Structure, strategy and self in cultural peripheries: Theorizing the periphery in the Polish and Dutch fashion fields

Giselinde Kuipers, Sylvia Holla, Elise Van Der Laan

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This article analyzes the creation of value in (semi-)peripheral fields, using interview (N=94) and ethnographic data of creatives, models and cultural intermediaries in Polish and Dutch fashion. Drawing on field theory and center-periphery theories we show that these peripheral fields have a distinct structure - peripheral worlds - marked by the dependence on foreign centers for goods, standards and consecration, in which actors employ field-specific peripheral strategies for pursuing value and success. Workers in the (semi-)periphery develop peripheral selves, marked by a "double consciousness", simultaneously seeing themselves from a local perspective and through the eyes of "central"others. We theorize "peripheralness"as a dimension of social inequality, a continuum ranging from "most central"to "most peripheral", that spring from transnational interdependencies; and offer building blocks for a theory of the periphery that connects structural conditions and personal experiences. This theory explains, among others, why peripheries are not the reverse of centers, why centers also need peripheries (though not as much as peripheries need centers), and why peripheral and semi-peripheral actors don't leave for cultural hubs to "make it there".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-245
Number of pages33
JournalArchives Europeennes de Sociologie
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is dedicated to the memory of the late Clyde Semmoh (1968–2021), stylist, Amsterdammer, loving father and friend. We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the European Research Council (ERC-StG 241073). Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Transatlantic Forum at Washington University and the Culture Club of the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam. We want to thank all our research participants in Amsterdam and Warsaw; Celestyna Krol for invaluable support in finding our way in the Warsaw fashion scene; and our colleagues John Bowen, Luuc Brans, Ashley Mears, Emanuela Mora, Olav Velthuis, Don Weenink, and the anonymous reviewers for their inspiring questions and perceptive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© European Journal of Sociology, 2022.

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