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Title: The construction of an urban, middle-class Chinese consumer culture: The case of cultural intermediaries in the Shanghai wine market
Authors: Smith Maguire, Jennifer
First Published: 12-Apr-2013
Presented at: The Habitable City: Chinese urban history in a Global Context, University of Leicester
Start Date: 12-Apr-2013
End Date: 13-Apr-2013
Abstract: China is a society in transition: while a middle-class market has increased dramatically in size in recent times, an associated middle-class culture of consumption has yet to be fully realized (Elfick, 2011). Although government-led reforms may have facilitated the redistribution of economic capital and created the potential for middle-class wine consumption, wine appreciation has yet to become established in the patterns of middle class taste and behaviour. As China’s production, importing and consumption of wine continue to expand significantly, wine has emerged as a significant site for the cultural construction of a Chinese middle-class culture. The Chinese wine market thus offers a critical case study of the dynamics and actors at work in the development of markets, tastes and middle-class identities. This paper offers a preliminary and partial account of findings from a larger research project that investigates how processes of market formation and taste formation are intertwined. This broad, theoretical focus is approached via the empirical question of how cultural intermediaries (such as wine writers, educators, distributors and sommeliers) frame domestic and imported wine, and wine consumption for the Chinese middle class. The research focuses specifically on Shanghai. Arguably the most important wine market in China, Shanghai is home to significant numbers of wine importers, retailers, wine bars, wine clubs and educational classes, world-renowned sommeliers, as well as international commercial wine exhibitions and events. In contemporary China, the significance of such cultural intermediaries as the vanguard of new class and taste practices is arguably magnified, because of the nascent state of the cultural field and its associated products, practices and forms of expertise. And yet, the roles of such market actors remain largely unexplored in the existing research on the development of Chinese consumer culture. There is now a timely opportunity for an investigation of the strategic and formative role of cultural intermediaries in the construction of Chinese middle-class tastes and markets. The paper proceeds with a brief overview of literature pertinent to conceptualizing the links between class, consumption and cultural intermediaries in the context of the field of wine in China. After a summary of the research design, the paper presents some of the initial findings from the preliminary analysis of the project data. [Taken from the Introduction]
Type: Conference Paper
Rights: Copyright © the author, 2013.
Appears in Collections:Conference Papers & Presentations, Dept. of Media and Communication

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