Beyond omnivores and univores: The promise of a concept of musical habitus

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In recent years the omnivore thesis has come to take centre stage in debates surrounding cultural taste and its social structural co-ordinates. On the assumption that tastes for music are reflective of people’s tastes in other cultural domains, the matter of musical preference has received substantial attention within omnivore-related empirical research. Yet while the ongoing omnivore debate has seen the concept’s original formulation undergo revision and refinement in light of new findings, a number of substantive and theoretical difficulties continue to receive inadequate attention, especially in respect of music. These difficulties include commonly made assumptions about the sanctity of musical genre categories and hierarchies of cultural legitimacy, the reliability of decontextualized expressions of taste for disclosing real-world cultural practices, and questions about the deployment of cultural capital. This article assesses the implications of these difficulties and goes on to outline the concept of musical habitus, a heuristic theoretical construct with which to think through questions about musical objects’ correlations with actors’ social locations and the contemporary role of music in status competition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-318
JournalCultural Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2011

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