Filtered: The Café and Contemporary Urban Experience

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Emma FELTON, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The contemporary café’s popularity and growth from the late twentieth century is unparalleled; it is tightly linked to profound social, cultural and technological change occurring in cities across the world. A visit to the café is an embodied, emplaced and sensual experience through which forms of social distinction and markers of taste are reproduced or challenged (Johnston & Baumann 2010). ‘Having a coffee’ is a ritual of everyday life for many, yet it is more than a latte or cappuccino that draws people to a café. It provides a “third space” (Oldenburg 1989), a place outside the home or work in which to meet, work or be alone. The cafe is an urban phenomenon, and its role is of increasing importance as cities grow in scale, diversity and density. This paper explores the tensions and contradictions inherent in contemporary global café culture. It investigates how café culture reproduces both techniques of inclusivity and exclusivity, its relationship to urban gentrification and belonging, and its role in the growth of global aesthetic and food cultures. The focus is mainly on specialty or independent cafés in which taste and an artisanal approach are paramount. The paper draws on ethnographic and qualitative research in cities in Australia, Asia and Europe.