A special issue on Field Analysis in Cultural Sociology has just been published in the journal Cultural Sociology. It’s been edited by Mike Savage and Elizabeth B. Silva. The issue covers a range of topics from art, to music, to fell running. So it should be of interest to anyone with a broad interest in culture.
I have an article in the special issue. It’s titled ‘Genre, Boundary Drawing and the Classificatory Imagination‘. In this piece I attempt to challenge the stable and simplified notions of genre that are often used in the analysis of cultural fields. Here I provide three issues that face social research in its use of genre categories. I’ve used some digital data and a piece of commercial analytical software to do this – using data from Twitter to see how the boundaries around a particular music genre are contested and redrawn. The piece also tries to develop the concept of the classificatory imagination. I’ve used this in passing in earlier pieces, but I develop it more thoroughly here. The argument being that the classificatory imagination is often missing from the sociology of the musical field, and as such we are missing the vibrancy of genre. Here is the abstract for my piece:
This article suggests that the vitality of genre, and particularly music genre, is often missing from social and cultural research. This is despite its central presence as a structural force within increasingly popular forms of field analysis. To deal with this absence, the article draws upon conceptual material on everyday forms of classification and new forms of digital data. It is argued that the concept of a classificatory imagination might be used to develop a more contingent and transient vision of genre as a form of everyday cultural classification or as a structuring force in cultural fields. The article describes three problems facing cultural sociology in its use of genre categories. Two are briefly presented whilst the third is developed through a case study of hip hop. The article concludes with some reflections upon what this reveals about cultural boundary drawing and the impact of decentralized media upon genre formation.