The infrapolitics of cultural value: cultural policy, evaluation and the marginalisation of practitioner perspectives
journal contributionposted on 07.01.2016, 13:31 by J. Newsinger, William Green
This article is about the politics of cultural value. It focusses on the representations of value that exist in the epistemologies and methodologies of cultural impact evaluation and the discrepancies between these official discourses and the discourses that correspond to cultural practitioners themselves. First the article outlines the critique of dominant forms of cultural impact evaluation, particularly the instrumentalisation of culture. In the second half of the article we draw upon qualitative research conducted with arts practitioners in the East Midlands region of England during 2013 and 2014. In so doing we introduce the concept of the ‘infrapolitics’ of cultural value that draws on the work of radical anthropologist Scott [(1992) Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, Yale University Press, London]. The central argument is that representations of cultural value are discursive constructions constituted through the epistemologies and methodologies of cultural evaluation, and that there are key differences between these dominant discourses and the discourses of value of cultural practitioners themselves. One important although overlooked element of the significance of cultural value is therefore as a record of the performance of power within the cultural sector, an ‘official transcript’ that represents dominant discourse of cultural value in opposition to the ‘hidden transcripts’ that correspond to cultural practitioners. We argue for a research agenda that represents cultural value from practitioners’ point of view.