Affect and Taste: Bourdieu, Traditional Music, and the Performance of Possibilities

Loka Ashwood, Michael M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In his famous Distinction, Bourdieu set forth musical and artistic taste as reflections of class positions developed early in life. With classical music as an explanatory tool, Bourdieu argued that cultural capital becomes deeply embodied and difficult to change. In temperance of Bourdieu's use of class, we suggest an affective theory of taste through the case of traditional music, based on a performance of possibilities inspired by our experiences in two pubs, one English and one Irish. Commonly played in pubs, traditional music can draw on rural lore to share its message with singing patrons of mixed class backgrounds. We use traditional music to argue that place shapes diverse social ties at all levels of economics, education, and age. We do not dispute that class powerfully shapes taste. But through what we term the joy of transcendence – formed through distinct and relative experiences, bonds, and friendships, enacted through place – participants can find pleasure in opening the cages of class and connecting across difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-640
Number of pages19
JournalSociologia Ruralis
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Sociologia Ruralis © 2016 European Society for Rural Sociology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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