Another theoretical twist?

Posted on September 6, 2007


Still digesting George Yudice’s ‘The expediency of culture’, I’ve had something of a breakthrough with my own research.  I’m working at the moment on the idea that cultural capital is the structural process through which performative force constructs cultural subjects.  I think that this opens up the space for a critical (political) position on performativity.    Although the performative field of society is always made up of multiple fields itself, I wonder whether the cultural capital angle (after Bourdieu) might provide a way of analysing the formation of cultural subjects? 

Cultural capital is an essentially public form of capital, where you demonstrate your ‘wealth’ through the public appreciation of culture.  For example, appluading in the right sections at a concert, behaving properly in a gallery and watching (and discussing) the ‘correct’ TV programmes.  It would seem that cultural capital is ‘performed’ in a way that demostrates a ‘cutural identity’. If identity is primarily cultural, and culture is being used instrumentally in the public sphere, then could the logic of performativity also be the logic behind the strategic deployment of cultural capital in social policy? 

Is this something interesting, or does it just amount to accepting that performativity is our dominant logic and that the consideration of cultural capital is not exempt from this?  I think the key issue is that the cultural capital concept is a political one and one this is concerned with issues of power and justice.  Bringing this together with performativity to look at how the strategic deployment of cultural capital works to consitute cultural subjects with a specific (cultural?) relationship to power would help to politicize performativity above the individual level, where most discussion of performativity takes place.

Posted in: Theory