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Conference Papers Year : 2004

Discovery Quality or Performing Taste? A Sociology of the Amateur.


Based on comparative ethnographic observations of wine, food and music lovers, the paper, after reviewing the sociology of eating and taste, proposes an analytic grid in order to give an account of taste as a collective performance and an on-going process, instead of treating it as a passive consequence of the things tasted and an accumulation of competences and preferences inside the amateur ("discovering quality"). Four central elements have been identified, on which taste as an activity relies: – the object tasted – a collective of tasters ("amateurs" or not) – material and technical devices. – and the taster’s "body and soul" The crucial argument is not in the list itself, but in the reflexive and performative status of each of those elements. None of them can be taken as an external etermination of taste. Being both results and sources of taste, they emerge along with the erformance, as productive constraints which amateurs themselves continuously discuss, test and elaborate. Bodies, spaces, durations, devices, objects, tools, instruments: the love of music or wine is an activity, not only the acknowledgment of social identities or a collective rite reinforcing groups and subjectivities. This is not only true within the moment of taste; it can be extended, in time, to the personal and collective history of the amateur. So conceived, taste is much more than a natural property of humans and things, a miraculous coordination of products and preferences on a market, or a passive social rite: it is an experience, providing an empirical model to analyse our active relationships with things, with ourselves, and with others.
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hal-02763880 , version 1 (04-06-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02763880 , version 1
  • PRODINRA : 20199


Genevieve G. Teil, Antoine Hennion. Discovery Quality or Performing Taste? A Sociology of the Amateur.. The University of Manchester/UMIST ESCR CIRC workshop "Theoritical Approaches to Food Quality", Jan 2002, Manchester, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-02763880⟩
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