Facing the death of the Author. Cultural professional’s identity work and the fantasies of control

  • Nico Carpentier
Keywords: Identity, Subject position, Cultural institution, Cultural professional, Audience, Power, Fantasy, Modernism, Participation


This article takes Barthes’ concept of the death of the Author as a starting point to organize a reflection on the role of Author-related discursive structures (termed subject positions here) in participatory processes within cultural institutions, focusing on cultural professional and audience subject positions. The theoretical assumption in this text is that identities (and subject positions) are not stable or homogenous, but contingent and diverse, and fed by social fantasies. This assumption (supported by culturalist identity theory and psychoanalytic theory) allows analyzing how the subject position of the cultural professional has been articulated through a series of contemporary fantasies. This article will first focus on two fantasies: The resistant modernist fantasy of the cultural professional as Author, and its still modernist counterweight, the democratic-populist fantasy of the death of the Author. The strong disconnection of both these fantasies with the present-day culturaldemocratic configuration, characterized by a more post/late/liquid-modernist logic, allows for the articulation of a third fantasy, which foregrounds the notion of participation. At the same time the notion on participation is reframed by articulating it within an agonist framework, in order to increase its alignment with this post/late/liquid-modernist culture through the recognition of difference and conflict. This third fantasy attempts to offer a way out of the deadlock created by the still strong presence of modernist fantasies about cultural professional – audience relationships.


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How to Cite
Carpentier, N. (2011). Facing the death of the Author. Cultural professional’s identity work and the fantasies of control. MATRIZes, 4(2), 184-204. https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1982-8160.v4i2p184-204
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