Challenging Deficit Interpretations: Rethinking Cultural Capital

Whose Culture Has Capital?

Community cultural wealth is a framework that challenges deficit interpretations of the concept of “cultural capital.” It was developed by Dr. Tara Yosso in 2005 and is rooted in critical race theory (CRT).

It focuses on the assets Students of Color possess such as aspirational, linguistic, familial, and resistance capital that are undervalued by schools.

Examples

Bourdieu outlined three forms of capital that can give people advantages in society: cultural capital, social capital, and economic capital. Cultural capital includes the ability to embody dominant culture norms and behaviors. Social capital includes the network of people you know who can help you get ahead in life. Economic capital refers to money, which can open many doors in the workplace. Tara Yosso expanded on this concept in her 2005 article Whose Culture Has Capital?: A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. Yosso used this framework to critique a deficit way of thinking that can limit research on communities of color.

Conclusions

The concept of cultural capital is an important theory for understanding inequality within any social field. A number of authors have expanded Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital, without deviating too far from his framework of different types of capital. These authors explore unarticulated areas of his theory in a beneficial manner, and have helped to strengthen its foundations. The idea that cultural capital can be linked to economic capital and social class is crucial. For example, bourgeois individuals use their financial and cultural capital to gain entry into prestigious institutions such as the government, where they then ideologically implement upper-class values.

Tara Yosso proposes a more holistic model of cultural wealth, which encompasses aspirational, familial and community capital in her 2005 article “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” This model has informed discussions on asset-based pedagogy in many academic fields. Buffie Longmire-Avital is an associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African and African-American Studies and a Center for Engaged Learning Scholar.

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