Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction

Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction

Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction

Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction


Everyday Life and Cultural Theory provides a unique critical and historical introduction to theories of everyday life. Ben Highmore traces the development of conceptions of everyday life, from the cultural sociology of Georg Simmel, through the Mass-Observation project of the 1930s to contemporary theorists such as Michel de Certeau.


Whatever its other aspects, the everyday has this essential trait: it allows no hold. It escapes.

(Blanchot [1959] 1987:14)

Investigating the everyday

THERE IS NO ESCAPE: to launch an investigation into the theoretical practices of those who attend to everyday life requires attention to the everyday ‘itself’. To trace the troubled career of ‘the everyday’ as it is mobilized by a disparate collection of intellectuals from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century necessitates an attempt to gauge the specific gravity of the term, its connotations and its references. Unspecific gravity might be a better phrase. As the notion of ‘everyday life’ circulates in Western cultures under its many guises (Alltagsleben, la vie quotidienne, run-of-the-mill and so on) one difficulty becomes immediately apparent: ‘everyday life’ signifies ambivalently. On the one hand it points (without judging) to those most repeated actions, those most travelled journeys, those most inhabited spaces that make up, literally, the day to day. This is the landscape closest to us, the world most immediately met. But with this quantifiable meaning creeps another, never far behind: the everyday as value and quality - everydayness. Here the most travelled journey can become the dead weight of boredom, the most inhabited space a prison, the most repeated action an oppressive routine. Here the everydayness of everyday life might be experienced as a sanctuary, or it may bewilder or give pleasure, it may delight or depress. Or its special quality might be its lack of qualities. It might be, precisely, the unnoticed, the inconspicuous, the unobtrusive.

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