Cosmopolitan Taste As Cultural Capital. Native Consumption in Immigrant Grocery Stores in Vienna

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Seminar 33 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Michael PARZER, University of Vienna, Austria
Franz ASTLEITHNER, University of Vienna, Austria
Irene RIEDER, University of Vienna, Austria
In many European cities, immigrant grocery stores with their manifold repertoire of “ethnic” food do more than satisfy the needs of migrants. They have become increasingly important for members of the majority population. By drawing on recent debates within the sociology of cosmopolitanism and cultural studies, a recent project at the University of Vienna examined the consumption practices of natives in immigrant grocery stores in Vienna. This paper presents the outcomes of this project and outlines the role of cosmopolitan taste within these consumption practices. The analysis of 31 in-depth interviews and 15 go-alongs with native customers in various immigrant grocery shops in Vienna showed that native consumption is based on several frames of evaluation, including “nostalgia”, “authenticity”, “patronage” and “cosmopolitanism”. In this presentation we will focus on the latter, highlighting the importance of the senses for meaning-making-processes within cosmopolitan consumption. “Cosmopolitan taste” encompasses implicit meanings and imaginaries related to sounds, flavours and scents of the imagined “otherness” and “alterity”. However, while we do acknowledge that this kind of “local cosmopolitanism” may facilitate cultural exchange, we want to emphasize that cosmopolitan taste also contributes to strengthening symbolic boundaries along class. It is mainly displayed by members of the privileged classes, who use their openness as a form of cosmopolitan cultural capital, resulting both in symbolic distinction and the demonstration of social superiority. We want to argue in favour of a more comprehensive understanding of consumption practices taking into account the effects of cosmopolitan taste on the (re-)production of social inequality.