Make Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility


An essay on parafiction as a means of influence through the interplay between fact and fiction.

Carrie Lambert-Beatty is a professor at Harvard University. She studies performance, political and activist art, the “aesthetics of doubt”.

Carrie Lambert-Beatty, a Professor at Harvard University, employs the term "parafiction" to true stories presented in a fictional style. In parafiction, real and / or imagined characters and stories are intertwined with the world we live in. After studying the work of Michael Bloom, the Yes Men group, Walid Raad and other artists, she comes to the conclusion that semi-fictional narratives help us navigate the modern world of post-truth.

Lambert-Betty proves that parafiction teaches us the value of scepticism and doubt but also the importance of belief.

Parafictions in general are performative, where that is understood to mean that they effect or produce something rather than describe or denote it. They are unhappy performatives insofar as they, like the movie wedding, are only “make-believe.” But insofar as they make someone believe, however temporarily or ambiguously, they trouble the distinction between happy and unhappy performativity.

– Carrie Lambert-Beatty