|Practice / Praxis|
Concept developed during the 1970's, under the influence of such thinkers as Bourdieu, Giddens and others, to denote acts that carry their own rules / limitations / structures within themselves. The term originated as a way of overcoming the divisions between structurally oriented, collectivistic studies (Lévi-Strauss, Durkheim, Marx) and more processually and individually oriented studies (Weber, Barth). The concept has its roots in Marx, and his form of the word (praxis) is often used today in a meaning that is close to his (if one does not explicitly want to indicate a connection to Marx, the form practice is recommended.) In the 1970's and 80's, however, the concept acquired the more general meaning of action, conceived as a bodily-and-social, rather than a purely social phenomenon. The inspiration for this wider interpretation was in part derived from Marx himself, but also has roots in the studies of gender that were inspired by feminist anthropology, the interest in (bodily) health and nutrition that were stimulated e.g. by medical anthropology, and studies of bodily discipline, inspired by Foucault.
Then, in 1984, came Sherry Ortner's influential article "Theory in Anthropology since the Sixties", which summarized many of these developments (particularly as they emerged in the United States), and predicted a great future for studies of practice. These predictions have only partly been realized. The postmodern wave during the 1980's undermined the belief in grand theory (and, in many cases, in studies of concrete action), thus reducing the attaction of the synthetic project of the practice theorists. On the other hand, some branches of postmodernism were specifically oriented towards the body, as a more reliable source of truth than language, which was very easy to deconstruct. These postmodernists sought inspiration in such authors as Foucault and Bourdieu, and contributed greatly to the popularity of such concepts as "embodiment" and "habitus" in latter-day anthropology.