Embodied Cultural Capital

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that the knowledge you will gain from reading this lesson is an example of embodied cultural capital? Learn more about embodied cultural capital from this lesson, including what it is and some examples of it.

Example of Embodied Cultural Capital

Zuri is a professional musician. Her mother, a music therapist, taught her how to play the piano and read music at a young age. Zuri learned how to play the drums by watching her father, who was the lead drummer in a famous rock band. By the time Zuri graduated from high school, she owned four instruments: a piano, drum set, violin, and harp. She was also skilled at playing all four.

After receiving her Master of Music degree, Zuri toured the world as a professional musician. Eventually, Zuri completed her Doctor of Musical Arts and became a music professor. Zuri also led a research lab that focused on integrating music into the classroom. Zuri's knowledge of how to play musical instruments, ability to read music, and ability to integrate music into a classroom are examples of embodied cultural capital.

What is Cultural Capital?

The term cultural capital refers to the things we possess that help us move up in society. Embodied cultural capital is just one of the three types of cultural capital; the other two are institutionalized and objectified.

Institutionalized cultural capital refers to when an institution recognizes an individual's cultural capital and is usually in the form of educational degrees. Zuri's master's and doctorate degrees are examples of institutionalized cultural capital. Objectified cultural capital refers to cultural goods that have a unique meaning in a culture. Zuri's drum set, piano, violin, and harp are examples of objectified cultural capital. And, as highlighted in the above example, embodied cultural capital refers to the incorporation of cultural attitudes and practices within an individual. In the following section, we will examine embodied cultural capital more closely.

Embodied Cultural Capital in Depth

Embodied cultural capital consists of our knowledge, perceptions, and abilities. We can think of these things as cultural resources that we store within each of our bodies. We inherit embodied cultural capital over time, primarily through the socialization process and usually from the family unit. For example, Zuri gained an appreciation for music from her parents starting in early childhood. This appreciation was cultivated over time. Zuri also learned about cultural norms from her family, which she then integrated within herself.

Another method that we can use to obtain embodied cultural capital is by investing time into intentional learning. For example, Zuri obtained much of her knowledge about music theory, musical performances, and teaching by purposefully going to school and learning from her professors and other music professionals.

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