Reassembling the Cultural: Fashion models, brands and the meaning of 'culture' after ANT

Joanne Entwistle, Don Slater*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The central argument in this paper is that actor-network theory (ANT) does not do 'cultural economy' symmetrically: it has had a lot to say about economy but much less to say about culture. This rejection of culture is ontological and epistemological: culture appears in ANT largely as an artefact of modernist thought rather than as an empirical aspect of agents' performances. And yet if 'economy' can be critiqued and reinstated as performative, so too can 'culture'. To explore this, we focus on objects of concern that - unlike the financial markets that have formed the core of ANT-inspired thinking about the economy - are assembled by actors in and through what they themselves understand to be cultural materials, cultural calculations, cultural processes, cultural institutions. In such examples, 'culture' is continuously invoked and enacted by actors in constructing their actions, whatever critical sociologists might have to say about its ontological status. It seems paradoxical that a theoretical approach that makes sacrosanct the associations constructed by agents who assemble their own world, generally discusses 'culture' only from the point of view of critical epistemology. Bearing all this in mind, we argue that it is time for us to 'reassemble' the cultural.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-177
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number2
Early online date22 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • actor-network theory
  • brands
  • creative industries
  • cultural objects
  • models


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