Introduction to the themed section on Transcultural Fandom in Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies
The terms ‘fandom’, ‘fan’, and even ‘fan studies’ appear to be, at first glance, self- evident. But considered in the context of both fan cultures and scholarship outside the English language-centered West, we begin to see the assumptions that underlie them. Whether we are talking about Japanese fans of manga and anime (somewhat codified itself, both given the diversity of Japanese fan practices and objects, as well as non- Western fandoms generally), the Korean Wave, Nigerian fans of Bollywood films, and so on, scholarship of ‘transnational media fans’ is often confined to the periphery by virtue of its seeming irrelevance to the work of fan studies proper. It might be argued that such practices and cultures actually were peripheral to English language, Western fandoms of the past, part of an analog era in which transnational media distribution and circulation were firmly under the control of media corporations, and fandoms around the world seldom mixed. Yet in disregarding even these bygone fan cultures, we demonstrate a somewhat alarming lack of interest in a comparative approach to fan studies; one that, in turn, reifies the foundational concepts of fan studies – transformative works, gift economy, affirmational fandom, among others – to reflect little more than our own English language habitus. Today, in an era of intensifying cultural convergence, when fans from around the world congregate and commingle in the online spaces of Internet fandom, fan studies can no longer afford to overlook fan cultures as they play out globally. Particularly when, as I discuss below, international markets such as mainland China are something of a golden ring for Anglo-American media industries, targeted through affective appeals to those fans as much as (if not more than) those of Western fandoms, our better understanding of fans and fandoms depends on incorporating research of transnational fandoms in our own English language scholarship.
In the first episode of Hannibal (2013-15), FBI profiler Will Graham is called to examine a body impaled on antlers in the middle of a field – presumably the work of the so-called Minnesota Shrike. Graham quickly determines that, while this crime superficially resembles that of other Shrike victims, its difference is such that this ‘field kabuki’ is clearly the work of a copycat killer with a much different modus operandi; one that equips Graham to understand the Shrike’s motives and methods by contrast. In this paper, I argue that Hannibal itself might be understood as an object that similarly illuminates by contrast certain assumptions in the field of media fan studies, by confounding fan studies’ ongoing emphasis on oppositionality – canon vs. fanfiction, producers vs. fans, gift vs. money economies – as constitutive of, in particular, transformative fandoms. No simple adaptation, Hannibal is an intensely transformative text that repurposes both antecedent novels and their film adaptations in imagining a non-canonical relationship between Graham and Hannibal Lecter. Claims of creating fanfiction are a common tactic amongst “fanboy auteurs” – of which Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller is one – aimed at demonstrating “an understanding of [fans’] textual desires and practices” (Scott 2013, 44). In contrast, Hannibal is not only formally fanfictional, but its creators claim fan community belonging through their awareness of, and demonstrated respect for, the show’s fans and their fanworks. Moreover, they do this in such a way that these claims of being fellow ‘fannibals’ are widely accepted within Hannibal’s social media-centered fan communities. While not losing sight of the very real inequalities of social, industrial, and economic capital between creators and fans, I argue that Hannibal problematizes fan studies’ generalized framework of fan/industry oppositionality in ways that demand a more case-centered approach to media and their fans.
I explore the history of Japanese writing centered on Sherlock Holmes as a means of interrogating the 2014 BBC Sherlock pastiche John and Sherlock Casebook 1: Jon, zenchi renmei e iku (The stark naked league), written by Japanese Sherlockian Kitahara Naohiko for mainstream publication by the publishing house Hayakawa shobō. I argue that exploration of the Japanese (fan) cultural contexts of Kitahara’s book begins to reveal the limits of the Anglo-American-centered framework through which fan studies scholars explore fan/producer relationships.
…ing: Essays on NBC’s Hannibal. Kavita Mudan Finn and Elizabeth Nielsen, eds. (forthcoming 2018, Syracuse Univ. Press)
“Ontological Security and the Politics of Transcultural Fandom.” The Companion to Fandom and Fan Studies. Paul Booth, ed. (forthcoming in 2018, Blackwell)
“From Imagined Communities to Contact Zones: American Monoculture in Transatlantic Fandoms.” Transatlantic TV. Michele Hilmes, Roberta Pearson, and Mat…
Lori Morimoto researches and writes about transcultural fandoms, convergence culture/transfandom, Hollywood marketing overseas, and East Asian regional popular culture, who received her Ph.D. at Indiana University in 2011. Her recent work includes chapters in Seeing Fans: Representations of Fandom in Media and Popular Culture, as well as the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Fandom and Fan Studies, Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, Contemporary Transatlantic Television Drama, and Becoming: Essays on NBC’s Hannibal. She has published in Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies (with Bertha Chin), Transformative Works and Cultures, [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, Asian Cinema, and the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture. She co-authored with Bertha Chin an essay in Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, Second Edition, and co-edited a special section of Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies on transcultural fans and fandoms, as well as co-editing with Louisa Stein a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures on Tumblr and fandom.
Dr Travis Holland is Course Director in Communication and Creative Industries at Charles Sturt University, and a lecturer and researcher in Communication and Digital Media. Travis teaches both undergraduate and masters’ level subjects on digital media, communication theory, and research strategies. Before joining CSU, he lectured and tutored at the University of Wollongong in communication and media studies for several years, specialising in digital communication. Travis’s PhD dissertation applied Actor-Network Theory to media networks in three New South Wales local government areas. His writing, teaching, and research includes work on pedagogy, fan studies, politics, digital media, television, and local government. Outside of academia, Travis has worked as both a contracted and freelance journalist, as a freelance content producer for marketing agencies, and in politics
This research investigates the information behaviour of cult media fan communities on the internet, using three novel methods which have not previously been applied to this domain. Firstly, a review, analysis and synthesis of the literature related to fan information behaviour, both within the disciplines of LIS and fan studies, revealed unique aspects of fan information behaviour, particularly in regards to produsage, copyright, and creativity. The findings from this literature analysis were subsequently investigated further using the Delphi method and tag analysis. A new Delphi variant – the Serious Leisure Delphi – was developed through this research. The Delphi study found that participants expressed the greatest levels of consensus on statements on fan behaviour that were related to information behaviour and information-related issues. Tag analysis was used in a novel way, as a tool to examine information behaviour. This found that fans have developed a highly granular classification system for fanworks, and that on one particular repository a ‘curated folksonomy’ was being used with great success. Fans also use tags for a variety of reasons, including communicating with one another, and writing meta-commentary on their posts. The research found that fans have unique information behaviours related to classification, copyright, entrepreneurship, produsage, mentorship and publishing. In the words of Delphi participants – “being in fandom means being in a knowledge space,” and “fandom is a huge information hub just by existing”. From these findings a model of fan information behaviour has been developed, which could be further tested in future research.