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Practice Theories: The Latest Turn in Historiography?

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Abstract The linguistic turn in historiography has given way to a ‘cultural’ or ‘practical’ turn over the course of the last several decades. For its proponents, this new development heralds a return of the intentional subject and a re-invigorated concern with the dynamic nature of the social realm. Approaches clustered around the concept of practice, emphasizing routines of daily activities as the backbone of social organization and its stability, specifically seek to resolve the persisting conceptual tension in social sciences between structure and agency. This article surveys the seminal work on the topic of practice, and considers how the approach can be recruited for purposes of historiographic analysis. In defending a tentatively optimistic assessment of practice theory’s usefulness for this purpose, the article also evaluates some of the weaknesses that this approach has yet to cogently address.

Affiliations: 1: University of California Berkeley


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