Aug 16 2018

Revenge of the nerds: Cultural capital and adolescent elites

The offspring of the elite has higher probability of acquiring elite positions than those with humbler class backgrounds – despite the education system’s explicit aim of reducing such differences. A successful management of cultural capital is a central part of this process. At the highly prestigious upper-secondary school, Schola Osloensis, a “nerdy” cultivation of highbrow culture is an important aspect of the students’ self-identity.

Vegard Jarness (NIFU), in cooperation with Willy Pedersen (UiO) and Magne Flemmen (UiO), have published a research article in Poetics. The article concerns cultural capital, status hierarchies and symbolic boundaries among adolescent elites. The empirical analysis is based on qualitative interviews and elucidates how knowledge and symbolic mastery can function as a form of cultural capital. The article also shows how the students draw symbolic boundaries between “us” and “them”, both internally at Schola Osloensis and when it comes to groups at other upper-secondary schools in Oslo. An important finding is that even ideals of cultural openness and tolerance can function as a basis for group formation, status hierarchies and symbolic boundaries. More generally, the article contributes with crucial insights to the debate about how we can understand tensions between egalitarian ideals and symbolic demarcations in Norwegian society.

The article can be found here: “Revenge of the nerds: Cultural capital and the politics of lifestyle among adolescent elites”.

The article has spurred public interest and is mentioned in Norwegian news media Aftenposten and Morgenbladet.

For more information, contact
Vegard Jarness, Senior researcher, Primary & Secondary education
(+47) 922 16 921