, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 467-483
Date: 17 Sep 2009

Cultural Consumption Patterns in South Africa: An Investigation of the Theory of Cultural Omnivores

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Contrary to Bourdieu’s theory (Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (1984)) that cultural consumption of so-called “high” versus popular culture is determined by socio-economic class, Peterson (Poetics 21:243–258, 1992; Poetics 33:257–282, 2005) finds that higher income and education groups are more likely to be “cultural omnivores”—consumers of a wide variety of both high and popular cultural goods. Omnivores were also found to be much less likely to exclude other cultures and to be more open to, and tolerant of, the views of others than those with narrower cultural tastes, called “cultural univores”. This article investigates the omnivore/univore hypothesis in a South African context, using survey data collected from 500 attendees of live theatre performances at the National Arts Festival in 2008. Multiple correspondence analysis (also called perceptual mapping) shows an interesting intermediate state between Boudieu-like high culture univores and Peterson omnivores, which could have interesting implications for the development of social tolerance in multi-cultural South Africa.