Bad Taste in Anglo-Saxon Popular Culture, University of Tours, France, June 3-4, 2010, deadline February 28, 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Université François-Rabelais de Tours, GRAAT, France

Taste as a socio-cultural, aesthetic, sociological, economic, and anthropological concept implies distinguishing, evaluating and judging, and also establishes boundaries between styles. Judging what is good or bad taste is about drawing distinctions, and in the philosophical aesthetic tradition it pertains to a universal attitude which is impossible to prove and which takes for granted the existence of a sensus communis, or common understanding. For Kant, "the judgement of taste is not founded on concepts, and is in no way a cognition, but only an aesthetic judgement" (Critique of Judgement). On the contrary, Pierre Bourdieu highlighted the sociological meaning of taste, stating that the legitimate taste of society is the taste of the ruling class (Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste). Thus, what does not live up to the norms of the elite and which fails to recognize their criteria of distinction can be qualified as bad taste.
If bad taste is generally seen as an error, deliberately employing it can also be seen as defying or questioning social, aesthetic or ethical norms. By putting itself on display it becomes a provocation or challenge to the dominant ideology and also to the consensual values. Ironically, ostentatious, exhilarating deviance would then be created by a new elite. For Baudelaire, "What is intoxicating in bad taste is the aristocratic pleasure of giving offense" (Fusées).
The goal of the conference is to examine the notion of bad taste from a multidisciplinary perspective: literary analysis, film analysis, television, civilization, history and the history of ideas, sociology, economics, political science, communication and media studies. The papers can be theoretical or can present concrete case studies. They can deal with any or all of the fields which pertain to popular culture in the Anglophone world. The aim is to question how knowledge and practices are learned in order to extend the definition of cultural studies beyond a strict disciplinary approach.
Here are a few indications of the way in which bad taste might be approached:
● The aesthetic, ethical, political, economic, sociological standards which according to popular culture define the limits between good and bad taste and which define the incongruous, the out-of-place, the illegitimate, the discordant and the inappropriate in relation to an imposed standard;
● The use of bad taste, its expression and its appearance in Anglo-Saxon popular culture (indecency, vulgarity, violence, obscenity, camp, kitsch, trash culture);
● The appropriation of bad taste and the emergence of a strategy or an aesthetic of bad taste: the desire to shock, to clash with decorum, and to challenge decency; parody at its most outrageous;
● Using bad taste for transgressive or subversive purposes—popular culture, or the creation of a counter-discourse and a counter-culture.

Papers should be twenty-five minutes long and should preferably be in English. A selected number of papers will be published in one of the GRAAT online publications ( in December 2010.
Proposals should be around 200 words accompanied by a brief CV of the author and should be sent to both Priscilla Morin ( and Sébastien Salbayre ( by February 28, 2010.