Squee from the margins: investigating the operations of racial/cultural/ethnic identity in media fandom

Rukmini Pande

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated] Fan studies’ foundational texts established media or participatory fandom as an area of interest for scholars due to its potential to overturn stereotypes about fans as unquestioning consumers of popular cultural texts. Media fandom’s transformational interactions with these texts—most notably through fanfiction but also expanding to other fanwork—was seen as especially significant as these spaces were dominated by women (Jenkins 1992; Bacon-Smith 1992; Russ 1985; Penley 1992; Lamb and Veith 1986). The discipline has expanded in its scope since then and the idea of the ‘fan-as-resistant’ has been queried on various grounds (Hills 2002; Sandvoss 2005; J. A. Gray, Harrington, and Sandvoss 2007; D. Johnson 2007; Jenkins 2006a). Nevertheless, a strong utopic strain remains evident in theoretical discussions of fanwork in particular, especially that which explicitly queers source texts. This is based, once again, on demographic data that indicates that a significant number of participants in these spaces identify as queer women. Such transformational fanwork is seen to function in an intertextual and communitarian matrix, which is self-reflexive and progressive in its politics (Busse and Hellekson 2006; Busse, Lothian, and Reid 2007; Hellekson 2009a; Coppa 2008; Larsen and Zubernis 2012b; Coppa 2014; Stein 2015).
What remains absent in these examinations is any sustained examination of the racial make-up of these communities, both in terms of participants and in the choices of characters and texts that form the focus of media fandom’s transformational activities. My thesis builds from Rebecca Wanzo’s (2015) critical intervention in fan studies, wherein she maintains that the continued and glaring absence of race as an aspect of analysis in fan studies is not due just to oversight but because it “troubles” some of its most foundational assumptions regarding its subversive potential and inclusive ethos.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Award date16 Mar 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


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