Lowell, MA: Cultural Capital
Lowell’s lively culture is what makes it such a unique place. According to Bordieu’s Theory of Cultural Capital, culture exists in an embodied state, an institutionalized state, and an objectified state. (Green & Haines, 306-7) The embodied state is made up of a community’s values, traditions, and legacy. The Lowell Folk Festival exemplifies this embodied state. Every summer, music lovers flock to Lowell’s downtown for the city’s outdoor concert series. This tradition emphasizes Lowell’s value of the arts.
Another aspect of Lowell’s culture that would fit into Bordieu’s embodied state is its legacy. The city is incredibly proud of its history, which is evident through its historical society and preservation efforts.
The community’s institutionalized state is unique because of its diverse population. Most norms align with traditional American values and an undying loyalty to the Red Sox. However, immigrants have also brought their own culture to Lowell. Many Cambodian refugees relocated to the city after the Cambodian genocide. (The Boston Globe) According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 30,000 Lowell citizens are Cambodian–that’s roughly 27% of its population. Many families have the challenge of preserving their native country’s culture while learning how the city’s institutions work.
Lowell’s objectified state of cultural capital is its most apparent. Its historical preservation efforts are evident in the mills and canals that remain from the industrial revolution. Many of these mills are historical museums or art galleries. The new Mill No.5 houses a small movie theatre, coffee shop, and boutiques. This is great for the city’s culture, but there’s some concern of gentrification.
The Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) is a community-based organization working to encourage and protect all these states of cultural capital. The group promotes and provides access to arts and historical-based establishments and events. Lowell has a reputation of being a “bad neighborhood”, so these efforts to push cultural capital help show the positive assets of the city.
Adams, Dan. (2014) Lowell Monument Marks Cambodian’s trials, arrival. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/06/08/monument-lowell-cambodian-community-past-and-its-progress/4YcAuLibteDmMoVyJqaMqM/story.html
Cultural Organization of Lowell. (n.d.) Cool Places. Retrieved from http://www.cultureiscool.org/
Green & Haines (2016) Asset Building & Community Development: Fourth Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
US Census Bureau (2015). 2015 ACS 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_1YR_B02011&prodType=table