Definitely (not) belonging to culture: Europeans’ evaluations of the contents and limits of culture

Semi Purhonen*, Marc Verboord, Ossi Sirkka, Nete Nørgaard Kristensen, Susanne Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Despite the long history of debating its meaning and its current unprecedented ubiquity both in scholarly and popular discourses, little is systematically known about how “culture” is conceived by ordinary people. This paper examines how evaluations of the contents and boundaries of expressive culture are patterned among people in and across present-day European societies, and to what degree these evaluations associate with sociodemographic and politico-cultural divisions. Using survey data collected in 2021 in nine European countries and applying latent class and multinomial regression methods, the analysis reconstructs Europeans’ boundaries of the concept of culture – which objects, places and practices they see as belonging or not belonging to culture, and with which objects they remain ambivalent. The results show that the classical distinction between narrow (exclusive) and broad (inclusive) notions still structures Europeans’ evaluations of expressive culture, but it operates in several modes and with national and sociodemographic variations. In contrast to traditional assumptions, the narrow evaluations are associated with lower-status groups, while the upper-status groups embrace broad notions of culture. Moreover, the broad evaluations are associated with factors such as cultural cosmopolitanism and liberal-progressive political attitudes, highlighting the potential of extending cultural stratification research by the “bottom-up” study of patterned evaluations and understandings of the concept of culture itself.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101840
JournalPoetics
Volume101
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Author(s)

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  • ESHCC M&C

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