Religion and Distinction: Cultural Closure in African Societies

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Marian BURCHARDT, University of Leipzig, Germany
Numerous ethnographies have recognized the close relationships between religious belonging, economic orientation and status aspirations in many African societies. However, sociologists have rarely systematically explored how religious belonging operates as a marker of cultural distinction and cultural closure through which economic opportunities are hoarded, social positions reproduced and symbolically expressed. In this presentation, I argue that Bourdieu's theoy of social class and cultural distinction is helpful for understanding the dynamics around social inequality and cultural identity in African societies but that it needs to be reformulated to that end. More concretely I suggest that the vectors of cultural reproduction (i.e. the forms of cultural capital such as certificate, authorized judgment etc.) differ dramatically from those Bourdieu envisioned. In my presentation I pursue the role of religion as one vector of cultural reproduction and explore how it impinges upon questions of stratification. I illustrate my arguments by drawing on qualitative empirical research carried out in South Africa, especially in the townships of Cape Town, since 2006.