Habitus and Reflexivity in Tandem? Insights from Postcolonial Sri Lanka

Lakshman Wimalasena, Abigail Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
101 Downloads (Pure)


This article contributes to the unresolved concern about the relationship between habitus and reflexivity. Using Sri Lanka, a postcolonial social context, as the research ground, the article provides a contemporary interpretation of individuals’ reflexive and habitual behaviour that displaces Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as inappropriate for the representation of 21st-century social dynamics. While Sri Lanka is often labelled a traditional society, where habitual, routine, pre-reflexive action is thought to be more common, studies that question this generalised view appear to be largely absent. Therefore, based on a critical realist morphogenetic perspective that offers the analytical possibility of both routine and conscious action, this article investigates the role of habitus and reflexivity through 75 work and life histories gathered from Sri Lanka. The findings suggest that even the reproduction of traditional practices has increasingly become a reflexive task; thus, this work supports the position that habitus fails to provide reliable guidance to understand social action, even within a society labelled as traditional.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-535
Number of pages18
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Sri Lanka
  • critical realism
  • habitus
  • morphogenetic approach
  • reflexivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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