The Construction of the Magical World of Santa — Performing a Myth to Make a Market

If you believe in Santa, do not read the following paper — sympathetically warn us Teea Palo, Katy Mason and Philip Roscoe at the beginning of “Performing a Myth to Make a Market: The Construction of the ‘Magical World’ of Santa”. In this interesting research, the authors follow the Santa myth to a remote northern location in Lapland, where multiple actors come together to create a tourist market offering: the chance to visit Santa in his ‘magical world’. The authors explore how the myth is transformed into reality through performative, organisational speech acts, whereby felicitous conditions for the performance of visits to Santa are embedded in a complex socio-material network. Palo, Mason and Roscoe develop the performative turn in organisational studies by introducing a new category of speech act, ‘translocution’, a compendium of imagining, discussing, proposing, negotiating and contracting that transforms the myth into a model of an imaginary-real world. Through translocutionary acts, actors calculate, organise the socio-material networks of the market, and manage the considerable uncertainty inherent in its operation. Details of the myth become market facts, while commercial constructs fade into the imaginary. The result, when felicitous conditions are achieved, is a ‘Merry Christmas’ of magical, performative power.

Open access: Palo, Teea, Katy Mason and Philip Roscoe. 2020. “Performing a Myth to Make a Market: The Construction of the ‘Magical World’ of Santa“. Organization Studies41(1), 53–75.

To learn more about the “magical” and performative power of Christmas, delve into these instructive books:
— Waits, William. 1994. The Modern Christmas in America: A Cultural History of Gift Giving. New York University Press.
— Schmidt, Leigh. 1995. Consumer Rites: The Buying & Selling of American Holidays. Princeton University Press.
— Horsley, Richard and James Tracy, eds. 2001. Christmas Unwrapped: Consumerism, Christ, and Culture. Trinity Press International.
— Larsen, Timothy, ed. 2020. The Oxford Handbook of Christmas. Oxford University Press.

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