CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

This article analyses the social dimensions of a specific cultural practice, namely attending the theatre. It focuses on two main aspects: the circulation of information on plays and the people one sees plays with. Fieldwork was based on two protocols. First, the study used a secondary exploitation of the 2008 edition of the longitudinal survey Cultural Practices in France where, for the first time, a question asked respondents who they went to the theatre with last the time they attended a play. On the other hand, 80 semi-directive interviews were realized with members of different theatre audiences having various levels of involvement in the practice and found in different parts of France, in different types of settings in terms of cultural offer. Respondents were asked what “judgement devices” (Karpik) they used to get information on plays, specifically whether they used impersonal devices, such as critics’ reviews, or personal ones, such as recommendations of friends, family, colleagues and other trusted individuals with whom consumers have network ties. The research shows radical differences of judgement devices between private and public theatres, and shows that in the latter sector, where choices are perceived as highly risky, the role of specific advisors in personal networks is central. The article then shows that men and women had different social patterns the last time they attended a play: men were mainly in couples, while a significant part of the women recruited partners from their friendship networks, especially among other women. This difference is analyzed as a social consequence of the rise of cultural heterogamy in contemporary couples, and of the fact that females now have a closer relation than men to consumption of high culture. As in the case of book clubs, these female friends groups are a way of maintaining the practice, stabilizing a support network and creating new friendship ties.


  • theatre
  • choice of plays
  • gender
  • sociality
  • couples
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