Culture(s) on the margins: 9th midterm conference of the European Sociological Association's Sociology of Culture research network (RN07)

Project Details


Sociologists and those working in related disciplines have often found more of interest on the margins than in the centre. It is where innovation takes place, where the new replaces the outmoded, where ‘outsider’ or heterodox voices challenge the orthodoxy, and where culture creators are most able to follow the laws inherent to their specific region of the cultural field. The margins are where you will find ‘underground’ or ‘cutting edge’ scenes. Moreover, ethnographic traditions in sociological research have produced fine-grained accounts of cultures of subaltern, subcultural, diasporic groups, and the ways in which these groups and individuals engage in counter-hegemonic practices.

At the same time, sociologists have also drawn attention to how those occupying the margins of societal fields are characterized in terms of lack: dominated individuals and groups lack the requisite cultural capital or social connections to get on in life; they are ‘failed consumers’ or they make the wrong choices; they lack the time and resources with which to develop and deploy an aesthetic disposition; and they lack the social power to confer legitimacy on their practices or representations. Those ‘beyond the pale’ are rendered abject, considered to be ‘matter out of place’. Among the social types identified on the margins, there is the Simmelian figure of the stranger who ‘comes today and stays tomorrow’, who is invisibilized and ignored, or hypervisibilized and racialized. Strangers are part of the group and yet do not fully belong. They are set apart from the group with an objectifying distance, and during times of crises, they are the ones blamed when things go wrong. As Skeggs (2004) points out, cultures of the dominated are nevertheless ‘propertized’ by the dominant who, occupying more mobile position are able to plunder the edgy associations and most exciting bits while leaving behind that which is deemed to be ‘the constitutive limit’ and that which has no cultural value.

This conference asks which perspectives, methodologies and methods might help sociologists better understand and make sense of culture(s) on the margins. How might academics address and challenge power imbalances within the field of culture and other societal fields but also within cultural sociological practice? How can academics (the dominated dominant) research the margins without silencing the voices that they seek to hear, and avoiding the position of the researcher or activist who (in the words of bell hooks) silently assumes that there is ‘no need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself’?

The conference explores these and related questions at local, national, transnational, regional and global levels.

Key findings

This was a project that started with a European Sociological Association-funded conference and is now leading to some publications.
Effective start/end date31/08/222/09/22

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


  • Culture
  • margins
  • marginality
  • European Sociological Association
  • Sociology of culture
  • Cultural Sociology


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