has the required dispositions to struggle successful for symbolic capital in the field of Singapore law.


But how do we explain our habitus in the field of in-camp training where we, both intelligent professionals, gleefully “switch-off” even though we’ve more brains in our little finger than the dim-witted warrant officer trainers we have to endure? Could it only be a simple matter of not buying into the illusio of national service or the nomos of army culture?


Or do we indeed have multiple habituses for multiple fields? And how are our army habituses formed? Alan is small in stature. He had to do a re-course for his BMT. He spoke of “power hungry sergeants” during his BMT. Could these experiences, particular to the field, define his disposition? And if so, are habituses really as interchangeable as putting on and taking off your no. 4?