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From textual poachers to textual gifters: exploring fan community and celebrity in the field of fan cultural production

By Bertha Lu Chin


Early fan studies positioned fans as 'textual poachers' (Jenkins, 1992), suggesting that fans poach characters and materials from texts as an act of resistance towards commercial culture to form their own readings through fan cultural production such as fan fiction. As such, fans are often presented as a unified, communal group interacting within the context of fan communities that are considered alternative social communities with 'no established hierarchy' (Bacon-Smith, 1992, p. 41). However, Milly Williamson argued that fans do not all operate from a position of cultural marginality. Fans not only go on to collaborate with the media producers they allegedly poach from, they also 'engage in elitist distinctions between themselves and' (Williamson, 2005, p. 103). In this dissertation, I look at fan cultural production (specifically fan fiction) by appropriating Bourdieu's (1993) theory on the field of cultural production. I also suggest that the field of fan cultural production manifests the principles of a gift economy (Mauss, 1954). In circulating fan cultural production as gifts, fans are entering into a social relationship of reciprocity, where fan reputation, or fan symbolic capital, becomes tied to the gifts presented to the fan community and the social network of the fan author. The accumulation of fan social, fan cultural and fan symbolic capitals creates a subgroup of fans who are often treated like celebrities by their peers, and these fan subcultural celebrities often go on to determine the social and cultural norms of a fan community. This often results in conflict within fandom as fan status is frequently contested and challenged. By employing an ethnographic study on the fandoms of The X-Files, Angel and the re- imagined Battlestar Galactica, I argue that fan culture is not as homogenous as early fan studies proposed as the boundaries of community and fan celebrity status are frequently challenged

Topics: HM Sociology, PN Literature (General)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:
Provided by: ORCA
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