“De-westernising” fan studies: applying fan cultural theory to the

“De-westernising” fan studies: applying fan cultural
theory to the transcultural fandom of east asian
popular culture
Bertha Chin, 9th June 2012.
Media Across Borders, Roehampton University
Mapping a field of possibilities for study
• Fan cultural theory assumes homogeneity in
fandom - what happens when texts are
produced in different social & cultural contexts?
Importance of extending scope beyond
Japanese pop culture & Korean wave
• Other historical, social and cultural issues that
needs to be addressed that fan cultural theory
glosses over
Fan studies - a brief
• Henry Jenkins - fans create alternative &
democratic social communities through
shared interests (science fiction TV). They
‘poach’ characters, universes & plots to inject
their own interpretations through creative
production of fan fiction, art & videos.
• Subsequent work builds on Jenkins’s,
engaging more complex issues and
practices: gender, hierarchy, celebrity, fan
• Matt Hills - calls for the contradictions,
conflicts and absences to be addressed.
Warns of ‘moral dualisms’ in fan studies
providing examples of ‘good’ & ‘bad’
instances of fandom
East Asian pop culture
• Framed by “exoticisation of other cultures”
(Jancovich et al, 2003, p.4), primarily
Japanese anime and cult cinema vs.
achievement of intimacy with the object of
fans’ adoration (Yano, 2004)
• Kim Hyun Mee - fans trained through actions
and languages; they wear the same clothes
(uniformity through fan club membership),
shout same slogans and "show contained
passion" (2004, 44).
• Koichi Iwabuchi (2002) - fans as cultural
dupes; fans as consumers rather than
possessing any collective belonging
• "Inter-national fandom" research ignores
unevenness and complexity of transnational
connections, the political and economic
relations between the participating nation
states (Iwabuchi, 2010)
• Iwabuchi ignores affective pleasures in
fandom, creates ‘moral dualisms’ of
acceptable vs unacceptable notions of fan
Transcultural fandom
• Sandra Arnett (2011) - transcultural
circulation reflects interdependencies of
global media environment
• Transculturalism as a trend:"Trends cannot
travel without being passed among people, a
process that also results in it being changed
by the needs, desires and fears of those who
take it up. There is no single, final effect of a
trend. Trends point to an ongoing affective
experience" (Arnett, 2011, p. 166).
• Importance of affective experience in fandom
• Role of technology (beyond fan-subbing) in
fostering community of fans for these cultural
• Textual difference of fandom: emphasis on
the multi-functional star (pop idol, TV & film
• Different cultural practices: fan fiction has a
transcultural ‘flavour’ that features pop idols
from across various East Asian countries,
culture of the sasaeng fans (Korean)
• Who are these voices: migrant communities
(specifically those in US, UK Canada,
Australia), Third Culture Kids (TCKs), fans in
East Asian countries (complicated by
language, access barrier)
K-Pop concert, London
SHINee & United Cube
Photos courtesy of the Korean
Cultural Centre, UK.
To conclude...
• Homogeneity in fan cultures should not be
assumed: fan cultural theory may not
necessarily translate into a different cultural
• East Asian popular culture fandom needs to
pay more attention to fandom’s affective
pleasures, and what fans do. Move away
from moral dualisms of fandom
• More attention should be paid to unheard
voices: migrant communities, TCKs
• And to end: http://youtu.be/UdmChcXtwF4