Thinking Relationally between and Beyond Fields

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:00
Oral Presentation
Vanina LESCHZINER, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
One of the major relational approaches in sociology, theories of fields (including Bourdieu’s and organizational theories, among others) have been mostly concerned with the internal dynamics of fields. This follows from the premise that fields are relatively independent from the larger social space, and shaped by their own internal dynamics (Bourdieu, 1993), a conceptualization that has led to great progress, but also limitations. For one thing, it has given rise to a myopic view, one that has little to say about the boundaries of fields, and even less about the relationship between fields. For another thing, it has led to a limited view of social space, unable to account for variance in the scope of fields. I will use the example of culinary fields, for they make a particularly good case to examine the pitfalls of extant approaches, and propose a more thoroughly relational framework. Research on culinary fields has blossomed in recent years, with studies conceptualizing culinary fields to be as localized as a city, bounded by national borders, and global in scope. Rather than adjudicate upon extant conceptualization of culinary fields, I will suggest that fields of different scope co-exist. If fields are social spaces whose boundaries and internal morphology are constituted by relational processes, it follows that, even within the same area of activity, actors may be embedded in fields of different scope, because these are formed around different stakes (e.g., chefs orient their actions to local peers to survive on the market, but to global peers in the competition for rankings). I will thus propose a conceptualization of cuisine as nested fields. Through this framework, I seek to contribute to theories of fields by complementing their focus on internal dynamics (see Fligstein and McAdam (2012) for an exception) with attention to the vertical relationship between fields.