What’s the Use of Culture?
Tom O´Dell: Department of Service Management, Lund University, Campus Helsingborg, Sweden
Read article:
Full article (pdf)
Theme: What’s the Use of Cultural Research?
No. of pages:
Publication type:

Like it or not, cultural theorists are increasingly finding themselves challenged to answer a very short but profound question: What’s the use of cultural research? Within the academy the question of the usefulness of cultural research has provoked a wide array of responses, ranging from feelings of resentment or the fear of losing one’s intellectual freedom to those of approval (often reinforced by a sense that one can in some way help society, or those less empowered) – and an endless number of positions in between. This article places the question of the usefulness of cultural research in relation to issues of the historical and cultural context in which it has appeared over the better part of the past century. Its point of departure rises from the author’s own academic background in American cultural anthropology and Swedish ethnology, as well as the work the author has conducted on tourism and the experience economy in Sweden.

The article begins by briefly discussing the different roles applied anthropology has previously played in both Britain and the United States. This section emphasizes a need to understand the question of “usefulness” as being contextually bound. The text then moves on to consider the role culture is playing in contemporary economic life (exemplified here by the field of tourism) and to reflect upon some of the consequences the cultural economy is having in everyday life. Following this the text concludes with a section focusing upon the research challenges and needs coming from the tourism industry. This final section of the paper works to both illuminate and problematize the need which exists at present for the development of different forms of cultural research.
Keywords: Applied cultural research; cultural economy; tourism; sector research; higher education

Volume 1, Theme:: Theme: What’s the Use of Cultural Research?, Article 3, 2009

Tom O´Dell
What’s the Use of Culture?:
Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
  • Samantha Hyler (2013). Communicating Culture in Practice. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 5(3): 315. DOI: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.135315
  • Tom O’Dell (2017). Multi-targeted ethnography and the Challenge of Engaging New Audiences and Publics. Sociological Research Online, 22(4): 193. DOI: 10.1177/1360780417726734

    Export in BibTex, RIS or text