Gender, Field, and Habitus: How Gendered Dispositions Reproduce Fields of Cultural Production

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Bourdieu argues that fields of action produce a specific habitus in participants, and views this specific habitus as a mechanism through which the field is reproduced. Although Bourdieu acknowledges the habitus as gendered, he does not theorize gender as part of the mutually constitutive relationship between field and habitus. Using evidence from two cultural fields, the Toronto heavy metal and folk music scenes, I show that gender is central to the process through which field and habitus sustain each other. The metal field produces a “metalhead habitus” that privileges gender performances centered on individual dominance and status competition. In contrast, the “folkie habitus” encourages gender performances centered on caring, emotional relations with others, and community-building. These differently gendered habitus support different working conventions: music production occurs largely through volunteer-based nonprofit organizations in the folk field, and individual entrepreneurship in the metal field. The gendered habitus also supports different stylistic conventions: guitar virtuosity in the metal field, and participatory music-making in folk. Applying a gendered lens to the field–habitus relationship clarifies the mechanisms through which cultural fields shape individual action, and the mechanisms through which cultural fields are reproduced and maintained.

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