Oliver Carter

After a long seven years I have finally submitted my PhD thesis titled: Making European cult cinema: fan production in an alternative economy.  The abstract for my thesis is as follows:

This study gives attention to the fan production surrounding European cult cinema, low budget exploitation films often in the horror genre, that engage a high level of cultural commitment and investment from its fans.  It addresses wider issues of debate relating to why people are fans and whether they are anything more than obsessive in their consumption of media.  The academic study of fandom is relatively a new area, the formative year being 1992 when studies such as Henry Jenkins’ Textual Poachers, Lisa Lewis’ The Adoring Audience and Camille Bacon-Smith’s Enterprising Women approached fandom as a cultural activity.  Studies such as these celebrated fan activity and focussed on fan production being a symbolic activity rather than an economic activity.  Academics have only recently began to recognise the commitment, time and effort that fans invest when producing artefacts.

I explore the ways European cult cinema fandom might be understood as an alternative economy of fan production by looking at how fans produce artefacts and commodities.  It uses an innovative method of data collection which includes ethnographic observation and interviews, focused on public offline and online fan activities, and my own personal experiences as autoethnography.  The collected data is interrogated using a theoretical framework that incorporates ideas from cultural studies and political economy: using the concept of an ‘alternative economy’ of European cult cinema fan production.  The purpose being to interpret an object of fandom as a production of meaning, physical artefacts and commodities, therefore understanding fandom an both cultural and economic production.

I argue that, in this alternative economy, fans are ‘creative’ workers who are now using digital technologies to produce artefacts that are exchanged as gifts or commodities; this practice relating to repertoires of professionalism.  I find that fans are not just producing artefacts and commodities relating to European cult cinema, but that through these processes they are culturally and economically making what has become known as European cult cinema.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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