Sociology Spring Seminar: Omar Lizardo
Who can attend?
Omar Lizardo, professor and chair of Sociology at UCLA, will give a talk titled "Omnivorous Taste as Category Mediated Performance" for the Department of Sociology.
Over the past three decades, the omnivore thesis has become one of the most widely studied phenomena in the sociology of culture. Its core empirical claim that people with the highest educational attainment and socioeconomic status have broader tastes is now well-established. The theoretical model underlying this relationship, however, needs to be clarified. Is taste a deeply embodied aesthetic disposition? Is it, instead, a performative discursive structure? Are members of high-status groups cultural connoisseurs? This paper leverages a mix of original music production and survey experiments to tease out possible mechanisms underlying the omnivore phenomenon, focusing on the difference between openness toward abstract genre category labels and openness regarding "experienced" exemplars. Like others, we find strong evidence for the omnivore thesis: when asked about what they liked, higher-educated participants provided, for almost all genres, more positive evaluations of genre category labels as their avowed taste. And yet, the relationship between participants' avowed tastes and appreciation of musical exemplars was affected by their social position. While we find no support for the notion that people with higher cultural capital act as connoisseurs, we find strong support for category-mediated omnivorous consumption rather than omnivorousness as embodied taste. High cultural-capital participants became more omnivorous in their evaluations when exemplars were labeled with genre category terms, and their tastes towards particular categories became more tightly clustered. This difference goes in the opposite direction for genre aficionados, who rated labeled exemplars less positively. Thus, we can isolate a "performative categorization effect." The omnivorous taste of people with high cultural capital is anchored in external category systems. Lastly, labeling unexpectedly influences the evaluations of people with less cultural capital, whose tastes become more restrictive when given labeled musical excerpts. Our results suggest that people with different levels of cultural capital have different tastes and that the mechanisms that produce "taste," and thus its very meaning, differ across groups.
Who can attend?