Adjusting field theory

The dynamics of settler-colonial art fields

Authored by: Tony Bennett

Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415855112
eBook ISBN: 9780203740248
Adobe ISBN: 9781135008895


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My primary contention in this chapter is that the dynamics that have characterized the development of the Australian art field over the last 30 to 40 years require that Bourdieu’s formulations of field theory be qualified in three ways. First, such dynamics cannot be accounted for solely in terms of the struggles of successive generations of avant-gardes in their struggle for field-specific forms of capital; second, they cannot be accounted for in terms of the priority that Bourdieu accords to class relationships in structuring cultural fields; and third, they do not conform to the logic of a linear homogenous national time that characterizes Bourdieu’s accounts of art fields. These contentions rest on an analysis of the longer-term dynamics governing the development of the Australian art field over the period from the mid- to late-nineteenth century and, more particularly, on the position that Aboriginal art has come to occupy in the Australian art field since the 1960s.

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