Hollywood experts: A field analysis of knowledge production in American entertainment television

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How can we make sense of numerous instances of experts in politics, law enforcement, national security, military defence, fire arms, public health, culture, and history working closely with creators of scripted television series in the USA today? Why do TV makers need them? Why and how do these experts come to Hollywood? In order to answer these questions, I carried out a Bourdieusian field analysis of contemporary American TV series production, with a focus on how knowledge about political and social issues is produced and used in the TV industry. I identify four major expertise providers — the state, social movements, research organisations, and independent experts — and build a macro model of expertise exchange in the field of Hollywood TV. I argue that expertise in Hollywood is a form of capital which Hollywood professionals exchange for symbolic capital within the industry and in the field of power; it is also a form of capital that agents of the state, social movements, and research organisations exchange for symbolic capital in the field of power; and finally, independent experts trade their knowledge to accumulate economic and symbolic capital within the industry. This model is based on the analysis of data I collected during fieldwork in Los Angeles over 10 months in 2017–2019, which includes 159 interviews, 7 observation sessions, and archival materials.

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The British Journal of Sociology
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Cambridge Trust International Scholarship & Leslie Wilson Scholarship (Magdalene College, Cambridge)