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n South African Journal of Cultural History - A class apart : symbolic capital, consumption and identity among the alcohol entrepreneurs of Cape Town, 1680-1795

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1018-0745
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Abstract

Under the rule of the Dutch East India Company (1652-1795) free trade in Cape Town was severely restricted. During its founding years, the free inhabitants all shared the same socio-economic background, yet three to four generations later a stratified society had developed with a clearly identifiable elite. Partly this was the result of some burghers amassing large capital resources through utilising the possibilities afforded by the lucrative alcohol trade. A large measure of this success was due to the exploitation of an intricate network of connections built up through kinship and social capital. This article concentrates on the cultural aspects of the lives of the most successful alcohol entrepreneurs, taking a multi-generational view. If they were the financial elite of Cape Town, were they also the social and cultural ones? How did they view themselves and how were they viewed by others? In order to answer these questions the article uses Pierre Bourdieu's concept of 'symbolic capital', arguing that it operated in tandem with economic and social capital. Two broad aspects of the cultural lives of wealthy alcohol traders are addressed. Firstly, the article discusses their consumption patterns and the use of material culture in showcasing their wealth such as choice of address, the use of slaves and carriages, and the display of jewellery, paintings and curtains. Secondly, it investigates to what extent these people's status was acknowledged by others - both in concrete terms by being elected to major civic functions (especially in the burgher militia) and in symbolic terms, notably their role in formal processions through the town.


Tydens die bewind van die Nederlands-Oos Indiese Kompanjie (1652-1795) is vrye handel in Kaapstad erg beperk. Gedurende die stigtingsjare het die vrye inwoners almal dieselfde sosio-ekonomiese agtergrond gedeel, dog drie tot vier geslagte later, het 'n gelaagde samelewing bestaan met 'n duidelik identifiseerbare elite. Dít was deels die gevolg van party burgers wat groot kapitaalvermoëns kon opbou deur geleenthede te benut wat die winsgewende drankhandel gebied het. In 'n groot mate was hierdie sukses die gevolg van die uitbuiting van 'n ingewikkelde netwerk verbintenisse opgebou deur verwantskap en sosiale kapitaal. Dié artikel konsentreer op die kulturele aspekte van die lewens van die suksesvolste alkohol-entrepreneurs oor etlike geslagte. Indien hulle die finansiële elite van Kaapstad was, was hulle ook die sosiale en kulturele elite? Hoe het hulle hulleself gesien en hoe is hulle deur ander gesien? Om hierdie vrae te beantwoord, word Pierre Bourdieu se konsep van 'simboliese kapitaal' gebruik en word geredeneer dat dit naas ekonomiese en sosiale kapitaal gewerk het. Twee breë aspekte van die kulturele lewens van ryk drankhandelaars word behandel. Die artikel bespreek eerstens hulle verbruikspatrone en die aanwending van materiële kultuur om hulle rykdom ten toon te stel deur die keuse van woonplek, die gebruik van slawe en rytuie, en die tentoonstelling van juwele, skilderye en gordyne. Tweedens word in die artikel ondersoek ingestel na die mate waarin hierdie mense se status erken is deur andere - in sowel konkrete terme deur verkiesing in belangrike burgerampte (veral in die burgerwag) en in simboliese terme, veral hulle rol en plek in formele optogte deur Kaapstad.

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/content/culture/26/1/EJC124561
2012-06-01
2016-12-09

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