Familiar Rhythm: Taste and Canonization in Traditionalist Genres

Sarah Neitz, University of Notre Dame

Most sociological studies of taste presume that taste is a result of boundary-making, that is, that processes of classification work by making culture an index of belonging in a certain social group, like class.In this account, the content included in a status group’s taste does not matter so much as the content excluded. Taste is a resource used to demarcate in-groups and out-groups. In this paper, I show that attention to boundaries as the mechanism of classification fails to account for the aesthetic experience of taste. I develop a pragmatist account of taste, where taste is a mechanism of canonization, rather than its outcome. Using ethnographic data from bluegrass jams and festivals, I show that performers shape canons by repeating songs, while audiences shape canons by recognizing songs. Together, recurrence and recognition constitute the aesthetic experience of taste, taste as the process through which we recognize and appreciate similarities among cultural objects.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 228. Tastes and Consecration