Document Type


Publication Title

Communication Theory





Publication Date

Winter 2016


This article examines fan-based citizenship performances and theorizes two terms necessary to understanding these emerging civic practices. In the article, I argue that fan-based citizenship performances question the assumed relationship between citizenship performances, civic groups, and ethics. Communication scholars have traditionally understood civic actions as deeply connected to social institutions, such as family and church, and civic groups, like the Democratic Party, Green Peace, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I argue that economic, social, and political shifts since the late 1970s have made the membership in those social institutions and civic groups more fluid than ever before. In a fluid world, citizens may easily choose Harry Potter over the Republican Party to guide their civic action on same-sex marriage. A fluid world that enables citizens to choose popular culture media texts to authorize civic actions demands new theoretical terms. I offer ethical framework and ethical modality as terms to enable researchers to investigate this shift and the civic actions it enables. Through processes of pairing and unpairing, fan-based citizenship performances combine noncivic ethical frameworks from popular culture with civic ethical modalities, civic actions such as voting, petitioning, and so on. These terms allow researchers to examine fully a wide range of fan performances of citizenship, including performances that are emancipatory and problematic, effective and ineffective, and grassroots and industry organized. In this article, I use the example of the HPA’s “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign to illustrate how these terms can be used to investigate fan-based citizenship performances.

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