Art work or money: Conflicts in the construction of a creative identity

Taylor, Stephanie and Littleton, Karen (2008). Art work or money: Conflicts in the construction of a creative identity. Sociological Review, 56(2) pp. 275–292.



The identity projects of novice creative practitioners must take account of the economy of art work. It has been suggested (McRobbie, 2002a) that in the contemporary cultural industries in the UK, a new understanding of the connection between creative work and money has replaced past 'anti-commercial' notions. This claim is investigated through a narrative-discursive analysis of interviews from a longitudinal study with current and recent Art and Design postgraduates. Their ongoing identity projects are shaped by established understandings of creative work and the prospects it offers for earning and employment, and also by more local discursive resources given by personal life contexts. An analysis of two interviews with a single speaker shows how these resources are taken up within her ongoing and distinctive identity project. Both old and new repertoires of art and money are in play in her talk. She must negotiate dilemmas and potentially troubled positionings in order to reconcile a creative identity with relationships and responsibilities towards others. Coherence is only achieved momentarily and is disrupted by new life circumstances. By investigating an identity project at the level of talk, the analysis shows the complexity of the speaker's work to construct and claim a creative identity.

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