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Cultural omnivores or culturally homeless? Exploring the shifting cultural identities of the upwardly mobile

Friedman, Sam (2012) Cultural omnivores or culturally homeless? Exploring the shifting cultural identities of the upwardly mobile. Poetics, 40 (5). pp. 467-489. ISSN 0304-422X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.poetic.2012.07.001


The concept of the cultural omnivore has become increasingly influential in cultural sociology. Its proponents argue that it has become a badge of honour to be eclectic in one's cultural preferences and not be seen as a “snob”. It is even argued that omnivorousness provides a new source of social and cultural capital, enhancing one's ability to communicate with diverse groups and nurturing greater political tolerance. Drawing on a large-scale survey of British comedy taste and 24 follow-up interviews, this paper challenges existing representations of the omnivore. Among comedy consumers, I find omnivorousness only within one social group—the upwardly mobile. However, the life histories of these respondents reveal that omnivorousness is more a by-product of life trajectories—whereby lowbrow comedy taste is established during childhood but highbrow tastes are added as cultural capital grows. Significantly, though, this combination of tastes has more negative than positive implications, leaving mobile respondents uncertain of their cultural identities. While they lack the “natural” confidence to communicate legitimate tastes as embodied cultural capital, they are also acutely aware that their lowbrow tastes are considered aesthetically inferior. In short, these comedy consumers are culturally homeless, caught with one foot in two different taste cultures.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2014 14:46
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2024 20:00
Projects: ESRC PhD Quota Award (ES/G017166/1)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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