CCS Junior Fellow Anne Taylor’s Newest Article in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology

CCS Junior Fellow Anne Taylor’s article “Harry Potter and the ‘Death of the Actor’: reimagining fusion in cultural pragmatics” has been published in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology

Abstract: To capture the deep world of meaning between audiences and actors in social performances, cultural pragmatics offers a helpful tool: by its logic, performances are successful when fusion is achieved between the actor, their audience(s), and a text. This paper reimagines fusion from the perspective of the audience. Drawing on illustrations from multi-year ethnographic findings of the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” this paper considers the audience’s relationship to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who recently published an essay and series of tweets about her belief that biological “sex is real.” In response, her audience fractured into debate about how to respond: some chose to leave the fandom while others, conscious or not of the socio-political implications, stayed on. But amidst the fray, a distinct audience emerged – one that, through the words “the books belong to us,” was simultaneously able to retain their devotion to the text and cut off all ties to Rowling. This theoretical outline synthesizes cultural pragmatics with reader-response theory to reimagine fusion in all social performances as a continuum from complete fusion to complete de-fusion, with fission states possible when audiences wrest interpretive authority over the text away from the actor and appropriate fusion.

Congratulations, Anne!