Cultural capital can be defined as, “a system of meanings that is learned within a particular group or society.” (Green & Haines 2012). Being such a small town, West Fairlee, VT is a very close knit community with many cultural values and traditions that shape who we are not only as a town, but also as individuals in society. In this blog post I am going to use Bourdieu’s Theory of Cultural Capital to organize and explain these important characteristics of the town’s cultural capital.
The first part of the theory is the Embodied State. This encompasses values, traditions and legacies that one learns from their family and from being immersed in their community. (Hamshaw 2016). Because West Fairlee is so small, there are a few prominent names that exist in the town. We have one volunteer fire department, and families like the Calhoon’s, for example, have inherited the value of, and ambition to, volunteer from their fathers’. Volunteering and the impact that serving the community has is a trait very deeply embedded in our culture. With an elementary school that has an active after school program, a volunteer fire department, library, food shelf, and town hall, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. Below is a picture of some ninth grade students and local volunteers planting chestnuts trees in the West Fairlee town Forest.
The second part of the theory is the Institutionalized State which are things learned through formal education (Hamshaw 2016). Our school district very much encourages after school involvement. Very rarely does a student go directly home after school without participating in a sport or after school activity. Students who go through the school system in the area learn from a young age what it means to work alongside peers, teachers and parents to accomplish a shared vision and goal for the school and the community. Below is a picture of the graduating class of 2016 when they were in elementary school, and really demonstrates the close knit community.
Lastly the Objective State in Bourdieu’s theory includes cultural goods that are produced in a particular place and time. A really close friend of mine’s family has a sugaring house in the neighboring town of Vershire, VT, and Maple Syrup as well as maple candies and similar products are a huge commodity in the winter-spring months. In the spring we hold the annual “West Fairlee Day Parade,” and there is always at least one vendor selling delicious maple products. There are also many townspeople, adult and child alike that sell services such as lawn mowing or snow removal that are only available in the summer or winter months.
Hamshaw, Introduction to Cultural Capital [PDF Power Point] Retrieved From https://bb.uvm.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2007755-dt-content-rid-8783126_1/courses/201609-93567/CDAE%20102%20Natural%2009-26-16.pdf
Green & Haines (2012) Asset Building Community Development. Location: SAGE Publications, inc.