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Practices - Practice Theory, Practice And Discourse: Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu And Anthony Giddens, Practice As Resistance: Michel De Certeau

communicate meaning considered social

Practices are actions or activities that are repeatable, regular, and recognizable in a given cultural context. In everyday language, practice is often contrasted with theory, ideas, or mental processes: what is done as opposed to what is thought, the pragmatic as opposed to the ideational. Practices may be discursive (practices that communicate meanings through language), visual (practices that communicate meaning through images), or embodied (practices accomplished through bodily movement and gesture). Julia Kristeva (b. 1941) has proposed using the term signifying practices to denote all types of practices that communicate meaning. It could be argued, however, that it is in the nature of all social practices to communicate meaning. It has been argued, for example, that religions are not constituted solely or primarily by belief or doctrine, but by the inculcation of practices (through the actions of the powerful), both in terms of formal ritual and in terms of quotidian practices such as dress, diet, social interaction, and so forth.

Ritual practice is particularly important since, as Victor Turner (1920–1983) has argued, it links the natural, cosmological, and social levels of order through the manipulation of symbols. As such, it is an important legitimating device in the secular as well as religious spheres. As is true of religious beliefs, religious practices may be considered authorized and therefore legitimate (orthopraxy), or they may be practiced without formal legitimation (heteropraxy) and considered marginal, contestatory, or both.

Professions and disciplines, likewise, are defined and bounded as much by their practices as by their objects of investigation or intervention. Chemistry and alchemy, astronomy and astrology, for example, differ less in their objects of study (the combination of materials in the former, the stars and planets in the latter), than in the practices through which statements about the world may be considered true or false.

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