Cultural Capital and border crossings

There’s more to be said on social capital/social capacity at a later date. For now though this on cultural capital made me smile.

In Beijing I got to the Bookworm, a library/bookshop/cafe/meeting place. Most people are reading borrowed books, the collection is eclectic. I grab a pile of books on Inner Mongolia – I’m interested in the “Chinafication” of Mongolian culture there. At a nearby table a loud white guy with self-consciously sculpted sideburns is code-switching, speaking Chinese and English combined, with a group of Chinese people who clearly speak better English than his Chinese. He is dining out on being oh-so-fluent, but I notice he searches for the Chinese words for ‘bicycle’ and ‘body’, eventually saying them in English. Wanker. Even I know those words, and I don’t pretend to speak good Chinese (I can get around, shoot the breeze, that’s it). But he is showing off his social capital – here in China, a foreigner (crap sideburns or no crap sideburns) speaking Chinese is worth something: cross a border and the social value of this skill drops dramatically (as I’m about to encounter, suddenly mute in Mongolia). If only on borders there were currency exchanges for social capital as well as leftover currency.

It’s from a zine called “A zine of a trip, a trip of a zine”


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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