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Writing Series: The Occupational Culture of Present-Day German Televised Entertainment

Sub-Project 10

Based in cultural anthropology, this subproject researches the professional world of "series writers" in present-day German television. This term refers to a differentiated set of professions which are responsible for a broad set of tasks ranging from the development of narrative arcs to the composition of scripts and dialogues. Actors within these fields belong to the creative industries, a work context marked by the necessities of serial production. This context poses specific challenges to those acting within it: individual flexibility, versatility, and the capacity to perform under pressure. Series writing unfolds in a field of tensions characterized not only by collective creativity and the divided labor of television production, but also by remnants of the aura of individual authorship, and the economic dependencies of wage labor within a globalized market. Drawing from anthro-pological research on work and professions as well as interdisciplinary research on popular media and literature, the subproject seeks a deeper understanding of serial production, particularly in terms of authorization practices in television.

Methodologically, the subproject draws on the empirical methods of cultural anthropology to document both individual/biographical experiences and the more general practices and techniques within the social field of series production. It seeks to understand television series from the perspective of those writing them and pursues this goal in combining interviews on professional biographies and participant observation with the analysis of teaching materials, ego-documents and fictionalized reflections on the nature of series production. The medium of television multiplies authorization practices into interlocking serial components that include narrative, technical, and performative dimensions. Each of these tasks makes demands on creative, artisanal and interpersonal competencies, and for each type of series divergent professional writing profiles may come together. Empirical data regarding actors' entry into the profession and their career trajectories provide insights into how hierarchies emerge, how they are experienced, and what kind of distinctions are drawn between different sub-profiles of series writing.


Director: Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix, Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen
Research Associate: Nathalie Knöhr, M.A., Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen