Japanese Fandom

Project Convenor: Dr Mark McLelland and Dr Fran Martin
Cultural Literacies Node


In recent years a range of originally Japanese popular cultural styles and artefacts including “cute” products, manga and animation, film, music and TV drama have, via the Internet and other new media, exerted a strong influence upon youth cultures in the Asia-Pacific region (and more globally). Japan’s income from export of these media now exceeds that generated by exports from the car industry. The widespread interest in cultural products, formations and styles originating in Japan is particularly apparent among female consumers throughout Asia. Recent work, particularly that of Iwabuchi, has suggested that the regional impact of Japanese popular culture is such that it is necessary to “recenter globalization”, that is to develop paradigms of globalization studies that do not take the US as the defining center or origin of (post)modern cultural formations or “lifestyles”. Rather, new transnational forms of popular culture are now circulating outside of traditional center/periphery models and originally “Japanese” cultural formations are not only being transformed through indigenization elsewhere but are then being re-exported and recirculated from local sites (occasionally back into Japan itself).

Of particular interest is the ‘yaoi’ or ‘boys’ love’ (BL) manga/animation fandom popular with girls and young women. Over the last decade there has been a massive boom in popular interest in this genre (including commercially translated and published volumes as well as amateur fan-authored productions) in Korea, China, Taiwan and Thailand, and since 2000, there have been annual fan conventions in the United States and since 2003 publishing houses in the US are also translating original Japanese as well as commissioning their own boys’ love titles.

This project investigates the different ways in which originally Japanese genres, aesthetics and styles have been taken up, deployed and transformed by female fans transnationally. Comparisons will be made between Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and English appropriations of Japanese popular culture and the exchange of imagery and narratives that takes place between them. The way in which Japanese products, styles and images are received in different cultures as well as the (sub)cultural ends to which they are deployed will be investigated, as will the impact of the fandom on the changing nature of consumerism, participatory fan culture and particularly gender in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.


Project Activities

Japanese Transnational Fandoms and Female Consumers
Two-day Workshop, 3 - 4 July 2008, University of Wollongong