Metro-rurality, social distinction & ideal reflexive individuality: Martinborough’s Wine Tourists
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Martinborough, a small rural settlement renowned for its Pinot Noir wines, is a popular holiday destination for many of the new middle class resident in nearby Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. Attracted by the prospect of a rural idyll experience and conspicuous opportunities for urbane consumption, Martinborough's wine tourists also typically desired highly idealised and personalised holiday experiences. My thesis therefore examines the tourists' performative displays and public narratives of social distinction and ideal reflexive individuality. I explore the collusive framing of Martinborough as a metro-rural idyll dedicated to urbane and leisured consumption, and how within this performative setting tourists attempted to reconcile their middle class distinction (general and hierarchical) with their simultaneous pursuit of a reflexive praiseworthy self (Howland 2004). My analysis arises from participant-observation fieldwork, interviews, and surveys in a number of public tourism and wine contexts in Martinborough and elsewhere. Social distinction is marked by the competitive struggle for, and deployment of, various capitals by individuals and groups (Bourdieu 1984). Bourdieu (1984, 2002) contends that within habitus various subconscious, durable, and transposable dispositions are generated. I argue that reflexive individuality is a pervasive habitus, especially for Martinborough's middle class tourists, and that this "reflexive habitus" (Sweetman 2003: 537) generates ideal dispositions, which are mediated through other habitus (e.g. occupational, ethnic etc), and which individuals variously enact, aspire to, narrate, or performatively display. These ideals include autonomy in thought and action, and dedication to self-improvement. In post-industrial societies reflexive individuality is an influential dynamic in social connectedness, occupational pathways, political movements, consumption, and in the individualised assembly of intersubjectivities (Beck 2002; Giddens 1991). The tourists' desire for ideal reflexive individuality is, however, routinely frustrated within their everyday domestic, occupational and consumerist experiences. The stratification mechanisms of social distinction also clearly possess the capacity to disrupt or invalidate the praiseworthy self. Individuals are thus drawn to fields of action where they perceive the greatest opportunities for personal autonomy and choice. For Martinborough's tourists this included various urbane and leisured consumption activities, their reflexive sociality, and the articulation of autobiographical narratives that affirmed personal tastes and individual orientations toward social distinction. Martinborough's tourists reproduced a mythology of an enduring vernacular rural idyll. This rural idyll provided the moral foundation for an equally romanticised metro-rural idyll which, in conjunction with the tourists similarly idealised notions of 'the French tradition' of fine wine, provided a corroborating setting for their leisured consumption of urbane commodities that performatively affirmed their middle class distinction. The tourists' pursuit of social distinction was also significantly enhanced by the democraticisation of the cultural capital of wine connoisseurship, the tiered production of wine, and by the provision of conspicuous opportunities to engage in singular, episodic, and performative wine consumption. The metro-rural idyll, in combination with a pervasive New World wine ethos that promoted personalised innovation and experimentation, also provided a validating locale for the tourists' pursuit of ideal reflexive individuality. Accordingly tourists' personal wine choices were conspicuously celebrated and many aspects of wine production, producers, purchasing, and consumption were reflexively biographised. The tourists' displays of reflexive sociality and their reflexive distinction narratives were also important components in their performative assertions of ideal reflexive individuality.