Theory and Society

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 125–152 | Cite as

Conceptualizing “unrecognized cultural currency”: Bourdieu and everyday resistance among the dominated

  • Ming-Cheng Miriam Lo


Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital is important for understanding the cultural processes of domination but less helpful in understanding the agency and creativity of the dominated. This article develops the concept of “unrecognized cultural currency” (UCC) to theorize how certain cultural competencies specific to the dominated can facilitate in their everyday resistance. I theorize UCC as cultural resources that have little symbolic value but that nonetheless may be used by the dominated to acquire other valuable resources and push back, to some extent, forces of domination. A case study of low-income LEP (limited English proficiency) immigrant patients concretizes this theoretical argument, highlighting the contrast between practices of “covert maneuvering,” which are enabled by UCC, and practices of “passivity or withdrawal,” which characterize most patient behaviors in situations where UCC is unavailable. The concept of UCC supplements Bourdieu’s framework of cultural capital with further explanations for intra-class stratification among dominated groups. Meanwhile, this article also helps advance recent discussions about everyday resistance.


Cultural capital Field Covert resistance Hidden transcripts Bricolage Medical pluralism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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