Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Aesthetics of Middle Class Home Interiors in Neoliberal Chile




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



There is a rich and ongoing debate regarding the relationship between taste and social inequality. Bourdieu (1984) argued that variations in taste reflect differences in cultural and economic capital across occupational groups. Critics contend that taste does not systematically vary by class (Halle 1993), individuals construct group boundaries based on class- and non-class discourses (Lamont 1992), and the high/low culture distinction has given way to a division between "omnivores and univores" (Peterson and Kern 1996; Peterson and Simkus 1992). Bennett et al. (2009) seek to extend and adapt Bourdieu's thesis in contemporary Britain, arguing that tastes vary by class, gender, age, and ethnicity depending on the cultural field in question. This paper explores this debate in Chile, where three decades of neoliberal policies and the legacies of dictatorship have shifted the contours of class, status, and taste. Through an analysis of sixty-three semi-structured interviews with urban middle class Chileans and photographs of twenty-eight home interiors, I find that taste in the fine arts varies significantly by class and political affiliation, while taste for household decoration crosses class boundaries. Through home interiors, individuals express the complex and sometimes competing desires for self-actualization, the construction of a coherent life narrative, and the defense of traditions against globalizing trends. The findings suggest that contemporary taste reflects individuals' efforts to negotiate the relationship between individual, family, class, and ideological identities in a globalizing world.

Conference Name

American Sociological Association Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Atlanta, GA

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