Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN05_01b_H: Sociology of Taste
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Irmak Karademir-Hazir, Oxford Brookes University
Location: HA.2.9
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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What is the place of taste in the value chain? Coffee shops, baristas and specialty coffee in contemporary Brazil

Mauricio Piatti Lages

University of São Paulo, Brazil

This article attempts to investigate the transformations of coffee along its value chain, from the most primary links to the service sector, when it comes into play the appreciation of the sensorial attributes of the product. We have observed that the rise of niche coffee shops in the last ten years has contributed to the systematic change of preferences, as consumers are becoming increasingly interested in more acidic and sensorially complex coffees, instead of the typical bitterness of traditional Brazilian and European coffees. In order to understand how these new material and symbolic frameworks are propagated, we turn our attention to the professional barista, which acts as a mediator in the relationship between the consumer and the product. In this way, it appears that the production of consumer taste by these intermediary links of the chain acquires a key role in the reorganization of the coffee market. Furthermore, such transformations are part of a larger process in which the production models migrate to a “quality logic”, which aims to forge specific niche markets defined by the valorization of quality and origin. In total, we investigated seventeen coffee shops and applied questionnaires to twenty-nine baristas in São Paulo and Brasília. Considering the articulation between consumption and production, the article also seeks to contribute to the understanding of the value production in the very spaces where consumption occurs, extending the reflection to other comestibles and beverages.

Tastebrary(1) as a sociological concept

Sandra Fontanaud

Université de Picardie Jules Verne, France

The field of gastronomy is omnipresent in France and has been got more dense, diversified and complicated since the 2000s : the traditional chefs of the 70s sitting behind their stoves and surrounded by their assistants (replaced by the charismatic leaders of these last years), are joined today by female chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, coffee roasters, chocolate makers, baristas and other food thinkers.

Since Pierre Bourdieu and Distinction(2), we know that tastes and colors are very widely discussed, that they are matters of socialization, social class and cultural good willingness. We can however wonder about the promoters of taste democratization who appeared a few years ago. In what ways do these artisans transform their knowledge and know-how into feelings ? Since when do the consumers expect to live an "experiment" by tasting products ? How does this popularization transform customers into informed and critical amateurs, gastronomes or cooking enthusiasts ? What differentiates a cooking chef developing his labor around a product, from a chef who tries to translate his labor into an emotion or an idea ?

By using the concept of tastebrary and by examining its nature, the goal of this study is to understand how actors of taste receive, maintain and transmit their culture, and how they participate in the democratization of taste and in the definition of their professional field.

(1) Translation of « gustothèque », contraction of “goût” (taste) and “bibliothèque” (library), a term coined by Philippe Conticini, a pastry chef

(2) Bourdieu P., La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Paris, Les éditions de Minuit, coll. Le sens commun, 1979

Cultural Taste, Social Mobility and Shame. A qualitative approach

Kamil Luczaj

University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland

The qualitative methodology, namely the life story approach (D. Bertaux, I. Bertaux-Wiame), can help draw a detailed picture of upwardly mobile people. Pierre Bourdieu refers to them as "les miraculés du mérite" because they significantly improved their social position over the years, against all the odds. This paper offers a theoretical overview of problems related to the impact of social mobility on aesthetic taste. Upwardly mobile individuals inherit a certain (usually lowbrow) cultural capital and, after the change, they need to adapt themselves to the standards of different culture, which sometimes can be perceived as a foreign culture (Ch. Walley). I will focus on the issues of "rankism" (R. Fuller), "biographical work" (A. Strauss), sociology of shame (T. Scheff), and various notions from Pierre’ Bourdieu’s theory.

Regrettably, under Bourdieu’s framework, an individual is perceived as coherent individual (ego), even though the obvious lack of consistent identity is visible when one has to constantly switch between "old" and "new" practices, e.g. if different preferences should be displayed in public (at work, in the local community) and different in private (during family gatherings). The switching can be traced especially when there is a need to reconcile incompatible culinary tastes, musical sensibilities, architectural preferences, or practices related to particular brand consumption. The life history method allows researchers to treat an individual as a process (N. Elias, B. Lahire, J.-C. Kaufmann) and the real sociology of individual becomes possible.

Autonomy versus commercialization: An analysis of the advertisement content of the culture sections of European newspapers, 1960–2010.

Riie Lotta Solveig Heikkilä

University of Tampere, Finland

Previous research has shown that newspaper cultural sections are central foci for classifying and legitimizing tastes. Cultural journalists and especially reviewers can be considered both gatekeepers and tastemakers: they filter what is written about and then participate in defining its value. Apart from the editorial content of newspapers, there is a substantial and growing amount of non-editorial content, constituted mostly of commercial advertisements. Advertisers are at the heart of what Bourdieu calls the “new cultural intermediaries”, central for constituting taste milieus. Advertisements, assigning different values to distinct cultural products and making them desirable for potential consumers, are definitely part of the general “cultural package” of contemporary newspapers. In this paper, I will scrutinize an aspect of commercialization that has not been paid much attention: the advertisements found in the cultural sections of newspapers. I ask how the much-discussed “commercialization of cultural journalism” claim shows in terms of concrete advertisement content in the cultural sections of six European quality newspapers between 1960 and 2010. Firstly, is there an increase in the absolute or relative amount of advertisements between 1960 and 2010 in the cultural sections and how does this commercial content relate to editorial content? Secondly, how do the advertisements change over time? To answer these questions, I use a large data deriving from Finnish, Swedish, British, French and Spanish European newspaper culture sections and the advertisements found in them and take a both quantitative and qualitative look on them. My data consists of 2799 advertisements and 3393 newspaper pages.

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