Final Lecture

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Phillipa Chong

SOC302 Final Lecture November 26, 2012 Race and Gender Distinctions in the Cultural Hierarchy The Reproduction of Symbolic and Social Boundaries  Today we are going to talk about how art is connected to social and symbolic boundaries  How we evaluate and enjoy something draws on greater understandings such as race, ethnicity, and gender Critics play a special role in consecrating art as legitimate Consecration  the act of associating something with the sacred Symbolic and Social Boundaries  Symbolic boundaries are “conceptual distinctions made by social actors to categorize objects, people, practices, and even time and space”  Social boundaries are “objectified forms of social differences manifested in unequal access to and unequal distribution of resources (material and nonmaterial) and social opportunities” When symbolic boundaries become widely agreed upon and used or acknowledged, they can take on a constraining character and change into identifiable patterns of social exclusion I.e. Social boundary  low/middle social classes vs. upper/elite social classes Symbolic boundary  exotic foods Chong: “Reading Difference”  There are different ways of valuing a single legitimate art form: o Literary fiction as case study (book reviews of novels) o Importance of cultural critics in constructing value She found that critics discuss race and ethnicity in 3 ways:  To frame the novel as authentic o Grazian: consumers are interested in having authentic cultural experiences because by definition authenticity refers to something that is pure and honest and credible o This is desired as a reaction to the monopoly of capitalism and it’s associated drives with profit o The idea of what is authentic is socially constructed, it’s not natural o Our expectations are shaped by social norms o When book reviewers would identify a writer as an “ethnic” writer, they often did so to suggest that the novel was based on their personal experienced as ethnic, racial, or national outsiders  To place the book into ethnic genres o Affects how we view the relative contribution and value of an author’s work o By placing a book in a genre, it affects how we view the relative contribution of that book o Ethnic genres are seen as separate of the literary mainstream of great works, which aren’t ethnic fiction, they’re just fiction  Nominally identify “interesting” writers as way of motivating the review o Nationality of white writers was brought up but not seen as relevant for how they went about evaluating their novels o It was primarily white writers in the western world who were identified in this way o Their nationality was brought up but it wasn’t seen as relevant to how they went about writing their book Chong: Reading Difference  The practice of reading a novel where the authors’ “difference” is used as means of constructing the value of the books  It’s a criterion of the books  Formalist Criteria? o Thought to be objective because they can be found in the text themselves o Yes – but applied unevenly  Ethnic-identified authors  writing style  Non-identified authors  theme Evaluation processes, or the construction of value is a social process It depends on a number of factors What criteria are used? How are those criteria applied? Why and when should race and ethnicity matter?  Cultural omnivorousness, cosmopolitan  Trying to cater to these cosmopolitan readers  Value is a social construction Schmutz and Faupel: “Gender and Cultural Consecration in Popular Music 1. Why are some musicians more likely to be included among the all-time greats (that is, receive consecration?) 2. How do critics discursively justify the inclusion of such artists in this canon?  Statistical analysis of how different forms of legitimacy affected a musician’s chance of being included in Rolling Stone’s list of greatest albums of all time (which is their measure of consecration): o Popular legitimacy  Whether or not a given album went Platinum o Professional legitimacy  Whether or not a given album was nominated for Gram
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