Intersections: Fan Studies in Conversation in Japan Symposium

Sophia ICCSunday, December 16
10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sophia University Yotsuya Campus – Building no. 2, Room 1702
7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8554 JAPAN

As an academic field, fan/fandom studies is robust and well-established – with its current state covered by comprehensive surveys such as Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, 2nd Edition and A Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies, new research appearing in the Journal of Fandom Studies, teaching in programs like the Fandom, Cult Studies, and Subculture Studies minor at DePaul University, as well as various individual classes, and the Fan Studies Network connecting scholars around the world. And, as the field evolves and expands, certain conversations develop and certain questions are asked. For example, one of the chapters in A Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies is “The Unbearable Whiteness of Fandom and Fan Studies” (although the author acknowledges,  in a note, that “there is work, however, on the practices of media fandom outside of Europe and the United States that focuses on fans who would in the United States be understood as people of color, such as, for example, work on fandoms in Asia” – perhaps largely negating the hyperbolic title). One kind of conversation that is crucial to the continuing development of fan studies is one that acknowledges global perspectives on fans and fandom, and builds connections between scholars in different countries and with different approaches.

And it is to facilitate just these kinds of conversations that the Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture is hosting a one-day symposium entitled Intersections: Fan Studies in Conversation in Japan. Organized by leading fan studies scholars Lori Morimoto, Nele Noppe, and Patrick W. Galbraith. It will be be free, open to the public, and conducted entirely in English. The Symposium will serve “as a step in the direction of greater contact between scholars based in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, who all focus on media and fan cultures, but in diverse ways. The goal is not only to encourage conversation and collaboration across dividing lines, but also to critically assess some of the assumptions and blind spots in fan studies today.” Several of the talks will directly address anime/manga and anime/manga fans and fandom.Symposium Schedule

9:30: Doors Open
9:50: Opening Remarks

10:00 – 12:00
Voices from the United Kingdom and the United States

  • Spatial Transmedia, Participatory Cultures and the Global Theme Park.
    Rebecca Williams, University of South Wales

    “Theme parks have often been devalued and those who visit them characterized as cultural dupes, passive consumers or children. Parks such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World have been discussed in terms of their ideological representations of national identities and nationhood, or the cultural imperialist discourses inherent in opening parks in France or Asia. However, this presentation argues that we must pay attention to the fact that, even in the face of their apparent artificiality, theme parks are meaningful to people. The presentation further argues that theme parks are a key site for transmediality and convergence culture, allowing visitors to inhabit the hyperdiegesis of narrative worlds and offering opportunities for synergy between films and rides. They also present opportunities for participatory culture since, in the online knowledge networks formed amongst theme park fans, participants create and share content, information and advice, operating as active knowledge communities. Offering an introduction to the idea of theme parks as a site for ‘spatial transmedia,’ the presentation seeks to open avenues for discussion of key concepts in studies of media convergence beyond the Western examples explored here, and to begin to better understand how global theme park spaces may challenge and complicate these.”

  • The Power Lives On: Empty Nostalgia, Transnational Production Flows and Anniversary Branding in the Power Rangers Television Franchise.
    Ross Garner,
    Cardiff University

    “This presentation focuses on Power Rangers Super Megaforce and material produced to coincide with the silver jubilee of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in 2018 with regards to its uses and encodings of nostalgia. Rather than representing West-originating properties, though, these examples are drawn from Japan’s long-running Super Sentai franchise and permit investigating how discourses of nostalgia are constructed through an East Asian-originating property that is reappropriated and localized for Western viewers. By combining analysis of industrial trade press material, institutional discourses, the textual strategies used across transmedia franchising and licensing iterations and paratextual material, the presentation argues that these construct discourses of what I call ’empty nostalgia.’ An intentionally loaded term, empty nostalgia captures the discourse’s commercial underpinnings, objections to the Power Rangers franchise amongst Western parents and, crucially, the program’s transnational production circumstances. Rather than being solely reducible to prevailing socio-historical circumstances or broad changes impacting nationally-specific television cultures, this presentation argues that empty nostalgia is constructed as a result of multiple institutional layers of power, including transnational flows of production, licensing, distribution and marketing.”

  • Fan Remix Remixed: The Evolving Aesthetics and Practices of Cosplay Music Videos
    Louisa Stein (Middlebury College)

    “This presentation examines the transcultural intersections at work in fan remix, specifically in the evolving remix form of cosplay music videos (CMVs). I consider the processes of transcultural flow, engagement and transformation at work in fan authorship, and examine the transformative work of young fans creating gender-bending cosplay music videos for anime series such as Yuri!!! on Ice and Black Butler. I bring together Japanese theories of otaku and English-language traditions of fan studies to look at how these fans, through their performance of the characters in cosplay music videos, extend anime series by weaving together the distinct but interrelated traditions of vidding, cosplay, anime music videos and fan films. In their ongoing release of videos, these fan authors intertwine the narrative seriality of particular anime series with serial narratives of their own lives, drawing on a dynamic mix of remix traditions and aesthetics. In so doing, they embody, recreate, repeat and transform key emotional moments and images, reiterating small narratives that, in their repetition, affectively bind together larger networks of youth community and self-authorship. “

  • The Pop Culture Classroom
    Paul Booth (DePaul University)

    “In 2015 I wrote that, “Fandom is the future” because “new generations of fans will become future teachers, thinkers, and responsible media citizens.” For over a decade, I have been teaching students about fandom and the ways that it can be facilitated in their own life. In this presentation, I want to broaden the topic to explore how fandom can be applied outside of the immediate fan studies classroom. Why teach fandom? What does fandom bring to the classroom (and what does the classroom bring to fandom)? And why is fandom so important today? I want to explore some of the main themes I have discussed with students about teaching fans, and offer some insights about how teaching fandom can facilitate pedagogy across the disciplines. Indeed, media fandom is so important today, the attributes of media fandom – active engagement, emotional connection, creativity – are crossing over into other areas of life as well: politicians garnering support via social media, civic projects enabled through grassroots participation, local communities participating in social events and, as I describe in this talk, the classroom. I teach about fandom because it offers a way of looking at the world that can be applied long after the doors of the classroom have shut. I teach fandom because I believe we need to help students build the type of critical self-evaluation and reflection that can happen in fan communities – the type of fan discussion that can change the conversation, or engage issues of diversity. I also believe that fandom can be messy, nasty and filled with hateful speech; so students must also learn where this speech is coming from, and why, and how to safely and appropriately combat it. Teaching fandom is not just about showing students how to appreciate media in a deeper way. It is about discovering ways fandom itself can change our perceptions of the world.”

12:10 – 13:00: Discussion (led by Lori Morimoto)

13:00 – 14:30: Lunch break

14:30 – 16:30
Voices from Japan

  • Audience Studies and Fan Studies: Bridging the Gap.
    Julian Pimienta (Nagoya University)
  • Fans Visiting the Locations of Creative Fiction: The Mediatization of Tourism in Contemporary Japan.
    Jin Nakamura (Japan University of Economics)

    “Recent years have seen a boom in interest concerning tourism related to manga, anime and games, but many works of creative fiction take actually existing places as locations to construct their virtual reality. It has been noted that many fans visit these actually existing places, which are taken as extensions of their respective works of creative fiction. Indeed, this is part of the range of activities by which fans can enjoy their favorite works. There are a number of different activities associated with ‘fan pilgrimage,’ from the popular commemorative photographs of merchandise, figurines and dolls related to a given work taken in location to cosplay, which requires more preparation. This presentation explores some of the ways that fans encounter, experience and enjoy actual locations that are taken as extensions of works of creative fiction.”

  • Weak Ties Among Intimate Strangers: Female Fandom of 2.5-Dimensional Theatrical Performances.
    Akiko Sugawa-Shimada (Yokohama National University)

    “In recent years, the term ‘2.5-dimensional’ (nitengo jigen, hereafter 2.5D) has gained much attention within popular culture studies. This fan-led term primarily means cultural products (cultural practice in reality = the three dimensional) based on manga, anime, games and light novels (fiction = the two dimensional). However, if it is defined not only as the cultural products per se but also as fans’ engagement developed through their deep commitment to character-oriented consumption of popular culture, 2.5D can serve as a means to detect a wider cultural phenomenon. This presentation focuses on female fandom of 2.5D theatrical performances, an emerging subgenre in the Japanese theatrical stage performances and musicals. Female fans of 2.5D theatrical performances often construct and expand their fan networks through communication on Twitter, offline meetings and trading. Their diversity in age, places of residence, nationalities, familial backgrounds, marital status and ethnicities is enabled by their strong sense of connection based on preferences (favorite characters, actors and narratives). As suggested in recent work on weak but rigid connections among young people, female fans of 2.5D performance are ‘intimate strangers,’ who are seeking a sense of being connected through sharing similar preferences. Taking up the examples of Musical Prince of Tennis, Yowamushi Pedal the Stage and Token Ranbu, this presentation examines some of the potentials of what I call ‘communities of preferences,’ specifically intergenerational and intercultural understandings.”

  • Are Dedicated Manga Readers “Fans?” On Japanese Shōjo Manga Culture and its Social Reception.
    Yukari Fujimoto (Meiji University)

    “In many countries around the world, particularly the Anglophone world, comics are considered to be a form of fan culture. Such is not the case in Japan, however, where manga make up close to 40 percent of print publications. Given the scale of a print media market that is second only to the United States, it is fair to say that manga is part of the mass media culture of Japan. In this context, the existence of manga fans and their impact on society at large is different from the Anglophone world. To demonstrate this point, this presentation focuses on manga for girls and women, which make up about half of the robust market in Japan. Considering the formation of this culture and its social impact, the presentation highlights the fact that changes in postwar Japanese society often overlap with changes in the values of women, which always appear first in shōjo manga. Over the years, shōjo manga revitalized a form of popular theater, gave birth to cute culture and ushered in the new industry of ‘fancy goods.’ Such was the influence of shōjo manga that one could generally determine the lifestyle and life course of women based on the magazines that they read. Being a fan here means something different than what is typically assumed in fan studies in the Anglophone world, as well as ‘otaku’ studies in Japan. This presentation aims to clarify that difference.”

16:40 – 17:30
Discussion (led by Nele Noppe)

18:00 – 18:40
Keynote Address
Archiving Fan Cultures and Fan Activities
Morikawa
Kaichirō Morikawa (Meiji University)

“There are certain difficulties in conducting research on fan cultures and fan activities in Japan. The individuals known as “otaku” tend to refrain from becoming subjects of research. Limiting interviewees to individuals and groups that are exceptional may grossly diminish the scope of a given study. However, the steepest obstacle is met when the researcher endeavors to study the past, whether the objective is historical research as such or to observe the present from historical perspectives. An accessible archive of materials is essential, not only to perform such studies, but also to establish the credibility and continuity of fan studies in academia. This presentation provides an overview of several ongoing projects in Japan that are committed to archiving materials, mainly manga, anime, videogames, tokusatsu and related fan cultures and activities. Although most of these projects originated as private endeavors, recent years have seen an increase in institutional and governmental attention and support. The presentation will discuss the scope of such support as well as their complexities.”

18:40 – 19:00: Discussion (led by Patrick W. Galbraith)

19:05: Closing Remarks
19:30: Doors Close

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