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Beyond Distinction

Thijs Lijster & Didier Eribon

Studium Generale Groningen en KCM


Broerstraat 5, Groningen


wo, 22 nov. - 20.00

We are often said to live in a time of distinctions or gaps: between politicians and ‘the people’, between haves and have-nots, between anywheres and somewheres, between people living in urban and rural areas. How are such distinctions played out, expressed, staged or even emphasised and exaggerated in the arts? Numerous contemporary films and series such as Parasite and Triangle of Sadness target economic, political or cultural elites indulging in their luxurious and decadent lifestyles while turning their backs at society at large, ignoring the hardship and suffering or even cynically exploiting the less well off. Do these works, and many like them, express a generally sensed discontent with the current societal order? 

More than 40 years ago, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu published his classic Distinction, in which he analysed how the arts and aesthetic taste functioned as a marker for class distinctions. People with ‘cultural capital’ determine what should be considered ‘good taste’. Referring to Bourdieu’s classic, philosopher Thijs Lijster (RUG) will discuss with Didier Eribon to what extent arts, and aesthetic tastes, are still a distinctive factor, now that tastes are democratised and traditional canons are increasingly put into question. 

Didier Eribon is a philosopher and sociologist, the author of a much-praised biography of Michel Foucault, and he was a close friend of Bourdieu. In recent years Eribon received international acclaim for Returning to Reims (NL: Terug naar Reims) In this brilliant mixture of autobiography and social theory, he draws on his own life and experiences as a ‘class migrant’ and as a gay man growing up in a working-class environment to analyse contemporary class society. 

In collaboration with the program Arts, Culture and Media on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The lustrum Beyond Distinction also refers to the multi- and cross-disciplinary nature of the program, and its attempts to move between and think ‘beyond’ distinctions, both between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture and between different disciplinary approaches and intellectual traditions.