Structure, Strategy and Self in Cultural Peripheries: Theorizing the Periphery in the Polish and Dutch Fashion Fields

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Series Details Volume 63, Number 2, Pages 213-245
Publication Date August 2022
ISSN 1474-0583
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This article analyzes the creation of value in (semi-)peripheral fields, using interview (N=94) and ethnographic data of creatives, models and cultural intermediaries in Polish and Dutch fashion. Drawing on field theory and center-periphery theories we show that these peripheral fields have a distinct structure—peripheral worlds—marked by the dependence on foreign centers for goods, standards and consecration, in which actors employ field-specific peripheral strategies for pursuing value and success. Workers in the (semi-)periphery develop peripheral selves, marked by a “double consciousness”, simultaneously seeing themselves from a local perspective and through the eyes of “central” others.

We theorize “peripheralness” as a dimension of social inequality, a continuum ranging from “most central” to “most peripheral”, that spring from transnational interdependencies; and offer building blocks for a theory of the periphery that connects structural conditions and personal experiences. This theory explains, among others, why peripheries are not the reverse of centers, why centers also need peripheries (though not as much as peripheries need centers), and why peripheral and semi-peripheral actors don’t leave for cultural hubs to “make it there”.

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