The history of anime fans outside Japan can be traced to at least the 1980’s, if not earlier. Now that this history is established, the conditions are in place for scholarship that engages with the history critically. And one such recent engagement is the essay by Aurélie Petit (Concordia University) that examines the discussions that took place in early anime fan communities, and argues that these discussions have played a major role in shaping how anime fans interact between themselves and with the “external” world, and to some extent how the idea, concept, and image of the “anime fan” is now defined.
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. (more…)
As an academic field, anime studies may not be quite as “hot” as it was a few years ago, at the height of the anime boom/bubble, when it could very well seem that images drawn from Japan were everywhere in Western visual culture. And even though that bubble burst, and Japanese animation is nowhere near as popular or prominent in the U.S. and other Western countries as it was a decade ago, one particular effect of that bubble, an effect that we are still seeing now, is a steady stream of academic books on various aspects of anime and manga. There were eight such books published in 2014, although of the eight were new editions of previously published titles. 5 such books were published in 2013, 6 in 2012, and 4 in 2011 (all of these numbers are for monographs, not essay collections or reference titles). When thinking about explanations for this particular effect, perhaps the one that comes to mind right away is simply that at least some of the high school and college students who first became interested in anime at the height of the bubble ten years ago are now in academia, as graduate students and early-career professors. Anime and manga is what they know intimately, what they have been interested in for years – and topics related to anime and manga make for obvious candidates for their first major publications.