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Cultural Capital and Family Attachments in the Material Culture of Living Rooms: Evidence from Chile

Sat, August 12, 4:30 to 5:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520A

Abstract

Pierre Bourdieu argued that members of different social classes and class fractions demonstrated distinct tastes in the visual arts and other consumption fields that reflected distinct principles of aesthetic judgment. These different tastes reflected class-based family, school, and occupational socialization. While much of his work related to cultural production and consumption, Bourdieu (1984) examined class-based tastes in home furnishings. In contrast, Halle (1993) found few substantive cross-class differences in artistic taste. Others see home furnishings as reflecting valued social connections (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 1981, McCracken 2005, Money 2007), moral boundaries (Woodward 2001, 2003), or gender and class divisions (Bennett et al. 1999, Bennett et al. (2009, Madigan and Munro 1996). Based on semi-structured interviews with 77 Chilean adults from distinct fractions of the middle classes and 31 photos of their living rooms, I find important patterns of variation in taste and judgment across families. Taste in visual art is hierarchically differentiated based on variations in economic and cultural capital. Tastes in home furnishing are less clearly linked to class, but vary according to preferences for (in)formality, focus on immediate family or friends, and emphasis on kinship ties vs. display. Expressions of distaste toward decorative styles reflect both class and moral boundaries. Chilean homes reflect both class division and horizontal variations in taste and family attachments.

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