Stigma and discrimination are increasingly understood as shaping health, and in turn conceptualised as social processes shaped by power and structural inequities. A challenge to analysis and implementing interventions is developing theory that can integrate analysis of structure, agency and power. One theoretical framework already promoted by prominent scholars as supporting this need is Bourdieu's social practice theory. This paper explores the application to date of Bourdieu's theory on stigma, discrimination and health. The paper describes how existing health literature has used concepts of symbolic violence, fields, capitals and habitus to develop insight into stigma power. The discussion explores how this theoretical framework is though underutilised and there has been little consideration of new programmatic approaches based on this theory. Directions for future research include the need for integrated approaches to analysis, especially using habitus to explore stigma power, and addressing processes of change. Directions for conceptualising interventions address how a mismatch of field and habitus could foster change and then the role for prophets in fostering symbolic revolutions. All these potential directions must in turn be integrated within the vast scholarship on stigma. In conclusion, further application and development of Bourdieu's social practice theory could help address the theoretical challenges facing the field of stigma, discrimination and health research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116774
Pages (from-to)116774
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date15 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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