Global Fandom Conversation Series Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia) and Antonella Mascio (Italy) (Part Two)

Cosplay “My sister as a student from Slytherin”. The author Tanya Koltunova. Photo from Russian fan group Typical Potterhead.

Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia). Costumes, cosplay, daily-life, nostalgia

Reading your article, Antonella, I started to think about the connection between costumes, cosplay, daily-life, and nostalgia. And I decided to focus in my text on the ways in which the characters’ clothes are interpreted and reproduced by Russian fans.

(I can primarily say that unfortunately I’m not a great expert on cosplay which, of course, is very important for such a topic. Thus, the part of the text connected with cosplay should be considered as preliminary ideas and observations).

As the scientists say, nostalgia – the very important concept for your investigation – leads fans to create clothes, artifacts which relate to their favorite book or film. Such artifacts and costumes can reflect fans’ ideas of the historical and cultural period which is described in this book\film. Trying to be closer to the world created by the author, fans choose things that are similar in style to the historical period. By the analysis of the clothes fans try to interpret the character more deeply – and therefore the character’ costume sometimes is understood as an encoded message with symbolic elements. Constructing the character’s clothes of describing it in fan text, fan can express three aspects: 1) how he\she imagines the historical period; is historical accuracy important for him\her; 2) how fan interprets the character; 3) how fan changes the character’ clothes for everyday life, for another historical period or for another genre.

1)    Cosplay “Harry Potter as a girl”. Photo from Russian fan group Typical Potterhead 

Speaking about historical accuracy in fan works, I would venture to suggest that it isn’t so important for the Russian fanfics and cosplay which I have analyzed. The Harry Potter circle touches on the 1970s, 1980s, and a little bit 1990s (and, if we speak also about Fantastic Beasts – on 1920s-1930s), but fans don’t pay much attention to the historical and cultural characteristics of this period – probably because the main plot goes in magic world which isn’t so connected with muggles’ world and muggles culture. In such a case it is more important to create a magic atmosphere rather than to reflect the historical period.

1)    Cosplay “Luna Lovegood”. The author MaddyHaru (https://vk.com/maddyharu). Photo from Russian fan group Typical Potterhead 

Cosplay “Ron, Luna and Harry”. The authors Wizard, Артур Овчинников (Arthur Ovchinnikov), Haruhi, Black Jack. Photo from Russian fan group Typical Potterhead

For example, cosplay photos from one of the most popular Russian HP fans groups Typical Potterhead[1] show that for good cosplay you need a witch robe, a magic wand and – this is very popular detail of a magic cosplay look – a special striped tie or scarf with the colors of some Hogwarts’ faculty. It is worth mentioning that striped ties and scarfs were invented by the creators of the HP films, but the fans obviously take it as a “canonical” detail by Rowling.

Cosplay “Ginny: When you missed the Hogwarts Express”. The author Алина Плетнёва (Alina Pletneva)

As the photos show, the fan can often simplify and adjust such magic look into outfits for everyday life. To become a Hogwarts student, you need a white shirt, a tie, round glasses – and some old book in hand. I think the reason for this adjustment is in the fact that the Hogwarts students, despite being wizards, are also ordinary students with many ordinary school things – homework, tests, exams and so on.

The Russian fanfics also show that the fans can easily change the character's costume if it is needed for the plot and idea. Thus, Harry Potter and his friends can wear T-shirts and jeans (even at Hogwarts!), and prof. Snape can wear a polo-neck sweater or jacket. But there is a rule for all fans: every costume should demonstrate the character traits and some aspects from the HP book. For example, the prof. Snape’s polo-neck sweater should be black because he wears only black robe in the book, and this color is connected with his withdrawn, dark, unhandsome manner. As another example I can mention Hermione Granger who can wear dresses, sweaters, and other “muggle” clothes, but it should not be very sexy - because Hermione in book is some kind of a “bookworm” who doesn’t think about clothes a lot. 

As a conclusion I want to point out that investigating clothes seems to me a very productive way to see how fans interpret the characters, how they feel the book and how they try to use some details from everyday life in fan works. Speaking about nostalgia, I can only say that nostalgia in Russian HP fandom probably doesn’t connect with some historical period and clothes associated with some epoch – maybe because of the HP world specifics. The HP world is placed by Rowling in a concrete period but – at the same time – it is a story which could be installed in many decorations. These decorations should be old – probably that is the only condition for good fan work.

Fan art to the fan fic “The light in the opposite window”. The author of fan art Климентина (Clementine). This image describes Hermione and prof.Snape in “muggle” clothes – for this part of the article: “The Russian fanfics also show that the fans can easily change the character's costume if it is needed for the plot and idea. Thus, Harry Potter and his friends can wear T-shirts and jeans (even at Hogwarts!), and prof.Snape can wear a polo-neck sweater or jacket. But there is a rule for all fans: every costume should demonstrate the character traits and some aspects from the HP book”.

 

Global Fandom Conversation Series: Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia) and Antonella Mascio (Italy) 

 

Second Round

(Part Two)

 

The Handmaid's Tale – Italy - Court of Milan

Antonella Mascio (Italy). Nostalgia, Costumes, Protest

Thank you, Elizaveta for your remarks. In this final round I’ll come to the conclusion by focusing on two points linked to your presentation:

-       Nostalgia and fandom

-       Costumes and protest actions

 

Nostalgia and fandom

Nostalgia in TV series is a complex issue that several scholars have been working on for a few years (Holdsworth, 2011; Lizardi, 2015; Niemeyer, 2014). The “nostalgia effect” appears in the discussions of fans both during the period between seasons and at the end of a TV series. Italian fans of The Americans, for example, have used the forums to express their missing of the series. 

There are cases in which fans also express nostalgia in response to certain narrative devices. It happens, especially when design products, objects or soundtrack pieces recalling a near past appear on screen, with the effect of producing a wide range of reactions, depending on the age of the audience. Certainly, the setting of dramas in a different era than the present day, whether near or far in time, is nothing new, especially for melodramas, thrillers, costume stories and spy stories. It is usually not the case of teen dramas that traditionally target a young model audience and present stories that develop in today's world. 

When the time setting is in the past, the TV series raises awareness and attracts wider audiences than those usually associated with the teen genre. This play between different temporal regimes is renewing the universe of teen dramas, so much so that sometimes, even when the story develops in the contemporary world, the sets include products that, although easily recognizable, are no longer part of ordinary everyday life (I'm thinking about the audiotapes in 13 Reasons Why, for example). It is precisely these objects, together with music pieces, or technological instruments from a few decades ago (e.g. the Walkman), that attract the attention of the older fandom, functioning as a “different” key to reading the text, thus producing a nostalgic effect. This is especially evident in online forums, where discussions are more articulated and in-depth, and where the average age of users is usually higher than in social media. 

If we take Stranger Things as an example, younger fans identify the historical period in which the series is set and are fascinated by it, but are unable to grasp the set of intertextual references that the text proposes. Older fans, on the other hand, are more easily involved in a double reading of the TV series: On the one hand, they enjoy the story and follow the adventures of Eleven, Mike and the Demogorgon; while on the other hand they recognize the references to E.T.Stand by Me, or the musical pieces of the period that function as dejà vu and allow them to go back to their own adolescence. It is therefore a kind of “focused nostalgia” directed at certain audiences: this is what emerges from a series of interviews conducted for a recent research study (Mascio, 2021).

I believe that the use of narrative formats belonging to the teen drama genre including “vintage” elements (such as vinyl records in Sex Education) defines new opportunities for fandom and points us to possibilities for further studying. 

 

Costumes and protest actions 

The Handmaid's Tale – Italy

I would like to conclude our exchange, Elizaveta, by returning to the theme of costumes in TV series, taking up some of your precious suggestions. The way in which fans bring back items of clothing in their everyday life, and use them, is indeed interesting because it opens many investigative paths: are they forms of appropriation of the TV series? Do they show attachment to a single character? What possible functions can they refer to?

La Casa de Papel - Italy - Banca d'Italia, Milan

- La Casa de Papel - Italy – University La Sapienza

It is difficult to find answers to these questions in just a few lines, and the points that you Elizaveta have highlighted are very important: the wardrobes of the characters are in fact connected more generally to the interpretation that fans of the TV series conceive. Of course, as we said in our first round, the aesthetic appeal of certain outfits can be relevant for many fans, but for others it is not the only reason of interest. Now, I would like to consider some cases in which the connection between outfits on screen and the world of fashion is not important. Instead, what is relevant is that certain outfits incorporate specific meanings and represent fundamental references in the narrative. These are mainly outfits that function as uniforms and, in some cases, become actual icons. When fans use them, the goal is to appropriate those specific symbols and meanings. 

Let’s take the case of The Handmaid’s Tale. The costume consisting of a red tunic and a headdress with white flaps is configured in the story as a uniform. And as such, it refers to specific meanings: it defines the Handmaids, distinguishing them from the other women in Gilead's society. In the first instance, this garment became part of the Internet’s participatory culture, due to the many memes created by fans immediately after the release of the first season. The meme is an important communication product that fans generally make extensive use of. It invites the viewer to make an interpretion effort, creating a sort of short-circuit between different contexts (Shifman 2014). It is perhaps for this reason that the meme is also an important engine for creating a sense of community among fans, as a reaction to the fragmentation of the digital environment. Those who are able to recognize the source text, and are at the same time able to understand the additional message and enjoy the irony that usually accompanies it, share cultural knowledge and values with a community - partly manifest, partly imagined (cf. Anderson 1983). 

Together with the memes, images of women, dressed in a similar way to the Handmaids, have appeared on various media, gathered in cities in different countries, including Italy, to protest against gender discrimination policies, linked in particular to abortion laws. This has started a process of incorporation of meanings focused precisely on the uniform, which soon became an icon capable of being recognized as the symbol of defence of women's rights. These rallies wink at fandom, but are not necessarily organized by fans. However, the fandom of the TV series has a fundamental role in determining a semantic shift leading to the use of the uniform of The Handmaid's Tale in the streets: by amplifying the success of the series and the issues it deals with, it has in fact strengthened the circulation of its images. All this shows how fandom significantly participates in the negotiation of meanings that emerge from TV series, thus creating a strong relationship between the fictional world and the real one. According to this reading, uniforms have been transformed over time from uniforms into entities that can be defined as “cultural armour”.

La Casa de Papel and Squid Game function in a similar way. The Squid Game's uniform, for example, was used by environmentalists to protest during Cop 26, in Glasgow, in the fall of 2021. In the case of La Casa de Papel, on the other hand, the red uniforms and Guy Fawkes masks have become a political symbol and have been worn in protests in different parts of the world, including Italy. In October 2020 a flash mob with the uniforms of La casa de Papel was organized in front of the Bank of Italy’s headquarters in Milan, to ask for economic support in a moment of crisis related to the Covid 19 pandemic. University students in Naples also used the same uniform to protest against the increase in university fees, singing in chorus “Bella Ciao”. The uniform was immediately interpreted according to the symbolic meanings it incorporates, and the media had no doubt in recognizing the themes of La Casa de Papel in the flash mob organized by the group of young people. In turn, the fans have taken up and re-articulated the newspaper articles about the protests in the online discussion pages, using them as further forms of valorisation of the TV series, and creating a short-circuit between fiction, offline reality and the online world.

It seems to me that these modes of appropriation of fictional content are leading us towards a further reinterpretation of the role of TV series, at a social and cultural level. The uniforms in these cases represent an obvious reference to television productions: They are easily recognizable and reproducible. They become, for the wearer, a declaration of participation in the community-audience connected with the original text. Moreover, their use by several groups of people as symbols of protest, in different areas of the globe, confirms the existence of forms of negotiation between “real” and “fictional” on the public scene. 

I would also like to have your opinion, Elizaveta, on the relationship between TV series, costumes and forms of protest, but we will keep it for the next occasion.

So, thank you again for this rich exchange of ideas, and thank you for your participation at this very difficult time. Our research on fandom has given us the opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas about what is happening, and I hope we will soon have the chance to talk a lot more about fiction and reality, in more serene circumstances. 

La Casa de Papel - Italy - University of Naples

 

 

References

 

Anderson, B. (2006), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London - New York.

 

Holdsworth, A. (2011), Television, Memory and Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan Memory StudiesUSA – UK.

 

Lizardi, R. (2015), Mediated Nostalgia: Individual Memory and Contemporary Mass Media, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland.

 

Mascio, A. (2021), “Sponsored Things: Audiences and the Commodification of the Past in Stranger Things”, in T. Mollet, L. Scott (eds.), Investigating Stranger Things Upside Down in the World of Mainstream Cult Entertainment, Palgrave Macmillan – Springer, London – Cham.

 

Niemeyer, K. (2014), Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future, Palgrave Macmillan, 
Basingstoke - New York.

 

Shifman, L. (2014), Memes in Digital Culture, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.










[1] URL: https://vk.com/isolemnlyswearthatiamuptonogood

Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia) and Antonella Mascio (Italy)

Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia) - Life experience in fanfics

 

Fan art “I will struggle” to the fan fic “The light in the opposite window”. The author of fan art – Климентина (Clementine).

Fanfic is thought to be the story about characters from a book\film\computer game, which touched fan-writers deeply. Nevertheless, fanfic is also a story about the author’s life: about the author's feelings in this period, about psychological problems and life experience. 

For me, as for Harry Potter fan and researcher of the reader perception, it is interesting to ask two questions: 1) how fan writer imprints his\her life experience, pain and joy, in text, what aspects of experience he\she puts in text and 2) what opportunity Harry Potter cycle gives to fan writer in describing his\her own background?

 

Part 1. Love relationship and family

Love is an important part of a lot of fan texts (and of real life, of course). Fans describe different types of relationships: how feelings grow up and break down, how people sometimes can’t understand each other, and make a compromise. 

HP cycle presents a rich material for all above mentioned. We have lots of characters (adults and children) with vividly described temper, manner, point of view, in different situations – and it means that a fan writer has a million combinations for speaking about relationships. Whose love will be like «till death do us apart» and whose feeling breaks down because of everyday routine? Let me give you an example of fan text in which we can see how HP characters help the fan writer to tell about common aspects of a relationship.

In “The light in the opposite window”[1], famous Russian fanfic by Magla, the author depicts a problem of choice, which a lot of women come across. Hermione Granger loves Ron Weasley but those points of view on family and career are different. Ron has a very traditional view on woman role in family and on woman place in community: woman should be, first of all, a homemaker, she has to cook well and clear up the home, she shouldn’t make a career. Ron thinks that Hermione is too clever for woman and hopes that when they will be married she will turn to a “standard” woman and leave behind her ambitious ideas and plans. It's easy to see that the fan writer describes common gender stereotypes which we can find sometimes in our everyday life. Hermione worries about the choice between two life's journeys: an ordinary homemaker with Ron, whom she loves(?) or without Ron, trying to understand what she really wants. The author emphasizes how difficult it is to be yourself and not to feel your choice as a fault.

1)    Fan art “The sea is calling me” to the fan fic “The Flying Ship”. The author of fan art – green_deer.

 

Part 2. Professional and everyday aspects and problems

Fanfics sometimes become a way to give voice to the work problems or some everyday troubles. Fan writers put those life routine to the texts for many reasons: they want to express some thoughts or feelings and – what is more – they want to describe a character as a real person with everyday life which looks like an ordinary reader’s life. 

Although HP cycle is about wizard’s world, Rowling describes in detail Hogwarts routine – that’s why the fan writer can go on. For example, fans have an opportunity to think about Hogwarts teachers like ordinary teachers with those common problems – lazy students and so on. In the fanfic “Wind in my sails” by popular Russian author tesey prof.Snape is a teacher of English literature in the small English school. One day Harry Potter enters this school, and Severus Snape starts to hate him because Harry doesn’t like reading at all, and he isn’t an erudite person. The fan author (she is a teacher of Russian literature) describes very well the emotions, troubles and situations which a teacher encounters at work. Also, the author puts in fanfic her own remarks on English classic writers and books to make prof.Snape more real. Literature for him is a way to take life in the right spirit, and he teaches Harry to understand books deeply.

Often some everyday situation gives the fan author the opportunity to show how a person battles a psychological problem. In the fanfic “Turn the emergency lights!”[2] by genushka we see Harry Potter studying for a driver’s license. But because of his parents death in the car crash he has panic attacks when he gets into a car. Prof.Snape starts to teach him because he wants to help Harry with driver’s license and stress.

 

Part 3. Illness and hospital

Illness is a very popular theme in fanfics – probably because we are all afraid of being confined to bed or having a seriously ill relative. Writing and reading about a process of medical therapy gives us a feeling that we are ready for this in real life. 

Fan art “Winter dream about Zagreb” to the fan fic “The Flying Ship”. The author of fan art – jozy.

Lots of Harry Potter fanfics picture the situations connected with illness, long hospital therapy or the process of fighting with some serious or unknown disease. For instance, in the fanfic “Quest”[3] by popular Russian author rain_dog Harry Potter suffers from the unknown illness connected with Voldemort curse. He should share his emotions with others to fight with the illness, but it is not so easy for him. In another fanfic by rain_dog“The Flying Ship”[4], Harry suddenly loses his magic. He takes it as a serious illness and doesn’t know how to live without magic. Harry thinks that he is like a disabled person. The story about his recovering is very important for this fanfic: to bring his power and skills back Harry should understand himself and study a new type of magic.

 

Global Fandom Conversation Series: Antonella Mascio (Italy) and Elizaveta Kasilova (Russia) 

 

First Round

(Part Two)

 

- Jane the Virgin - TikTok

Antonella Mascio (Italy). Fandom between clothes and nostalgia.

 

While reading your paper, Elizaveta, your work on Harry Potter’s representation has raised my interest. The concept of “interpretation map” you have adopted to understand the many possibilities emerging in the text-reader relation can be quite useful and relevant. The “variable part” tells a lot about the reader’s cultural traditions, and as such, it gives also rise to usages and interpretations of the text (Eco, 1979, 1994), according to locally-based cultural perspectives. The “variable part” is also bringing to light – within the framework of a global fandom – unexpected and interesting features of the fans’ work in different countries. A form of popular culture, and for this reason necessarily linked to a geographical space. In the instance of Harry Potter, Elizaveta, you are showing how much this variable is important for fan-fiction: as a “global” product, Harry Potter mingles with local sensitivities, thus giving rise to specific usages linked to fans’ daily lives. 

The Queen's Gambit – YouTube

The “variable part” characterizes fans’ productions also in relation to other medial products. In particular, what is interesting for me is observing how fans reprocess features linked to two different levels (sometimes complementary) that are nostalgia and the clothes worn in the TV series - and the meanings attributed to them. These are other means of expression for the fandom dimension, increasingly present in the medial ecosystem and comprised within the perspective of the complex television (Mittell, 2015). I believe we can say that especially clothes have become an important layer of the storytelling: it refers not only to the aesthetic plane – quite important, nonetheless – but it also participates in the making of a complex storytelling. 

As regards costumes, fans have already created different ways of expressing their appreciation for quite sometime. In particular, cosplay events had already become regular meeting features in several towns (for example, Lucca Comics in the town of Lucca, Italy). First of all, the style of hairdos or makeup, the choice of clothes or accessories, appear to be a venue for the construction of a social identity, and therefore broadcasting one’s belonging to a specific fans’ community. Fans’ creativity thus becomes quite visible through the use of the language of clothes. However, what has emerged in recent years is a different value assigned to the wardrobe of the characters in the TV series, and not to their spectacularization. Through the clothes, fans bring the individual characters, and the series they appear in, in their daily life, by providing the series with additional meanings which progressively shift from the fictional framework to the real world.

Riuverdale - Pinterest

The choice of the wardrobe to recreate – and therefore of the characters to be highlighted – also shows how fans develop their preferences, which can change according to their cultural and traditional contexts. For example, the wardrobe of the character in Pretty Little Liars Tv series, Aria Montgomery, consisting in clothes of varying styles, is found in many online discussions, and is appreciated and copied by global audiences while harshly criticized by many Italian female fans. The ways fandom feeds on the clothes’ language are many and expand over many horizons of meaning. In terms of the recreational dimension, where the enjoyment of watching the series is linked to the game of imitation, a shift takes place towards a less playful viewing, having to do with the importance of feeling “closer” to one’s favourite character in the plot, to the difficulties they experience and overcome, in order to embody this determination through clothes. In fact, according to some, “donning the clothes of one character” could be of help in facing the difficulties and hurdles of daily life. These are mostly remarks made by female fans, who become very active – online as well – when recreating and sharing the outfits worn by their favourite characters, by adopting for the most part looks similar to the outfits worn on screen, but in their case these are low-cost clothes made by low profile brands, available to all. 

In putting the above remarks in perspective with your work, Elizaveta, the topics you have mentioned with regards to the fan-fiction may be considered, such as love relationships, or issues relating to the professional world, in consideration of the importance assigned to the outfits. The self-confidence shown by a character in a love relationship is accompanied in the storytelling by suitable clothing contributing to the construction of the character’s strength. In a rather metonymic way, these elements - the clothes – are used to make reference to a wider picture: the outfit worn onscreen must be linked to the determination, the drive to reach the goal, as played by the character. This seems to be the way through which a part of the fandom interprets the outfits worn in specific situations. For female characters, some forms of empowerment are somewhat evoked on screen through roles, behaviours, attitudes, but also through the choice of outfits, at times original and different from the mainstream taste (e.g. Maeve character from Sex Education). The outfits then take on their specific relevance, not much different from the plots of the love stories which are taken up in fan-fictions and inspire audiences, as you have remarked. The importance that clothes have for some characters in their everyday work routines, is another relevant element found in fans’ productions. For some of them, certain outfits are in fact copied, precisely because they engender self-assurance and self-esteem.

Other fans’ groups use clothes as a way to show their attachment to the tv series as a product, and not to an individual character. Many examples of this kind are found today on TikTok. In these short videos, fans replicate the outfits of many protagonists of one or several TV series, by also introducing “gender fluid” versions of them: male characters’ wardrobe adjusted to a female look, and vice-versa. 

For a part of the fandom, the wardrobe is strongly emphasized in social networks. The fandom of the tv series overlaps with the fandom of fashion, by determining forms of real textual productivity. The cultural capital shown in these cases manifests itself in an aggregate of knowledge, linked to both the tv series and the fashion world. In these sharing spaces, where the visual and audiovisual language prevails (Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok), the game consists in recognising the outfit and where it comes from: the brand, the collection, or fashion magazines publishing them. Fans engage in highlighting and explaining that information in their textual productions, in the “overflowing approach” made by fans (Fiske, 1992; Bataille 1967) in order to fill the void left by the storytelling. 

The research work carried out by fans regarding clothing involves at times vintage outfits which, for some, recall the nostalgic mood. This topic emerges mostly in the discussions involving adult fans, who evoke online a series of connections, activated by the tv series in an intertextual fashion, with other medial products from the past (for example Stranger Things). I would like to know, Elizaveta, if, in the fan-fictions about Harry Potter you have described, you have found elements of nostalgia and the adjustment of costumes into outfits which could be worn in everyday life. Or other aspects related to nostalgia, present in fan-fiction and related to Russian tradition. Nostalgia, in fact, concerns a personal and cultural emotion. It seems to be related both to a feeling of distance “from a place and time in one's past” (Prete, 2018), and to a desire to reconnect with that same place and time - nostos. In this way, we can use nostalgia as a key to talk about global fandom – with respect to a kind of common fan sentiment determined by the mood of a TV series, or another media product - or regional fandom - when this sentiment is common only for a part of the total fandom. 

Breaking Bad - Lucca Comics

 

References

 

Bataille, G. (1967), La part maudite: precede de La notion de depense, Les editions de Minuit, Paris.

 

Eco, U. 1979, Lector in fabula, Bompiani, Milano. 

 

Eco, U. 1994, Sei passeggiate nei boschi narrativi, Bompiani, Milano.

 

Fiske, J. (1992), “The Cultural Economy of Fandom”, in Lisa A. Lewis (ed. by), The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, Routledge, New York – London.

 

Mittell, J. (2015), Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, New York University Press, New York – London.

 

Prete, A. (2018) (ed. by), Nostalgia. Storia di un sentimento, Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano. 

 

 

 

















[1] URL: https://fanfics.me/fic60977

[2] URL: https://fanfics.me/fic83087

[3] URL: https://fanfics.me/fic55395

[4] URL: https://fanfics.me/fic50540

Global Fandom Jamboree: Antonella Mascio (Italy)

For several years now, my research work, based on a qualitative methodology, has focused on the study of TV series and fan-audiences, mostly Italian ones. I am interested in understanding the inner workings of the storytelling in the TV series which attract and engage fan-audiences.

In specific, I focus on two themes: Fashion and Nostalgia.

-       About Fashion

In Italy, as in the rest of the world, tv series have become one of the most important focuses of discourse among audiences and even the media: in newspapers and magazines, they hold a constant, and in many cases relevant, place, where outfits play a growing significant role alongside plots and characters. For sometimes now, fashion has established a close relationship with media, but recently its role seems to have undergone a change, in audiovisuals and specifically in fiction products. 

Today the wardrobe of characters plays an important role in the storytelling construction: clothes, accessories, footwear not only take part in the definition of the protagonists’ identity, but they seem to have become full-fledged spaces of discourse, capable of moving audiences towards reflections involving also the cultural meanings linked to dressing styles (for example Sex and the City, HBO 1998-2004, or Gossip Girl, CW 2007-2012). In many cases, in effect, alongside the main plot, clothing produces a specific undercurrent through which the change in status of an individual character is shown, alongside their belonging to specific social classes (as in Élite, Netflix 2018-; or in Baby, Netflix 2018-2020), their search for specific groups, or youth subcultures to join in (as in Riverdale, The CW 2017-). Audiences are increasingly more interested in the style depicted in the TV series. In particular, fans use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages, but also videoclips as Youtube tutorial to show how to dress to look like the characters. The appreciation, which is shown for one specific wardrobe, instead of another, tells us something about the preferences in taste in diverse cultural contexts. 

Therefore, the meaning and value of clothing do not stop at the aesthetic dimension of the audiovisual products, but refer to the social order (Goffman 1951), their status, the dissemination of trends, the adherence (or lack of it) to recognized canons. It is now clear that in fictions, both those set in the present time, and the period dramas, the use of suitable wardrobes strengthens the overall narrative layout, and activates engagement effects in audiences. Fashion thus participate in the (fictional) representation of social dynamics: TV series are showing us to what extent clothes “make the man” and how class differences are stressed (Simmel, 1895) to the point of making us think about their importance in the processes of change, working as the key for the interpretation of society (Blumer, 1969; Edwards, 2011).

The complexity of a tv series has therefore something to do with the possibility of participating in the text by audiences. My analyses of Italian audiences have stressed how much – for some tv series – some groups of fans are de facto also fashion fans. Online, these fans stage their double level of knowledge, by using screen shots of the episodes to talk about the outfits, recognize the brands being used, and show their skills and knowledge. They adopt “investigative” (Mittell 2015) approaches because they follow the narrative lines spoken by the language of clothing, thus creating significant links between the fictional universe of the TV series and the real world of their everyday life. 

This type of operations by fans is detached from the classic cosplay activity. Instead it shows the strong engagement with the TV series and favourite characters. In other words, the character’s strength is evoked by fans also through the outfits appearing on screen, becoming– in grassroots production – full-fledged symbols of recognition. Therefore, fans want to adopt outfits similar to those worn by their favourite characters – or by characters working as reference models – in order to establish a strong connection with the TV series and embody the positive values seen in the character. All of this is preeminently seen in the female fanbase, taking up the styles which can be identified as power dressing to adapt them to their individual needs (as in characters like Claire Underwood in House of Cards, Netflix 203-2018, or Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder, ABC Studios 2014-2020, or again, with a completely different style, Saga Norén in Bron/Broen, Nimbus Film, Filmlance International 2011–2018). The inspirational female models produce in audiences the desire of identification - or aspiration – which is at times met through the appropriation of specific outfits, or more in general a dressing style. The fashion depicted in TV series thus becomes a tool through which audiences convey not only their attachment to a specific character, but also their relationship with genre roles.

It should also be added that the outfits of some characters have gained a great visibility precisely thanks to the fans’ activities, especially in digital settings. The identification of the outfit, the underlying brand recognition, the proposal of something similar – perhaps cheaper – to be purchased and worn, the publication of one’s own images showing outfits inspired by characters (performative practices) – together with the creation of memes – are the most evident operations. The dissemination of these grassroots contents engenders the connection also among the very same fans who create and participate in social forums and pages, where outfits become the discussion topics linked to the TV series. 

Of course even fashion houses are getting interested in this form of engagement taking place between the fans and the narrative text through the outfits; and, increasingly, they are putting forward clothing lines linked to specific series; from Mad Men (AMC 2007-2015), to Stranger Things (Netflix 2016-), or Sex Education (Netflix 2019-), to mention just a few. Fashion itself is also exploiting seriality for the direct promotion of its products (such as GucciFest, by Gus Van Sant and the related fandom).

Clothes are also used by fan-audiences in a political ways as well. The case of The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu 2017-) highlights this aspect: the series and its symbolic clothes (red robes and white bonnets) have become a tool of protest and strong connection between the plot and the off screen world.

 

-       About Nostalgia

The topic of nostalgia is now present in many Tv series, including those included in the genre of teen drama (like Stranger Things, but also Sex Education), as well as those in the genre of period drama (from Downton Abbey to The Americans, FX 2013-2018, or Chernoby,l HBO 2019). Nostalgia then becomes a device inside the text, capable of fostering an intense link between the text itself and its viewers. As Niemeyer and Wentz wrote “nostalgia is a powerful way to create this bond” (Niemeyer & Wentz, 2014, p. 129) and also “nostalgia as having a specific function for media, where the evoking of nostalgic emotions, the symbolic charge of things, aims at turning those things into desirable commodities.” (p.133). 

In particular, the teen dramas inspired by the past draw from a sort of deposit of cultural – and mostly medial –scenarios, by bringing on the screen a priori value-laden products (passional, cognitive, cultural, social) which refer back to the nostalgic discourse of some viewers’ generations. We are seeing then an overlapping of sense-laden levels: these are objects which are inscribed with the values of the past, in view of their coming from a specific historical period. These objects are also provided with meanings linked to their place in the story, and therefore connected with their presence in the TV series. In this way objects are provided with multiple possibility of meaning; the fan-audience is thus assigning them a value, on the basis of their experiences and skills. 

In these cases, the study of fan-audiences highlights the presence of several generational groups interested in the same TV series, which interpret the text – and build engagement paths– in very different ways: some may find the ‘flavour’ of their adolescence, while others appreciate the ‘freshness’ of a story set in the past. 

The way through which audiences relate with these texts and the cultural practices activated by them, raises new questions: for example, how is the classification of genre useful to differentiate the various TV series? Is a revisitation of these categories necessary? What other categories are put in question by the use that fans make of the TV series?

 

According to the type of research, the steps of my work include as a first step the analysis of the TV series text. I use qualitative-type tools, in particular the methodology of reference is from sociology and semiotics. The link between the TV series and its audiences goes through different theme features, regarding each individual story. I am interested in investigating the narrative mechanisms of the series and the way they attract different categories of “model audience” (Eco 1979). In this research framework, the fandom phenomena become forces which act starting from the texts in order to propagate – through the fans’ activity – in the different medial spaces, mostly online. 

The results coming from the analysis of the text become for me important points for the organization of the analysis of the fan-audiences. For this second step as well I adopt qualitative methods, mostly online ethnographies and interviews.

 

References

Blumer, H. (1969), Fashion: from class differentation to collective selection, «The Sociological Quarterly», vol. 10, n. 3, pp. 275–291. 

 

Eco, U. 1979, Lector in fabula, Bompiani, Milano. 

 

Edwards, T. (2011), Fashion in Focus. Concepts, Practices and Politics, Taylor & Francis, Abingdon.

 

Goffman E. (1951), Symbols of Class Status, «The British journal of Sociology»vol. .2, n° 4 (Dec.), pp. 294-304. 

 

Jenkins, H. (2006), Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, New York. 

 

Mittell, J. (2015), Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, New York University Press, New York – London.

 

Niemeyer, K., Wentz, D. (2014), “Nostalgia Is Not What It Used to Be: Serial Nostalgia and Nostalgic Television Series”, in Niemeyer Katharina (ed. by) Media and Nostalgia. Yearning for the Past, Present and Future, pp. 129-138, Palgrave Macmillian, New York.

 

Simmel G. (1895), “Zur Psychologie der Mode. Soziologische Studie”, Die Zeit, Wiener Wochensrift für Politik, Volkswirtschaft, Wissenschaft und Kunst (trad. it. La moda, Editori Riuniti, Roma).

 

 

Antonella Mascio (antonella.mascio@unibo.it) is Associate Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy. Her research interests focus on digital media, fashion communication, audience studies, nostalgia and celebrity culture. 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Fandom Jamboree: Elizaveta Kasilova

My fan studies research is devoted to the receptive analysis of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. Here, the problem of reader’s reception is examined on the material of fan fic texts which are considered a fixed receptive response. Reader's creativity is analyzed via “interpretation map” – the reading model formed jointly by author and reader. The research is concentrated mainly on the Russian reading experience of Rowling’s novels that did not lose its own originality despite the fact it includes European and American reception background.

I offer a new concept – “interpretation map” – in order to solve the problem of interaction between the text and the reader. The process of reading is considered the process of formation of the “interpretation map” consisting of two parts, invariant and variable. The invariant part includes literary and cultural traditions explicated by the author, “memory of a genre”, various thematic and figurative references; the variable part is filled by the recipient during the process of reading: what is read is influenced by reader’s experience in life and in reading, and by additional factors that determine reader reception (critical reviews, literary awards reviews, public actions, publishing policy).

The proposed term is a logical continuation of the works of the representatives of transactional reader-response theory (especially Wolfgang Iser’s [Iser 1989, 2000]) on the interaction between the reader and the text and on the “implicit reader” category. Iser did rarely take into account the real reader; it remains unclear how the text directs the reader, to what extent the reader obeys the text, how we should deal with the elements of the reader's interpretation that are imposed on the text by the reader, contradicting the author's intention. The “interpretation map” term is designed to solve this problem. The relations between the reader and the text are presented in the form of an infinite number of reading routes, which are determined by both author and reader. The author places some identification marks in his text, and the reader is free to choose to what extent he wants to follow them and whether to follow them at all; the reader is free to unite these identification marks in associative rows, not necessarily implied by the author, to give them different meanings or rebuild them in another hierarchy. The identification marks placed by the author are the invariant part of the interpretation map, and the extent to which they are to be captured, reinterpreted and rearranged in some associative rows by the reader forms its variable part.

Interpretation map is individual and is formed by the real reader during the process of his reading and under the influence of the text. I see the two-component nature of the map as a compromise between the unambiguously dominant role of the text from the point of view of transactional theory (W. Iser, H.R. Jauss, F. Rosenblatt, etc.) and the almost-negation of the text as an independent object in affective stylistics and subjective and psychological receptive theories (where the structure of the text is equated to the structure of the reader's response).

In this research [Timoshenko 2018] I consider fan texts a fixed receptive response, a form of creative mastery of the high literature and a kind of intercultural communication. The field of fan literature makes possible to see the process of reading, process of interpretation, and demonstrates the specificity and the interaction between individual and collective forms of interpretation.

In fan literature the category of author is revised, and the reader, while creating his response text, determines to what extent he should focus on the invariant part of the “interpretation map” and with which associations from personal experience and cultural luggage he should fill the variable part. The source text exists in the world of fan reader and is perceived not as a complete aesthetic object, controlled by the author's intention, but as a model of the world with hero archetypes which allows him to think and write about life and tell stories using these images.

There is somewhat peculiar relationship between the author of the source (in our case, Rowling) and readers: on the one hand, the Harry Potter text is of the greatest significance and value (the author of the fanfic must explain which pieces of original information were taken into account), on the other hand, interpretative freedom, that inherent fan fiction feature, proves that in the reader’s eyes the author of the source does not have a monopoly on truth. The author of the original text is its narrator, just like the author of the fan fic, who does not only fill the “gaps” in the original text, but also sometimes change the events quite drastically.

The most striking feature of fan fic texts – the reproduction of key scenes of the source text – is conditioned by giving equal rights to the writer and to the fan fiction author as storytellers working in the same literary universe. 

Fan fiction gives us opportunity to analyze the reader's reception as a collective activity, as I said before. Fan fiction written by fan community is regarded as a discourse controlled by the “canon” (i.e., the Harry Potter novels cycle) and the “fanon” (a collection of popular and most influential fan-made interpretations of the source). When a fan fic author is writing his text, he should inscribe it in the “canon” so that the text would be acknowledged as a part of the Harry Potter fan field; it is also impossible to ignore popular fan interpretations, as each new fan text becomes a “cue” in the dialogue that fan community represents.

Fan fic authors and readers’ interpretation of the source text has two forms, implicit and explicit. Implicitly the interpretation is expressed in the fan text, explicitly – in the author's comments and discussions that surround the fan text. Fan texts as well as discussions contain numerous references to the source (Rowling’s novels) that become the “access code”, creating a separate group of fan readers.

Fan literature dialogism is embodied in a specific type of image, “charactereme”, which reduces the hero to a set of repeating features, both external and internal [Prasolova 2009]. The discourse nature of fan creativity is also expressed in the specific chronotope of fan texts: an author takes well-known places from the Wizarding world in order to inscribe his text into Rowling’s universe. Fan texts are not always tied to the time period of the Harry Potter books events, but temporary markers (Harry Potter’s school years, Harry’s parents’ school years, etc.) are always present in the fan fic, directly or indirectly.

“Fanon” also includes a set of “interpretative clichés”, which are international and does not depend on national factors. Via “interpretative clichés” analysis I can divide them into creative interpretations of 1) love plots, 2) climactic moments of the Harry Potter saga, 3) images of main characters, 4) family relations, 5) wizarding world in general; 6) dominant space or time coordinates of the fan fic events. In addition to international “interpretive clichés”, there are many other sustainable interpretations in the fan community.

One of the most important part of the Russian fan interpretation’ analysis is a discussion on the questions: 1) How do Russian fans understand literary and cultural allusions in the Harry Potter cycle? 2) Are there any Russian specifics in Russian fan fiction?

Despite the fan authors’ attempts to make Russian fan texts sounds “in the English way”, there are lots of specific features in representation of characters, plot devices, concepts, etc. 

For instance, the “universal hero” archetype (Rowling used it describing Harry Potter) is transformed into the set of features called “heroism”, inherent for Harry as a character. However, this set is used in fan fiction in different ways: a popular pattern is to explain Harry’s heroism, his being elected, as a heavy burden imposed by a) fate (thus Harry stands very close the hero of classic tragedy), b) cruel society, which does not care about a broken life (in this case hero’s image acquires some features of a so-called “small man” – important Russian cultural concept), c) cunning politicians (Harry appears a puppet, naive idealist, who is being sacrificed for some great idea). 

As another example, “snake-like opponent”, Lord Voldemort, rarely appears in fan texts; the “snake” connotations are understood by Russian fan authors, but the Dark Lord himself becomes a background rather that an acting character. Perhaps it is because of these folklore connotations that the readers perceive the antagonist as an abstract evil, not a person with his own experience and life choices, and therefore he is not suitable for the strategy of emotional intensification so important for fan literature. Death Eaters (Voldemort’s allies), however, are exposed to psychological unfolding and sometimes justification, “protest interpretation”. 

Rowling’s appeal to national folklore traditions while describing magical creatures and wielding magic is supported in a number of fan texts. I know fan texts in which a ritual rooted in some national tradition is described, but these rituals are interesting to the author only as a way to show the developing of some kind of relationship between the characters.

The “Englishness” of Rowling’s books is reflected in fan texts in the form of attempts to create “British flavor”: 1) they use foreign names and descriptions of real places in England; 2) they mention English everyday realities; 3) they appeal to cultural phenomena (e.g., classic English literature); 4) they mention the features traditionally attributed to British mentality.

Russian national specificity is manifested in the considered texts explicitly and implicitly: explicitly – in the names of fan texts or separate chapters referring to famous Russian poems, etc., in the use of Russian colloquial expressions; and implicitly – in the form of behavioral or social traits that consciously or unconsciously penetrate into fan texts. Colloquial speech and profanity are used by the author most often to create a comic effect via the combination of incongruous: typically “Russian” speech inside English fairy tale. If specific Russian vocabulary and imagery are used seriously, and not for comic relief, it is, as a rule, perceived as marginalized by members of the fan community and is ridiculed in discussions inside the community. 

As the analysis of the texts shows, the reader most often takes into account the invariant part of the interpretation map (to the extent allowed by his/her reading experience and education), since thus it is possible to create his/her interpretation, but he is absolutely free to decide to what extent he/she should obey Rowling’s intention. The source exists in the fan reader world not as a complete aesthetic object, controlled by the author's intention, but as a myth, a certain model of the world with some archetypal participants, and using them one is allowed to speak freely about life, about oneself, to tell stories of one’s own liking.

Fans’ attachment to the “characteremes” when an infinite range of interpretations and the development of images has already been invented by Rowling, shows that the characters are used in fan writing not only to create a reinterpretation, but also as a way to tell one’s story, talk about problems, express feelings. As Rowling’s heroes’ “characteremes” are connected to the images that exist in our minds and popular culture as certain patterns or stereotypes, they are being used very actively. 

There is a revision of main literary categories in the field of fan literature: 1) genre system becomes a system of labels associated with some event, plot scheme or mood; 2) an image exists as a set of fixed features, but fans are free to interpret it as they see fit, which reflects the nature of reader's perception of character and his existence in culture, especially popular culture; 3) reader's interpretation is considered not so much as personal phenomenon, the formation of which is connected to the psyche of a particular person, but as a social phenomenon.

Fan fiction literature also shows how national and international aspects are interconnected: while the international system of interpretative and genre clichés is very well developed, national matters are also reflected in the fan fiction.

 

References

1.     Wolfgang Iser. The Range of Interpretation. – 2000. 

2.     Wolfgang Iser. Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology. – 1989.

3.     Prasolova K.A. Fanfiction: A literary phenomenon of the late XX – early XXI century (the work of fans of J.K.Rowling). - Philosophy Doctor Thesis (in Russian). – Kaliningrad, 2009.

4.     Timoshenko (Kasilova) Elizaveta K. Reception of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling: Russian reading pattern. - Philosophy Doctor Thesis (in Russian). – Moscow, 2018.

 

Elizaveta Kasilova - PhD in literature (Russian State University for the Humanities, subject of the dissertation paper: “Reception of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling: Russian reading pattern”). She is a literature teacher at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, and a creator of the courses on creative writing and guest lecturer at culture centers “Level One”, “Punctum”, “Chitalcafe” (Moscow). Her research interests are mostly concentrated on fan fiction, comparative research, creative writing.

Her publications related to “Harry Potter” and fandom are: 

 

1.     Kasilova E.K. Russian fan fiction about “Harry Potter” as a model of the reader's reception: reinterpretation of archetypes. - Archives of Affect. Productivity in Fan Cultures. Amsterdam University Press. (in press)

2.     Timoshenko E.K. Allusions to the Arthurian legend in J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter”. Humanities and Science University Journal, 2018, no. 41, pp. 129-134. (in Russian)

3.     Timoshenko E.K. Neo mythological issues of J.K. Rowling’s novels “Harry Potter”. Udmurt State University Bulletin, 2017, vol. 27, i. 5, pp. 767-770. (in Russian)

4.     Timoshenko E.K. The Russian fan fiction strategies in texts based on the “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy. Udmurt State University Bulletin, 2015, vol. 25, i. 6, pp. 89-94. (in Russian)

5.     Timoshenko E.K. The “Russian code” in fan fiction on “Harry Potter”. National codes in 19th-21st century European literature, collective monograph. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod, 2016, pp. 238-245. (in Russian)

6.     Timoshenko E.K. Genre originality of fan literature: cliché, canon, “fan poetics.” Proc. 45th International Philological Research Conference. St. Petersburg, 2016, P.58. (in Russian)

7.     Timoshenko E.K. Fanfiction of community of fans of the Harry Potterʼs saga as a discourse. STEPHANOS online edition. Peer reviewed multilanguage scientific journal. Project of Philological faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University. 2015, no. 6 (14), pp. 250-255. (in Russian)

8.     Timoshenko E.K. Russian reception of the English text: fan fiction on Harry Potter. Proc. 44th International Philological Research Conference. St. Petersburg, 2015, pp. 81-83. (in Russian)

9.     Timoshenko E.K. Russian fan fiction on Harry Potter: image system and chronotope. Russian literature in the world cultural context: 5th International congress. Selected papers and abstracts. Moscow, Belyi Veter Publ., 2015, vol. 1, pp. 714-719. (in Russian)

Wanted: A Few Good People

Wanted: A few good people to help with this blog. After more than 15 years of running this blog, the demands on my time have grown, my energy is diminishing, and so I am seeking to build an editorial team around the blog to help sustain it. This is totally unpaid labor. I have no income or funding to support this blog. It is a labor of love, but I can’t help but think that what it does is of broad value within the community and worth sustaining. I would love to put together a diverse team from whatever criteria you want to consider: Gender, Sexuality, Race and Ethnicity, Nationality, Institutional Affiliation, and Intellectual Focus. It would be great to have people who reflect the range of recurring themes here – fandom and participatory culture, civic media and the imagination, new media literacies, creative industries, etc. My hope is to work with the team in support of the ongoing publication of the blog for now and gradually shift control over to them over the next several years so that I might eventually play a more diminished role. The kinds of help would be initially largely technical – posting, illustrating, contacting writers – and then increasingly editorial – writing, proposing and coordinating interviews and conversation series, etc. So, if this sounds interesting to you (or if you have students you would want to nominate), please write to me at hjenkins@usc.edu.




Global Fandom: Dominika Ciesielska (Poland) and Giulia Iannuzzi (Italy) (Part Two)

Italian fanzine Inside Star Trek, issue 21 (October 1988), cover and pages 18-19. Cover design: Alberto Lisiero. Pages 18-19 feature a review of Incontro a Farpoint, Italian translation of TNG, 1:1 - Encounter at Farpoint, part 1, distributed on vhs in 1987. The review highlighted a number of inaccuracies in the translation for the Italian dubbing. Courtesy of the Star Trek Italian Club, under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Giulia Iannuzzi

Second response to Dominika Ciesielska / Closing remarks

 

Dear Dominika - and dear readers of the global fandom series - your latest reflections seem to me to open up extremely useful pathways for understanding fandom in its linguistic-geographical articulation and in the complexity of its practices and communities. 

I was fascinated by the similarities that the case of Star Trek fandom presents between the Italian and Polish contexts. I can add to this that the broadcasting of The Original Series in Italy about a decade after the first American airing had to do with a season of privatization and sale of television frequencies. In the early years of TV, television channels in Italy had been managed exclusively by the state; Star Trek was broadcast from 1979 by TMC, a station based in the Principality of Monaco, which at the time of its foundation in 1974 had become the main competitor of the Italian public channels (RAI). Thus, the time that elapsed between the birth of the series in America and its arrival in Italy was not due to political reasons linked to the existence of the Soviet bloc, but to economic reasons, pertaining the penetration in the peninsula of the forms and rules of the free market. The Italian translation for the dubbing of The Original Serieswas hasty and not accurate: it simplified and levelled down the technical-scientific and pseudo-scientific language, and lacked coherence in the way recurring and characteristic terms were rendered (expressions such as “to beam”, “phaser”, “warp drive” to mention but a few examples were translated in different ways in different episodes without this being due to any particular need for synchronization). The image of the public that these translations conveyed was, in short, unequivocally that of an audience that was culturally less prepared than its American counterpart of a decade earlier, especially in the scientific field, as demonstrated by the impoverishment of the relative lexical sphere, and as indicated by the general difficulty with which neologisms were rendered (or eliminated). The Italian fans proved that the real audience was better prepared than the gatekeepers. Since the late 1980s, after the dissatisfaction manifested towards the first dubbings of The Original Series, the Star Trek Italian Club began a series of collaborations aimed at promoting and supervising the quality and philological accuracy of the franchise’s products in Italy. Over the years, the club has collaborated, for example, with consultancies at various Italian publishing houses that have printed novelizations and derivative works, and with the supervision of translations for the dubbing of the new series and feature films that arrived in Italy and the new editions of The Original Series from 1990 onwards (I would take the liberty of referencing Iannuzzi 2014 on this case study). The case therefore seems to me to be particularly illustrative of the two-way relationship that Italian fandom has been able to establish with the cultural industry, precisely with regard to the forms in which English-language products that enjoy global success circulate in Italy.

It seems to me, too, that the adoption of new technologies - in particular the use of new social networks and digital platforms for the creation and sharing of content such as Twitter, Tumblr, TikTok - has favored the aggregation of new communities. My impression is that these communities of practice often operate in a complementary way to the pre-existing landscape, i.e. without replacing previous spaces and methods. In other words, the spaces opened up by new media and platforms tend to multiply the articulations of fan activities and foster the widespread presence of multiple forms of belonging, according to a very differentiated spectrum of levels of identification, engagement and activism. Mine, however, is a very superficial impression, because for the Italian context there is a great disproportion between the extension of the phenomenon - i.e. the remarkable amount of content and communicational exchanges produced every day within fan communities on various platforms as well as in more traditional occasions of exchange - and the collection and systematic study of data on this. The researches carried out so far have offered sometimes excellent insights, but we are still far from having an overall mapping, even only with regard to specific communities. Studies have been conducted on the use of given platforms or the interest in given media, genres, works, authors. For example, Rossetti 2013 interrogated fanfiction as a tool/experience that may promote the learning of English as a foreign language also thanks to the particular emotional investment of those who read and write it; Sebastiani 2015 considered fanfiction based on Valerio Evangelisti’s Eymerich cycle; Renga 2016 touched upon fanfiction related to the TV series Gomorra.

Digital technologies have certainly fostered the emergence of new practices also in the world of fan studies, where interesting investigations were recently carried out on large corpora of fanfiction with text mining tools and computational sociolinguistics techniques. Rebora et al. 2021 proposed the application of a range of methodologies in the field of digital humanities to the new forms taken on by social reading practices on the net; Mattei et al. 2021 applied computational methods to the analysis of a large corpus of Italian Harry Potter fanfiction. The current research interests you mentioned towards the end of your remarks seem to me extremely promising in this sense as well, in their ability to combine an interest in the emotional investment involved in fan activities and methodologies that can make the best of the digital environment in which some fan activities are carried out, e.g. the presence of tagging systems, and commenting and sharing spaces which may help us in navigating textual corpora and study texts circulation. I look forward with great curiosity to seeing the results of this exciting new generation of fan studies.

 

 

Works Cited

Iannuzzi Giulia, 2014; “«To boldly go where no series has gone before». Star Trek. The Original Series in Italia: il linguaggio della tecno-scienza, il doppiaggio, il fandom”, Between, 4, 8. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1343

Mattei Andrea, Dominique Brunato, Felice Dell’Orletta, 2021, “The Style of a Successful Story: A Computational Study on the Fanfiction Genre”, in Proceedings of the Seventh Italian Conference on Computational Linguistics, Bologna, Italy, March 1-3, 2021, eds Johanna Monti, Felice Dell’Orletta, Fabio Tamburini (Turin: Accademia University Press, 2020), https://doi.org/10.4000/books.aaccademia.8718

Rebora Simone, Peter Boot, Federico Pianzola, Brigitte Gasser, J. Berenike Herrmann, Maria Kraxenberger, Moniek M Kuijpers, Gerhard Lauer, Piroska Lendvai, Thomas C. Messerli, Pasqualina Sorrentino, 2021, “Digital humanities and digital social reading”, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 36, 2: ii230-ii250. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqab020.

Renga Dana, 2016, “Gomorra: la Serie: Beyond Realism”, The Italianist 36, 2: 287-292. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614340.2016.1176711

Rossetti Elena, 2013, Reading and writing fan fiction in English as a foreign language: a survey study, MA thesis, University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, a.y. 2012-13.

Sebastiani, Alberto, 2015, “Fan fiction and politics. The case Eymerich and criticism to the Catholic Church”, Between, 5, n. 10. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1582

 

27 March 2022

 


 

Dominika Ciesielska

Response to dr Giulia Iannuzzi / Closing remarks

 

Dear Giulia - and Global Fandom readers - I see clearly that I can’t rival your Star Trek knowledge, but if you’re interested in the Polish context, I recommend Agnieszka Urbańczyk’s works, namely her recently published Utopia is sold separately: the politics of the science fiction genre in fan reception (as illustrated by Star Trek) - although as far as I’m aware it’s currently only available in Polish. It’s interesting to see how such staple for global fandom texts of culture play a different role, have a different history and meaning in different countries. As a Polish person I find it fascinating to see how it is unravelling with The Witcher, which has been a vital part of the Polish fantasy fandom since the 90s and now I meet people who don’t even speak Polish and haven’t read the books, but are also affected by Geralt’s life story. Some met the witcher in the video games, some in the Netflix show and their experience is vastly different than mine. Their story was lived on the computer screen, mine on old books with white covers that I searched for in all local libraries, one by one. Their Geralt is Henry Cavill, mine will always be Michał Żebrowski, regardless of what I think about their performances. I could say it’s like with Star Trek, but I think for someone outside of the Anglo-American environment it is much more significant that something from our culture is recognizable - and greatly appreciated! - by people all over the world.

 

I completely agree with what you said about new communities (gathered around new media) being complementary to the old ones, rather than replacing them. There’s a question whether those communities are new at all - yes, I would say they differ, but at the same time they’re not mutually exclusive. TikTok community behaves in a certain way on TikTok and Tumblr community behaves a certain way on Tumblr, but they may as well consist of the same people using various platforms for various reasons and goals. And someone who used to only get fanzines in the mail can now also use Twitter. I would say the fandom - as this giant medley of individual or variously grouped people - adapted to the new possibilities, not moving into the next medium, but rather spreading everywhere with varying levels of engagement. This allowed for dissemination (and adaptation) of fan practices into all those new media, but also for creating new customs and methods based on what the new media allows and how it inspires. I enjoy seeing people gathering on Tumblr to create a fanzine that will be published in paper form just like it was done before the internet, as well as those who use digital art form to create something accessible only virtually. I think this is a great example of the coexistence of the old and the new fan practices, alongside self-published fan books (I myself own several and they are cherished) or personalised art for those who support the artist on platforms like Patreon or Ko-fi.

 

Thank you for the suggestions for further reading, I’ll definitely check them out. Digital humanities is certainly a very interesting field and I find it especially useful to compare the original and the translation of a text. I haven’t done any research in that area, but I would be very curious about such an analysis of Harry Potter. As a fan I have noticed differences between the Polish translation and the original English that influenced my understanding and interpretation of the story and I believe it affects how fans interact with canon, for example in fanfiction. Elizaveta Kasilova touched upon this issue in her paper at the aforementioned ARTIFACTS, ARCHIVES, AFFAIRS. Perspectives on fan productionsconference. She talked about how Russian fans understand cultural references in Harry Potter and how it reflects in fanfiction. It would be interesting to use digital technologies to analyse the original, the translations, and the fanfics. 

 

Thank you for this exchange, I enjoyed learning about the Italian perspective and sharing the Polish one. I am very glad I could be a part of the whole Global Fandom conversation, I hope it is only the beginning of this wide international discussion. I’ve been interested in bringing various perspectives together for a while - for the past three years I’ve taught a course about fanfiction for undergraduate students that was designed to study and compare fan works from different cultures. It’s in English, so not only Polish students can participate, although they still are the majority each semester. I’ve been lucky to observe students’ research from the fanfiction sphere in several countries, and I find it very educational to compare them to my own experience as a fan and a fan scholar. I believe this kind of exchange is essential for the future of fan studies (and academic research in general), so I’m very happy it’s happening and I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute.

 

Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Dominika Ciesielska (Poland) and Giulia Iannuzzi (Italy) (Part One)

Response to Dominika Ciesielska’s opening statement for Henry Jenkins’ global fandom studies conversation series

 

Dear Dominika - and dear readers of Henry Jenkins' global fandom studies conversation series - it is a real pleasure to comment on your opening statement, I read it with great interest for a number of reasons. It seems to me that your intellectual trajectories - in reading, in participating in fandoms such as Harry Potter’s, and in the academic fandom studies community - represent a fascinating experience of belonging to multiple linguistic, cultural, and emotional groups.

Among the points that struck me immediately, and certainly of great interest for a reflection on fandom in a global perspective, is the attention you paid in your notes to linguistic and translational aspects. You mention that your direct experience in fandom taught you that "a certain dialect that was a result of a mix of fannish terms and poor translation" and you mention the choices of fanfic translators regarding the language to describe sex. It would seem to me that in Polish fandom there is a lively activity of translation. This raises my curiosity, because I believe our perception of a global cultural landscape is very much influenced by the circulation of works that straddle linguistic borders, which often means in translation. In your experience, is translation of fanfiction from other languages a central or marginal part of fan activity in Poland? What languages do people translate from? I can imagine that in the translation market it is perhaps the Anglosphere that is the main importer, as it undoubtedly is in Italy: is that the case? Perhaps, however, the Polish cultural scene is sensitive to receiving input or having exchanges with other linguistic areas as well.

That the circulation of texts and practices across linguistic borders does not coincide with translation also emerges well from your remarks, when you mention the fact that for many fans Polish-language fan fiction represented a stage that was later abandoned in favor of entering global fandom. I guess by "global" we all mean English-speaking. It would be interesting to understand if the participation in this global English-speaking fandom of so many individuals from different linguistic-cultural backgrounds tends to enrich its diversity, and in some way "creolize" language, styles and practices: if there is anything that your experience and studies allow you to add about this I would be very interested.

This question brings me to the heart of an issue related to the mono- or pluri-directionality of global relationships in our domain: the fact that the interconnectedness at the geographic-spatial and cultural levels we are concerned with is also influenced by power relationships. This seems to me to come across very well in your opening statement about fandom studies in academia, where for example you talk about the relative difficulty of access to research materials (e.g. the most recent publications, or databases and aggregators). Here there may be a problem of relative peripherality with respect to the main centers of production in this field (a peripherality that Italian universities certainly share), as well as the limited resources that fandom studies manage to attract in countries like Poland or Italy where the field has little or no institutional recognition as a discipline.

It also seems significant to me that in order to participate in the global conversation about fandom (i.e., make our contribution to the scholarly field and reaching an international readership) the output of our research must generally be conveyed in English. Thus, our integration into the global field of studies also depends on the economic and linguistic capital we have at our disposal. I don't know of many forums (journals, platforms) that apply a plurilingual model, maybe you know of some examples though.

I am very fascinated by your work on the emotional aspects of fandom. Do you study these aspects through language? Or what other kinds of sources and methods do you employ? In the conference you organized in 2019 at Jagiellonian University I see that artifacts also had a central place. The life of fannish objects also seems to me to be a field that could potentially tell us a lot about international exchange dynamics and emotional investments, and perhaps until now has been relatively less studied than writing-based activities. If there's anything you'd like to add about this I'd be very curious.

 

Italian fanzine Intercom, issue 90 (May 1987), including Enzo Verrengia’s article "Stanislaw Lem: l'universo nei micromondi” (Stanislaw Lem: the universe within microcosmos). Private collection. Under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.



23 January 2022



 

Dominika Ciesielska

Response to dr Giulia Iannuzzi

 

Dear Giulia - and everyone! - reading your opening statement gave me an idea of how similar Polish and Italian fan scenes are, both for the fans and for the scholars. Your detailed overview of the fan studies discipline (or technically lack thereof) in Italian academia sounds very familiar and reminds me of issues that I myself face with the institutional recognition of fan studies or data and sources accessibility. Despite that, there is a rapidly increasing number of scholars interested in that field and insightful publications. I am excited to be a part of this growing area of studies.

I find your question about the influence of the new media on fan activities and vice versa very interesting. Since I entered the fandom when it was already quite well established in the Web 2.0, I haven’t observed how it changed compared to the pre-internet era, but I have seen how the fandom I participated in adapted to new technologies over the past fifteen years. It essentially branched out into Twitter fandom, Tumblr fandom, TikTok fandom etc., creating so many new ways to engage with other fans and fannish content. I see fandom (understood very broadly) conquering new territories with ease and bravado, not only adapting to their capacities, but also creating ways of interacting with them that influence a significant group of internet users who don’t identify with the fandom. It is a fascinating subject! Have you noticed any technology-related fan practices that emerged recently? Or which ones do you consider the most significant?

I’m not surprised that Italian (pop)culture - and, consequently, fan culture as well - is heavily affected by Anglo-American works. It is also noticeable in Poland and in my opinion in fan works more so than in canon. Aspiring to join the global - yes, as you have noticed I do mean English-speaking - fandom meant that foreign sounding pseudonyms and translations were rather popular. I don’t dare to give a definite answer whether translation is a central or marginal activity in Polish fandom, it would require further studies, but in my experience there was a significant number of translated works - more so on forums than blogs which may have something to do with the characteristics of each platform. As I said in my opening statement, it influenced the language even of the originally Polish works, adopting arguably poor translations as sort of dialectic terms further used by many fanfic authors. Keeping that in mind it is indeed difficult to judge the Polishness of the Polish fandom or the Italiannes of the Italian one. However, I think both Polish and Italian fans, as well as all the other nations, leave a mark on the global fandom, “creolizing it”, as you put it. An English speaking reader can encounter a beautiful variety of fanfics which on top of the canon material or fanfiction tropes utilise their local context, including for example national traditions or religious customs in the plot. Those local elements seep into the whole of global fandom in texts, conversations, cultural exchange, making the English default richer than just “original” English language (which in itself isn’t homogenous considering how many nations speak it as natives). This global English - or specifically fannish English - reigns on most global platforms making it seem like plurilingual ones are not necessary. Of course there are sites like AO3, but it only gathers works in many languages, there isn’t much exchange between them. I suppose it would be very difficult to run something that doesn’t have a common base of communication, although at one of the Fan Studies Network Conferences I’ve heard an idea of such exchange based on mostly automatic translations of provided specifically prepared texts. It was a few years ago and nowadays one could argue Facebook works this way, offering translations of most languages, providing, in theory, a platform of multilingual exchange. I must say, though, these translations are often full of critical errors when it comes to Polish or, as I observe currently, Ukrainian. Perhaps it is better with Italian?

I noticed you placed the birth of the Italian Star Trek fandom in the early 1980s. As fan scholars I’m sure we are all used to Star Trek being a turning point in the history of fans in the 60s, but similarly to Italy, Poland got access to the TV show much later, which was also the case for a huge part of Western culture because of the Soviet-Union-dependent Polish People’s Republic that Poland was from 1947 to 1989. It had a huge impact on the fan culture that for a long time focused on Polish fantasy and science fiction authors like Stanisław Lem or Andrzej Sapkowki, or Russian Strugatsky brothers. All of them are still highly respected in fan circles in Poland, and Sapkowski even more so with The Witcher’s international recognition and success (although what you would call “The Witcher’s fandom” changed significantly since the 90s).

To answer your last questions - my work on emotional aspects of fandom is still in the development stage, so I am looking for the best tool to study it. I’ve been looking into the language, yes, but also at readers’ comments and reactions, and the way fanfics circulate on the internet, how they are introduced, described or tagged (e.g. “this story will make you cry”). It fascinates me how “the feels” are the centre point of attention when talking about a fic, its reason and goal. Artifacts, however, aren’t my specialty, so I recommend looking forward to the upcoming Archives of Affect… book that I’m privileged to know includes some very interesting analyses about the subject. 

Kraków, 26 March 2022



 


Global Fandom: Ianuzzi Giulia (Italy)

 Image credit: Europa Report 2, First European SF Convention, Trieste (Italy), July 12-16, 1972. Cover art by Leonardo Caposiena. Private Collection.

 

Image creditEuropa Report 2, First European SF Convention, Trieste (Italy), July 12-16, 1972. Cover art by Leonardo Caposiena. Private Collection. Under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.



The wide range of activities organized by speculative fiction fans has been, in the Italian cultural context, markedly independent from the problematic reception reserved for speculative genres by academics, intellectuals, and cultural institutions. The historical and technical development of Italian sf fandom goes from the first clubs and correspondences in the late 1950s, through the cyclostyled fanzines appeared in the 1960s, the spread of Bulletin Board Systems in the 1990s, and the advent of the Internet in the 2000s. Until today, this history (as well as reading and association practices in earlier phases, and current fan activities) has largely been a critical underground. Fandom studies are not recognized in the Italian university system as a subject or field of teaching in its own right: research and courses can be found within the activities of individual scholars in literary, historical, media and communication disciplines. A number of first-hand accounts and historical reconstructions written by the protagonists and/or by professionals working in the science fiction market is available.

Issues of primary data and accessibility of sources are crucial, since publications and other memorabilia produced at a non-professional level are not usually to be found in public libraries, and are hence difficult to access. The Italian-speaking world has no equivalent to bibliographical holdings such as the Eaton Collection (University of California Riverside), and the SF Foundation Collection (University of Liverpool), except maybe for the Fondo Sandrelli [the ‘Sandrelli Papers’], part of Biblioteca di via Senato in Milan (which, perhaps significantly, is a private library not connected to a university of other cultural heritage/research center). A significant collection of secondary literature can be found at APICE (Archivi della Parola, dell'Immagine e della Comunicazione Editoriale [‘Word, Image and Editorial Communication Archives’]) center of the University of Milan, thanks to an important donation by Darko Suvin. Some useful online resources are available: Italian initiatives similar to the Fan History Project and The SF Oral History Association are devoted, on a smaller scale, to cataloguing paper-based fanzines: this is the case of the Prontuario delle Fanzine italiane [‘Italian Fanzines Handbook’], part of the portal Intercom SF Station, and of the photographic archive featured on the website Fantascienza.com, preserving visual documentation.

My research on science fiction fan activities in Italy started from central questions drawing on an international scholarly tradition, and particularly on the approach established by Henry Jenkins regarding fans’ productions analyzed as a means of re-creating cultural contents across media: where can fan activities be positioned in relation to the professional fields of science fiction cultural production across different media? How have the new media influenced fans’ activities and the form and workings of fan communities, by making new spaces and tools available to produce content and connect people? And how, in turn, have these people and their activities influenced media development and the shape of the contemporary Italian mediascape? To what extent is Italian fandom Italian? Do fans who live in Italy and/or have Italian as their first language refer, and if so to what extent, to a transnational network of relationships and circulation of knowledge?

It may be of some assistance to the international reader to have a general idea of specialized science-fiction readership and audience in Italy today. The average print run of the most popular specialized newsstand series, Urania, during the 2000s was 12,000 copies per issue, the Star Trek Italian Club had 6,500 members in 2001, while smaller numbers of people are usually actively involved in fan activities. The Star Trek Italian Club Convention, for example, gathers around 1,000 attendees each year.

Since the end of the WWII until nowadays, the Italian speculative fiction market has been characterized by a large number of translations from English, of books, but also of films and television series. There were significant home-grown precursors of the genre, but science fiction did not arrive in Italy as a label until the so-called “economic boom” of the 1950s, and its recent history has consisted mostly of translations of Anglo-American productions. Emblematic of this direct influence is the Italian word ‘fantascienza’, coined in 1952 as a direct translation of the English ‘science fiction’, or the widespread use of linguistic borrowings such as ‘horror’, ‘fantasy’, ‘cyberpunk’, ‘weird’.

After the protectionism that had characterized the decades of the Fascist regime and the difficulties that slowed down the cultural industry during WWII, Italian fandom therefore took shape in a highly internationalized cultural context. Characterized by U.S. influence during the years of the Marshall Plan, the book market, and film and television productions also showed to a lesser extent some influence of the cultural ties that the Italian communist left maintained with the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, and the relationships that Italy has traditionally maintained with its European neighbors (in the speculative fiction publishing market, especially notable with the United Kingdom and France). 

Today, to give just a few very general coordinates, the market share of U.S. productions in Italian movie theaters in an average pre-pandemic year was over 65% (according to reports from the National Association of Cinematographic Audiovisual and Digital Industries). In Italian bookshops, around 20%-30% of new books each year is represented by translations, of which English is the source language for more than 60% (according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics). But in popular speculative fiction collections by major publishers, translations from English easily reach and rise above 80% of titles featured. This should not lead one to think of a unidirectional exchange. A few cinematic science fiction masterpieces filmed in Dante’s language have reached the international market (e.g. Gabriele Salvatores’ Nirvanain 1998 or Gabriele Mainetti’s They Call Me Jeeg in 2015 to give just two arbitrary examples). Over the years there has been no lack of translations of Italian speculative literature into other languages, including English, with a prevalence of “non-genre” authors (e.g. Italo Calvino, Dino Buzzati, Primo Levi), of science fiction authors appearing mainly in anthologies (e.g. Lino Aldani, Renato Pestriniero - both also active in the fandom in the 1960s and 1970s) and more rarely with translations of novels (Valerio Evangelisti; or the rediscovery of a nineteenth-century precursor such as Paolo Mantegazza). This being said, it can be maintained that the Italian “translation balance” - so to speak - has remained largely negative (i.e. more titles are translated into Italian than are translated into other languages from Italian).

When it comes to translations from other source languages, especially non-European ones, there may be specific barriers which make translating more of a challenge, including the relative scarcity of professional translators able to translate directly into Italian (this would be the case, for example, of Chinese or Japanese). This explains the frequent appearance of works and anthologies translated from English translations (and, less frequently, especially during past decades, from French) - in other words, with the mediation - linguistic and therefore cultural - of English and American publishing initiatives and editors.

Thus, fans of speculative genres in the peninsula have been familiar with a megatext that is largely trans-national and dominated by an Anglo-American canon. Fan activities reflected - and still today reflect - this background, at the same time providing significant spaces for content penalized by these trends dominating the cultural market.

 In many ways, the birth of Italian science fiction fandom followed, a few decades later, the same steps known in the Anglo-American context: magazines such as Oltre il Cielo and Futuro between the late 1950s and early 1960s favored the dawn of a mutual acquaintance between fans by publishing readers’ mail columns, encouraging the start of correspondence and the founding of clubs in the cities of the peninsula. Since these early experiences, fandom has functioned as a training ground, in which those who will become professional (writers and editors) in the following years take their first steps.

Fanzines have functioned as a litmus test for the professional market, giving an outlet to what otherwise might found no space in major publications and media: reviews and critical debates, poetry, translations from languages other than English, and short stories and essays by Italian authors. 

One of the most striking consequences of the translation scenario described above was the widespread adoption, in professional publications, of foreign pseudonyms by Italian authors (preferably male pseudonyms, even in the case of female writers) and a large presence of pseudotranslations (works published not only under foreign pseudonyms but also with a fictitious original title and translator). Therefore, the regular inclusion of Italian authors with their real names in fanzines (as well as in a few niche magazines) in the 1960s and after contributed to making the existence of Italian genre writers visible. In a book market such as the Italian one, whose limited size makes it particularly difficult for writers to professionalize (i.e. make creative writing their livelihood), fanzines also represented for many aspiring writers the beginning of a path otherwise precluded in professional publications. Significant to this scenario is also the fact that the primary occupation of some of the leading genre writers and editors of publications over the decades - almost always starting out as fans and then turning professional - has been that of translator (from English).

One can recognize a strong influence of a transnational genre canon in the writing of Italian fans, who quickly assimilated the tropes and stylemes of a shared encyclopedia widely developed elsewhere, alongside the knowledge and reuse of elements of the Italian literary tradition; but certainly this is a vast field where the creative choices are as varied as the participants are numerous, and where a systematic investigation is yet to be conducted.

The strong links with the Anglosphere also determine one of the most debated critical problems in the analysis of fan writing - as well as in the assessment of works that reach the outlet of professional publications, and of audiovisual productions -: to what extent and in what way is Italian speculative fiction Italian? Over the decades various critical theses have been advanced, from the underlining of a particular interest in archaeological and philosophical science fiction strands that emerged in the 1950s, to the strong vocation of critique of the present and exploration of inner spaces that has generally characterized the best-known critical theses in subsequent decades.

The macroscopic nature of the translation phenomenon in the second half of the twentieth century - as well as the scant attention devoted to the archipelago of fantastic genres in Italian literature departments - has also generated a certain difficulty in the critical appreciation of precedents in the Italian language. The historical distrust of many major publishers, of the cultural pages of newspapers and literary magazines towards the labels of fantastic genres has also meant that in recent years some of the most interesting authors and works in the field have been published without any reference to genres such as science fiction (e.g. some of the novels of Tullio Avoledo) or with exclusive references to utopian genres or to climatological fiction, which seem to enjoy a patent of greater cultural nobility (e.g. Qualcosa, là fuori by Bruno Arpaia). Some of these historical-critical themes present, I believe, elements of strong similarity to what has happened and is happening in other European countries (and it is a pity that there are few wide-ranging comparative studies on this - a shortcoming that this forum will certainly help to overcome).

 

Fan interest often showed how the horizon of expectation was more mature and responsive than the cultural industry programs seemed to assume. A striking example: while Urania - the popular series of Mondadori publishing house - featured J.G. Ballard’s catastrophic novels, and a few of his experimental short stories were proposed in niche magazines, “Which Way to Inner Space?” was first translated and published by Riccardo Valla in his fanzine Sevagram (1968), thanks to his personal correspondence with the author.

The early activism of the fans shows an ease of passage from the reception to the production of content, the ability to assume a cultural agency that, even beyond any evaluation of what is produced (which awaits to be systematically conducted), is a remarkable element in itself, and all the more if placed against the backdrop of the indifference and distrust surrounding science fiction in the generalist media and in contemporary academic circles.

The organization of the first Eurocon in Italy (1972) suggested Italian fandom’s  engagement with the international scene and contacts across geographical and political boundaries), thanks to the activism and contacts of, among others, Giampaolo Cossato, also an excellent translator. Similarly, there was the birth of an Italian Star Trek fandom in the early 1980s and the first national convention and foundation of the official fan club in 1986.  From then on, Italy saw fanzines, conventions, games, forums, encyclopedic resources and production of fanfiction. The production of Trek fanfiction has also developed outside the official club’s publications, such as, to give just one example, on the EFP website - giving rise to a vast corpus that still awaits critical investigation. Among noteworthy contents are also fanfictions that Italian fans translate from English: a sign of the transnational organization that ties fandoms across national borders, as well as of a use of fanfiction in the context of linguistic self-training. Regarding the world of paper and digital sf fanzines today - according to a survey conducted in 2015 - Italian fanzines publish, alongside texts in Italian, texts translated from English (in almost 24% of cases) and from other languages (9.5%), and in 3.2% texts in languages other than Italian.

The permeability of the Italian cultural market and the decisive ties that speculative production in the peninsula has had (and has) with an international scenario suggest a possible, fascinating problematization of the very concepts of belonging and identity with which we approach the historical-sociological analysis of cultural phenomena. Notions of nationality and/or linguistic-cultural belonging such as “Italian” seem useful for a historical-empirical analysis not so much as boundaries of sets with respect to which individuals position themselves in terms of clear-cut affiliation or exclusion, but as elements of identification and self-identification that are part of complex and nuanced constellations, in which different spatial and temporal scales may interact, and which may be historically constructed by flows of exchange at multiple levels. Many of the key questions I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection remain open and others could be added, making fandom in Italy a promising territory for future study and documentation initiatives. I hope that these notes have provided an initial portrait of speculative fandom in the peninsula, highlighting some distinctive historical elements and the dense international connections that make speculative imagination - also in the field of fan activities - a privileged observatory on the global circulation of ideas.

 

 

Bio note - Giulia Iannuzzi

I have always found fascinating how the human mind is able to go beyond reality, beyond what is known through the senses. The future as an imaginary laboratory for testing ideas, or for satirizing the present, and utopian projections are among the fruits that I personally find most exciting in the history of thought, literature, and the visual arts. In my research I have worked extensively on the history of speculative imagination, history of the book, and translation processes. Among my monographs three are dedicated the history of science fiction in Italy (Fantascienza italiana, 2014; Distopie, viaggi spaziali e allucinazioni, 2015; Un laboratorio di fantastici libri, with Luca G. Manenti 2019), and I published a number of articles in English and Italian, including some on Italian science fiction fandom (“FN3/ITA. Fenomenologia del fandom italiano” 2018; “Electric Hive Minds”, 2016; “To boldly go where no series has gone before”, 2014).

I have recently been working on the history of imaginary wars, between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries (here is an article I published in Cromohshttps://doi.org/10.13128/cromohs-11706). I am currently working mainly on eighteenth-century sources, reconstructing those processes of secularization and colonization of the future that accompanied, in early-modern Europe, a profound epistemological reconfiguration of history and knowledge of the past (here’s a recent essay on the 1733 futuristic novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Centuryhttps://doi.org/10.19272/202011501003).

Tracing the dawn of a secularized, pliable future: Geographies of Timehttps://ian.hypotheses.org/.

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9656-8113

 

Image creditEuropa Report 2, First European SF Convention, Trieste (Italy), July 12-16, 1972. Cover art by Leonardo Caposiena. Private Collection.

 

 

Global Fandom: Dominika Ciesielska (Poland)

A photo taken by me at a Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) protest. The poster says: „Harry Potter would be fighting the government now, not Voldemort”. Various references to pop culture were used by fans in this political fight for human rights and against the complete abortion ban that took place with the most force in October 2020. The creator of the poster unknown.


A photo taken by me at a Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) protest. The poster says: „Harry Potter would be fighting the government now, not Voldemort”. Various references to pop culture were used by fans in this political fight for human rights and against the complete abortion ban that took place with the most force in October 2020. The creator of the poster unknown.


Hello, I am a PhD student at the Faculty of Polish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. I devoted most of my academic career to fan studies because it was the things I was a fan of that brought me to my bachelor major and that made me stay in academia for so many years now. I have always loved reading and I was delighted to learn, as a young teen, that I can stay with my favourite characters forever through the world of fanfiction. I spent my teenage years reading every Harry Potter fanfic I could get my hands on, which proved very useful when I later examined them in my theses, both bachelor and master. In my current research fanfiction is still my main point of focus as I study the affective relationship between the reader and the fic in various types of stories across fandoms. It is “the feels” that I’m most fascinated by, and the emotional need that reading fanfiction satisfies.

I was a potterhead before I was a fan of anything else and before I even knew what fandom was. There wasn’t any sign of it in the small town I grew up in and I gained access to the internet fairly late, which I’m sure is an experience that many of my peers in Poland shared. In 2006 the family computer was in my parents’ bedroom and you had to plug it to the telephone socket to connect to the internet. It was therefore a completely unfamiliar territory for me, but as soon as my fellow potterhead cousin introduced me to Forum Literackie Mirriel (http://forum.mirriel.net/) I would spend all my free time reading Harry Potter fanfics that filled it and I quickly branched out to various fanfiction blogs on Onet.pl, one of the largest Polish web portals, that had since closed the blog sub platform. 

Many years in Polish fanficiton scene taught me a certain dialect that was a result of a mix of fannish terms and poor translation. Among often ridiculed (in English as well) phrases like “black-haired boy looked at the taller man with his big blue orbs” (https://victuuriplease.tumblr.com/post/173344244706/fics-be-like) what stood out was the smut. In Polish names of genitals and sexual acts often sound either too medical or too crude, although nowadays there are sex educators like Kasia Koczułap who work to change that stigma (https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17867241361798430/). In order to make smutty parts of fanfics maintain their smuttiness, fanfic translators often just copied English words (with Polish spelling) or grammatical structures disregarding the rules of Polish language because it just didn’t allow to express the same sentiment in the same way. It wasn’t a bad translation, though – it became the language of fanfics, fully acceptable and understandable in this context.

Nevertheless, many readers, myself included, have moved to reading original English texts and never looked back. For many Polish fanfiction was just a first step leading to “leveling up” to enter the global fandom, much broader and richer. I personally started in Harry Potter fandom but now I read fanfics to almost every piece of pop culture I consume and I’m active on a few social media platforms, including Tumblr and some fan groups on Facebook. The latter is particularly interesting to observe how different fandom communities behave. For example, I’m a member of a Polish Harry Potter group and an English-speaking one devoted to YouTube’s Dan and Phil. They’re in many ways total opposites of each other, though it’s hard to tell whether the reason is the fans or the type of media they are fans of.

A meme created by Artur Simiński and posted on Facebook Harry Potter fan group „Jak będzie u Pottera – sekcja diabła kumotera”. The text says: „Madeye after being taken out of his trunk of something like that”. The photo comes from Polish comedy TV show „Świat według Kiepskich” (The World According to the Kiepskis; kiepski can be translated to lousy or poor), most popular in the early 2000s. Similar memes, with screenshots of classic Polish sitcoms and descriptions from contemporary popular culture, are very popular on fan groups on Facebook.

A meme created by Artur Simiński and posted on Facebook Harry Potter fan group „Jak będzie u Pottera – sekcja diabła kumotera”. The text says: „Madeye after being taken out of his trunk of something like that”. The photo comes from Polish comedy TV show „Świat według Kiepskich” (The World According to the Kiepskis; kiepski can be translated to lousy or poor), most popular in the early 2000s. Similar memes, with screenshots of classic Polish sitcoms and descriptions from contemporary popular culture, are very popular on fan groups on Facebook.

Because I grew up in a small town and wasn’t exposed to it, I was already an adult when I joined the fandom in gathering in real life. There are quite a few fan conventions in Poland, some bigger, like Pyrkon (in Poznań) or the oldest one, Polcon (every year in different city), others smaller, like the rather quaint Imladris in Kraków. They are a great way to show off your cosplay or meet and hang out with like-minded people, but for me it was all about the talks. Every con I’ve been to had a packed schedule of fannish presentations and discussions and I loved it – that is, until I learnt about fan studies conferences. The academic approach suited me much better and fell in line with my university work.

imladris.jpg
Two photos from Imladris convention. It took place in a school building in Cracow.

Two photos from Imladris convention. It took place in a school building in Cracow.


Fan studies is not yet well developed in Poland. Individual papers and articles have been published for years (notably by Piotr Siuda), but there’s very few books fully devoted to the subject, namely Aldona Kobus’ Fandom. Fanowskie modele odbioru (2018) and Małgorzata Lisowska-Magdziarz's Fandom dla początkujących (2017, 2018). It is still fairly unusual to study fan culture in many universities in Poland. I have been lucky to have the support of my supervisors since I first began my research for my bachelor thesis. It concerned fan stories on Forum Literackie Mirriel while my master’s thesis examined Harry Potter war-themed fanfics while studying the myth-making quality of writing fanfiction. I explored this as well in an article for an academic journal “Maska” (2018). In my writing and several conference papers I have also looked into spacial strategies of Alternate Universes, the relationship between music fans and the musicians in RPF, fans queering the canon, serious critique in crack, objects’ agency, the use of platforms like AO3, and anti-shipping.

One of the Polish conferences on fan fiction inspired me to organize a better one, and so I have – in October 2019 ARTIFACTS, ARCHIVES, AFFAIRS. Perspectives on fan productions international conference took place at Jagiellonian University and as far as I know it was the first fan studies conference of this size in Poland. Matt Hills, Nicolle Lamerichs, Agata Zarzycka and I are now working on a volume collecting chapters based on papers from that conference. Archives of Affect. Productivity in Fan Cultures is planned to be published by Amsterdam University Press in 2022. If the world situation allows, I would like to organize a sequel conference next year as well, since my plans for 2020 were thwarted by the pandemic. I am now mainly preoccupied with my doctoral research that is focused on affective aspect of fan writing – how fanfics are characterized and organized by the emotional impact they’re supposed to have on the reader and how readers seek that exact emotional response, whether it comes from their relationship with the source material or the fan story itself. 

With all I do – my dissertation, publications I edit, and conferences I organize – I hope to make a valuable contribution to fan studies in Poland and to help the discipline grow in our country. Currently we have very scarce resources available in Polish libraries and it’s difficult, especially as a PhD student, to gain access to global databases and yet it is expected (even just among ourselves) that we are familiar with well-developed western fan studies field. Every Polish fan scholar knows the struggle of coming across a relevant quote or mention but not being able to access full text of the cited source because of the country we’re in or the currency we use. That being said, we became quite creative with ways to overcome those obstacles and familiarize ourselves with both domestic and foreign literature in the field. Nevertheless, hopefully one day we won’t have to resort to anything unusual to read the newest book of a fellow fan scholar from a different country as the discipline and its significance grows.

I obviously cannot speak for all Polish fans or academics. My experience can be vastly different from another Polish person, depending on our age, location, interests, background, personality etc. I am very glad to be a part of this global fandom conversation and I am looking forward to read other contributions to see what we have in common or what is uniquely Polish.



Dominika Ciesielska is a PhD student at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland where she teaches a course on fanfiction. Her academic interests lie within fan culture, and her research focuses on fanfiction and fannish affect. She is the author of several published papers: on Harry Potter fanfiction, fan writing as a myth-making practice and retelling of space.

Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Mado Mai (Cameroon) and Anastasia Rossinskaya (Russia) (Part Two)

М: Your responses are quite enriching and seem to focus mostly on different modes of communication with the example of ficwriting and how each mode of communication can be used to enrich teaching and learning nowadays. It however appears that there are more facets of communication than what you have mentioned directly. Can you maybe expand more on the SKAM/DRUCK TV shows clearly illustrating the impact of the fans on such shows?

 

A: I will do that with great pleasure. Recently I analyzed the structure of communication between creators and fans of DRUCK, a German remake of a Norwegian TV show SKAM. The original show was based on thousands of interviews with teenagers that Julie Andem, its screenwriter and director, conducted around Norway (Pickard, 2016). Thus the original show was conceived as a result of intense communication with the target audience.

 

When different countries started making their remakes of SKAM, adapting it to their cultures, it wasn’t supposed that viewers would have much influence on the content. The first seasons of SKAM France, SKAM Italia, SKAM NL, WTFock (a Belgian remake) closely followed the plotlines set by SKAM. However, in February 2018, after the German remake was announced, a German fan made a post on Instagram (see Pic.1) suggesting that the third season of the German remake should be about a transgender character. This suggestion was supported by many viewers and though this character was not in the original show, DRUCK creators managed to persuade the broadcaster to include them. David Schreibner, the first trans character in SKAM universe, became one of the main characters in Season 3.


Pic 1. The screenshot of the post that started the campaign for transgender character in DRUCK (posted on February 20, 2018 https://www.instagram.com/p/BfbXkkyBDZE/)

 

When creating their own further seasons 5-7 (2020-2021), the authors of DRUCK were not constrained by the limits of the original SKAM material. To find relevant themes and stories, they asked their audience – teenagers and young adults in Germany to fill out questionnaires about their lifestyles, problems, friendship and love, graduation, etc. They were distributed through the official DRUCK channels on YouTube and Telegram. According to reports on the official DRUCK Telegram channel @DruckDieSerieBot more than 20 thousand people responded to the questionnaire for the new generation in early 2020, and 27281 people responded to the next questionnaire in early 2021. The creators of the series carefully analyzed viewers’ responses and used some plot ideas as well as problems and concerns fans wrote about in the script. We see here an example of how media creators can engage audiences into co-writing the show through direct and indirect communication.

 

The dialogue between viewers and show creators is most intense while the show is airing. Due to the transmedia format of DRUCK, which includes short clips on YouTube, the characters' WhatsApp chats and Instagram accounts, viewers have the opportunity to engage in active communication with the creators and even characters in real-time. On the official channel it is done through comments, which often get replies from a representative of DRUCK (Pic. 2). In comments fans discuss events happened in clips, share impressions, opinions and life experiences. During the episodes live broadcast each Friday, viewers can communicate with each other and with a DRUCK representative in a live chat. In this case, an exchange of emotions prevails. Thus, viewers can give feedback to creators directly as they are watching, and creators who are present in the chat too can observe the impact that an episode makes.

 



Pic 2. Viewers’ comments and DRUCK’s replies to Clip 28 of Season DRUCK Nora on YouTube https://youtu.be/6Du8s3Z73D8

 

Another channel of communication is the platform where viewers receive screenshots of the characters' chats. It changed several times, depending on which platform was more convenient for the dialogue with the viewers at that moment. At the beginning of the first season in March 2018, Tumblr (druck-serie-blog.tumblr.com) was used for this purpose, then WhatsApp. In September 2019, the channel moved to Telegram, and in September 2021 to Instagram. On each of these platforms, viewers could send messages to DRUCK, but the intensity and engagement in communication varied. The dialogue was especially intense on Telegram. Viewers received detailed personal responses to their messages from DRUCK representatives. Moreover, fans who did not know German received replies in English.

 

It is interesting to note that the choice of the social network can lead to a breakdown in communication with viewers. Before Season 7 Isi, DRUCK obtained an official Instagram account @druckaddicts. During the season it was used to post characters’ chats in stories, to announce episodes’ airing times, to post memes, videos from clips, screenshots, polls, etc. However, some viewers reacted negatively to this innovation. Co-existence of the official account and characters’ accounts on the same platform ruined the participatory and realism effects for them.

 

There is a lot of interaction among fans when the show is airing. It mostly takes place on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. Viewers make posts to express their opinions and emotions in the form of text posts, screenshots, gifs, fanart and fanfiction. Posts are commented on by other fans and discussed in fan chats. "Reaction" format is also popular: video bloggers record themselves as they are watching episodes and reacting to them. Since most of the viewer content is posted publicly, DRUCK creators can see it using their private accounts. In interviews, they say that they follow viewers' posts on social media and, although they do not engage in direct communication, they discuss viewers' opinions in the course of their work (see for e.g., Barwenczik, 2019). The only exception from this rule that I know of is the writers' reaction to Ana Pinto's YouTube video reactions to Season 6. DRUCK Team praised her in stories in their private accounts on Instagram.

 

During hiatus between seasons, which sometimes lasted as long as 12 months, the dialogue between viewers and DRUCK creators does not stop. Viewers regularly initiate communication using all available means – email, the official Telegram channel and Instagram account, as well as engaging in direct communication with the actors, directors, and screenwriters through their private accounts and during lives on Instagram. New media have made creators more accessible to fans. The local homely nature of DRUCK and the openness of its creators to communication resulted in their multiple conversations with fans.

 

In my short overview I tried to show various ways communication between TV show creators and viewers can happen. It is important to note that this becomes possible only if the production team is interested in the dialogue and ready to listen to and adapt to their audience.

References

Ana Pinto’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/rantyana  (accessed: 15.03.2022)

Barwenczik L. (2019) Young Adult Series “Druck”: “A Little Flippant and Imperfect”. Goethe Institut https://www.goethe.de/en/kul/flm/21657771.html (accessed: 15.03.2022)

DRUCK / funk Presse https://presse.funk.net/format/druck/ (accessed: 18.03.2022)

Pickard M. (2016) Norway feels Shame / Drama Quarterly  https://dramaquarterly.com/norway-feels-shame (accessed: 15.03.2022)

 

A: Is it common for Cameroonian hip-hop artists to engage in communication with their fans and followers? How do they use their public image for communicating social messages?

 

M: Looking at the practices of youth hip hop culture in Cameroon through the lenses of online social media, television and advertisement for instance, it is obvious that this embraces language forms which embody their identities and other cultural artefacts. These hip hop media practices portray identities which are exhibited in forms of dancing, dressing and speech in their musical linguistic repertoires that are not only multifaceted but also complex.

 

A look at the advertisement billboard with the Cameroonian king kong in Figure 1 below substantiates this claim. That Stanley Enow features in a Guinness advertisement says a lot about the number of his fans and followers and their behavior as well. This time, it is not only limited to the youth. It cuts across generations given that Guinness Cameroon is an ancient enterprise well-known for its identification, selection and rewarding of the very best talents in the country. 







 

Figure 1: Stanley Enow adapted; from Guinness Made of More Large Format Campaign for the Agency AMVOBBDO (https://cargocollective.com/motioncult/Guinness-Made-of-More). 

 That Stanley Enow features in a Guinness advertisement says a lot about the number of his fans and followers and their behavior as well. This time, it is not only limited to the youth. It cuts across generations given that Guinness Cameroon is an ancient enterprise well-known for its identification, selection In the advertisement above, they recognize the young artist as an iconic figure in society and hence the question “Pourquoi n'être qu’artiste si on peut être un icône? (Why limit oneself to being just an artist if one should rather be an icon?). This also demonstrates in a way that Guinness Cameroon identifies themselves in the young artist and hence, the company in this advertisement suddenly switches from the highly standardized French version and English version (“Guinness Made of More'') to Camfrnglais; “Je Suis Made Of Black”. The blackness of the Guinness beer can also relate to the Africanness of the multi-talented artist


Born in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region of Cameroon, with family from Bayangi, located in the Southwest region, Stanley Enow’s nickname “Bayangi Boy '' reflects the importance of regional origins for the young rapper. Coming from the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon (West Cameroon), and having attended school in the Western Region, French-speaking Cameroon, (East Cameroon), Stanley Enow choses to rap in CPE and Camfranglis, as a way to translate his cultural diversity and Cameroonianess in his music.

In June 2013 Enow became famous with his first single “Hein Père'' which again became a center of attraction in the Cameroon 2021 African of Cup Nations finals. The video, with more than a million of views, followed the traditional depiction of young male rappers, with a great display of luxurious cars, jewels, and surrounded by his crew in the background. In the song, Stanley Enow uses a lot of Pidgin English, CPE which is a (re)mix of English and the national languages/expressions (Camfranglai)s – youths’ favorite language for communication (cf. Mai, 2007). His cultural pride and sociolinguistic repertoires do not only appeal to the youths and fans who rally behind him as seen in one of his Facebook interactions with his followers below;

“I would like to thank all of my fans nationwide who have secretly tattooed  MOTHERLAND or Stanley Enow in their souls.

I have a VERY STRONG ARMY

LOVE YOU ALL”.

In fact, his communicative style also extends to attract fans from other avenues. Among his followers are the radio stations and popular industries as shown above. His linguistic repertoire is reiterated in the above advertisement which displays English, French and Franglais, thus, also showing his secret of attraction. The famous age-long Guinness company in Cameroon business owners are thus not insusceptible to his linguistic repertoires. 

His language forms, his portrait on the billboard above and the lyrics of his song below translate the same confidence familiar in the hip hop industry and among youths, especially with the title “Hein Père” which is an interjection from Camfranglais, meaning “say what!”, used to express either surprise or admiration. The French word “Père” means “Dad” and in Cameroon it is a way to call a homeboy.

Hein Père lyrics and translation

I don waka no be small, se ma foot

 /I have walked (meaning worked) so hard, look at my feet/

Up down around town see ma boots

 /Up down around town, look at my boots

Ma foot dem di worry need Dschang shoes (Shoes made from used tires and plastic, popular among low-class people, useful during rainy days.

/My feet got so bad they need Dschang Shoes

Like Banso man I di fight fo ma oun

/Like a Banso Man I fight to survive/ ( Banso refers to “people of Nso”, a people of the Bamenda Grassfield in the Northwest Region of Cameroon.).

 

With his “Hein Père” Stanley Enow expressed his attachment for his culture. He put Camfranglais and CPE on the spotlight of the African hip hop scene and social media.

Lyrics of “Hein Père”: https://genius.com/Stanley-enow-hein-pere-lyrics

Music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rcc2dAkaOcY

 

 

 

 

Reference List

Agha, A. 2007. Language and Social Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bird, S. 2001. Orthography and Identity in Cameroon. University of Pennyslvania: [online]; Available, http://sabinet.library.ingentaconnect.com/content/jbp/wll/2001/00000004/00000 0 02/art00001. Accessed, 03/11/2022.

Harris, T. (2019).  Can It Be Bigger Than Hip Hop?: From Global Hip Hop Studies to Hip Hop

Journal of Hip Hop Studies, Vol. 6, Iss. 2 [2019], Art. 7

Mai, M. 2007. Assessing Patterns of Language Use and Identity Formation among Cameroonian Migrants in Cape Town. Masters Dissertation, Linguistics Department, University of the Western Cape.

Mbock C. G. (ed.), Cameroun: pluralisme culturel et convivialité (Edition Nouvelle du Sud, Paris, 1996).

Nyamnjoh, Francis B. & Jude Fokwang. 2005. “Entertaining Repression: Music and politics in Postcolonial Cameroon.” African Affairs:245.

Nyamnjoh, F (1999), ‘Cameroon: a country united by ethnic ambition and difference’, African Affairs 98, 390 pp. 101–18.

Tagem, D. (2016). Oral History, Collective Memory and Socio-Political Criticism: A study of popular culture in Cameroon DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/tvl.v.53i1.11 ISSN: 0041-476X E-ISSN: 2309-9070. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde.

Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Mado Mai (Cameroon) and Anastasia Rossinskaya (Russia) (Part One)

Mado Mai (M): I wondered where the common ground between us was. But it would appear I answered my own question when I saw you mentioned the youths, classrooms, communication, rejection and the social aspects of life. 

 Anastasia Rossinskaya (A): That is right, a lot of media nowadays is targeted at the youth. Much of it aims at communicating educational messages and bringing up social awareness in a way accessible and understandable for the youth, e.g. through TV shows and music. I would like to know more about your sociolinguistic studies of hip-hop and your findings in how it reflects this trend.

M: Thanks, Anastasia, for your curiosity on the sociolinguistic practices in Cameron. Indeed, most music and particularly the hip hop musical genre can be hardly understood without some sociolinguistic knowledge of the country. Concerning my interests, I specialize mostly in language and society - sociolinguistics. I am new to the world of fans and fandom. But, since this has to do with society, my hope is that together we shall be able to consider the intersection of hip hop language use, fandom and popular culture. If possible, see how this can impact communication. Of course, you will see much of Cameroon language styles and practices through our interactions. 

 From a linguistic viewpoint, reports from Ethnologue (2002) show there are 279 national languages in Cameroon, a country as small as San Francisco. This country also has a complex sociolinguistic background with a resultant linguistic baggage that relegates the national languages to the background while encouraging an official language bilingualism of colonial language – English and French. 

 Stanley Ebai Enow is an embodiment of this complexity. He is a Cameroonian rapper, radio and TV presenter, and voice actor who co-owns the record label, Motherland Empire. He is popularly known as Bayangi boy, with Bayangi being a linguistic group in the South West region of Cameroon- the birthplace of his parents. Why I prefer him as an example of a Cameroonian hip hop artist is not only due to his growing popularity as a multiple award winner with more than one million followers on YouTube at the release of his song Hein Père (where ehein is a national slang expressing surprise and père means father in French) but also because Stanley Ebai Enow is a representation of Cameroon in terms of cultural, linguistic, geographic and socio-economic diversity. His socio-cultural background, choice of music genre and language form which he uses for communication with his fans, followers and audiences portrays both uniqueness and heterogeneity that is tantamount to what some historians and geographers often refer to as “Africa in miniature” when they try to highlight the fact that the diversity found in Cameroon alone encompasses the entire African continent.

 Besides this, popular culture, and its constituents have apparently not been attractive to the Cameroonian academia. This is especially true if one has to compare it to the number of theses already emerging on fandom from the Russian institutions of higher education which my conversational partner, Anastasia still considers small. In fact, when it comes to Cameroon, there are few accounts on popular culture (see for example Tagem 2016, Mbock 1996, Nyamjoh, 1996) with nothing concrete on hip hop. All three authors link music to politics and place of origin. In the process, they also emphasise the diversity of music, culture and identity without failing to point out the critical undertone of the artists. Tagem (2016), especially situates popular culture as an aspect of oral history and collective memory while showcasing the use of Camfranglais, Cameroon Pidgin English and of course the multilingual and multicultural diversity of the country. Most artists in Cameroon draw from either Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE - an English based pidgin, arguably a creole, formed by borrowing from English and some of the many national languages, which also plays the role of mother tongue for a majority of urban youths in Cameroon) or  from Camfranglais (a mixture of French, English and some national language expressions) and sometimes both as is the case with Stanley Enow when he displays his multicultural and multilingual diversity during the AFCON opening ceremony (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvBJLJuVn5k) in both song and dance in ways that effectively communicate, entertain and educate the audiences from all walks of life and among all age groups. Linguistic diversity in Cameroonian society is an aged long phenomenon. For this reason, the types of music in Cameroon are not only numerous but also diverse in nature. The many different types of music in modern society each represents unique experiences that shape identity. In Cameroon for instance, makossa, bikusi, bottle dance and bend skin among others, usually relate to celebration and happiness in general where themes such as love, social problems are dominant.

 This notwithstanding, many have decried the fact that local rhythms are now so transformed that elders don not recognize anything anymore. Local artists have also been accused of copying international artists when it comes to dressing styles, which result in outfits that are considered ‘shameless’. Accordingly, one talent agent and producer Florence Tity-Dimbeng, asserts that the Cameroonian music lacks identity and has become senseless. However, an art critic Théodore Kayese suggests that the evolution of music can be seen from a different angle and that to get a real opinion about popular evolution, one has to look separately at every single angle of Cameroon. Over the last 10 years, each part of the country, he reckons, has had its hour of glory, for example; the coast with makossa, the western part with ben-skin, the north west with njang and samba, the centre, east and south with Bikutsi. Only the north didn’t really have a specific style although, no successful musical festival can take place without representation from the north. Of all these rhythms, is the afro-fusion and particularly hip-hip, which is very popular among youths thanks to artists like Krotal, Gasha, Stanley Enow, X-Maleya, Tizeu No Name Crew and Jovi One Love among others. This young generation of artists is definitely ready to take off.

 From this perspective, it can be said that the hip hop culture in modern society can draw together various people from many different backgrounds. The hip hop culture as Harris (2019) argues is more than just a culture. It is a phenomenon. This phenomenon is now explored by youths and artists, particularly the hip hop artists to capture a kind of globalized sociolinguistics reality among young people where multilingualism is presented as both stylish and mobile. Hip hop according to (Nyamjoh 1999 and Mbock 1996) is a genre traditionally associated with resistance, an aspect which coincidentally relates to the Russians’ popular views on fandom as Anastasia had mentioned in one of our conversations.

Following from the multicultural and multilingual landscape of Cameroon, I sought for a scholarship that recognizes the intermixing of various Cameroonian languages and language forms in hip hop, what Agha (2007) has called amalgam systems, first to initiate a communicative mode that would bring to fore the creative and stylistic realities of a heterogeneous urban Cameroonian youths, and second, to inductee popular culture research in the area of hip hop into the Cameroonian academia as it is already an inundated area of research around the globe.

A: Thank you for this abundant tour into Cameroonian hip-hop culture and the state of its research. Many trends are similar to the Russian music scene, especially the accusations of copying foreign artists. On the other hand, various language and ethnic backgrounds of our multicultural and multilingual country are heavily underrepresented on the stage, which is dominated by the Russian language, only one of more than 150 languages of Russia (according to the Languages of Russia project http://jazykirf.iling-ran.ru/list_concept2020.shtml).

M: In your opening statement you point out that participating in fandom activities can have educational effects. Have you had a chance to research it and find out what these effects are, particularly in the sphere of communication?

A: Thank you for your question. I am happy to have this opportunity to share the results of my latest research. When I got interested in studying media and fandom I decided to look at them from the point of view most natural for me as a scholar, i.e. through an educational lens. We should keep in mind that education is not limited to classrooms. We learn a lot outside of the formal school system: in everyday life, traveling to and back from work or place of study, while enjoying hobbies and arts, doing social and volunteer work, etc. It is particularly important to consider in Russia, where school education is still quite conservative and uses approaches developed more than a hundred years ago, e.g. limited opportunities for teamwork, initiative, and creativity. Furthermore, the cult of mistakes and punishment for them instead of learning from them and the authoritarian role of a teacher doesn't allow to successfully implement teaching 21st-century skills in schools. Therefore, I focus my research on how these skills are developed outside school and which activities are more effective in compensating for the lack of attention to them in formal educational system.

 As an example, I would like to share some results of my recent research of DRUCK fandom activities. DRUCK (Ger. pressure) is a German youth TV show produced by funk TV channel. It is a remake of the legendary SKAM, mentioned in some of the previous conversations. DRUCK has seven seasons so far. The eighth has been recently announced for spring 2022. The first four seasons were based on SKAM characters and plotlines, after that the new generation was introduced (Pic 1). DRUCK fandom is quite big for a local non-English language show and includes people of various age groups from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, the USA, Poland, the UK, Switzerland, Russia, France, Italy, Spain, Korea, and other countries.







 

Pic 1. Old (left) and new generations of DRUCK. Official promo materials from funk TV channel.

 

The aim of my recent research was to determine the educational outcomes of fanfiction writing in DRUCK fandom. In March 2022 it had 1454 works posted on Archive of Our Own site. In January 2022 I held a series of interviews with ten ficwriters from DRUCK fandom. They helped me to compile a list of educational results of their ficwritng activities. Communication skills are quite significant among them.

 

Writers who work in pairs or groups learn to effectively communicate with each other to get to the mutually satisfactory result of their collaboration – a posted fanfic. Communication skills that they require for it include abilities to state one’s opinion clearly, support it with valid arguments, listen to and consider opposite opinions, discuss and come to decisions together. We see here that communication skills develop along with such collaboration skills as the ability to plan work together, to support and motivate each other to write.

 

On the other hand, interviews showed that writing fanfiction for those who work alone can also be considered a communicative practice because they enjoy interacting with readers, discussing their work, responding to requests, and sometimes discussing personal issues or problems raised by their works of fanfiction.

 

These interviews also gave me an interesting input on the motivation that drives ficwriters. Some of my respondents mentioned that they started writing because they wanted to communicate about their favorite media – DRUCK. Communication between ficwriters and readers happens mostly on the platforms where fanfiction is posted. My respondents admitted that lack of communication discourages them. Some reported that they stopped posting or writing for the fandom at all because they didn’t receive enough communicative support from the readers. Many respondents compared different platforms where they publish their works in terms of intensity of communication. They often complained that though Archive of Our Own is the most populous platform now, it provides much fewer means for communication between writers and readers than others before, e.g. LiveJournal, and therefore ficwriters are not satisfied with the amount and quality of communication there.

 

Writer-readers communication also contributes to the development of their communication skills such as the ability to listen and read, to respond regarding the other person’s personality and life circumstances, and to maintain prolonged communication. One respondent, who focuses much of their writing on exploring communication disorders and disruptions, noted that writing fanfiction about characters dealing with communication problems helped them to feel more confident when communicating in their everyday life.

Global Fandom Jamboree: Anastasia Rossinskaya


Screenshots of TV newsreel (360 TV channel) about all-Russia soccer fans protest actions against police violence. The posters say “A fan is not a criminal”.

https://youtu.be/4FHioPMBGYo

Let me start with a short introduction. I am a senior researcher in Moscow City University, Russia. I study informal educational practices and develop methods of teaching using cultural institutions, media, city environment, and community resources.

Russian editions of SKAM scripts are sold in plastic cases and marked 18+ according to laws that prohibit to mention LGBT characters in books for people under 18 years old. People under 18 cannot buy these books legally. Photo by A.Rossinskaya

My interest in fan studies started in 2019 when I came across SKAM youth TV show and its universe of remakes and consequently joined its Russian and international fandom. Very soon it became clear that as a fan I cannot put aside my professional view as an educator. I started to analyze the fandom, fans’ activities, and SKAM universe through the prism of my academic interest in education. As a result, I discovered a lot of educational and teaching potential in both the show and its fandom activities. I will touch upon them later. First, I would like to give a short overview of Russian fan studies.

I started my research by looking around and trying to locate academic works on fan practices, fandoms, and fanfiction in Russia. It transpired that there has been relatively little done in this field apart from works by Natalia Samutina[1] (1972-2021), who systematically studied Russian fandoms of Harry Potter and manga. Most other publications are sporadic works. The only exclusion is made by the studies of sports fans, especially soccer fans. Keyword search for “fan” on the largest Russian scientific e-library Cyberleninka brought back 91 articles published in 2011-2021. 74 of them discuss soccer fans, mostly legal aspects that focus on topics of crime and aggression among fans. It also became apparent that a substantial part of soccer fan studies is done in the psychological field. Most of them as well discuss the origins of aggressive fan behavior or how to deal with it. Some linguistic studies focus on soccer fan folklore and forms of verbal abuse that soccer fans use. This focus on the negative aspects of sports fandoms may stem from the perception of fans as a destructive group of young people inherited from the Soviet period when any youth activity not sanctioned by the communist authorities was considered potentially dangerous for the state.

Books and movies fandoms have also attracted some interest from Russian linguists and literary scholars. Besides seminal works by Natalia Samutina[2], some articles focus on stylistic, genre, and linguistic specifics of fanfiction. Most researchers are interested in popular fandoms like Harry Potter, Tolkien, and BBC’s Sherlock. There has also been some research on fanfiction for XIX century classical Russian literature (e.g. little known to Western readers author A.K. Tolstoy, not to be mistaken for Leo Tolstoy) as well as poets of the beginning of the XXth century such as Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergey Yesenin.

Harry Potter fan graffiti in Ivanovo “Harry will win!”. Photo by A. Rossinskaya

In the last ten years, only five Ph.D. dissertations were defended on fan studies in Russia. Three of them are written on sports fans and two are on fanfiction. They reflect the trends I mentioned above. If we look at students’ theses, we won’t see many works either. In HSE University, one of Russia’s leading universities, only nine theses (of 61 thousand total) were written on fan studies during 2013-2021: four bachelors’ and five masters’. Among them seven were on fandom activities, one about sports fans and one focused on fanfiction. In MCU out of 13 thousand bachelors’ and masters’ theses, defended between 2015-2021, only four bachelors’ were written on fan studies, three of them on fanfiction and one on sports fans. This is a very small number for such a large country as Russia.

How can this limitation be explained? Regrettably, the very word “fan” (Rus. fanat) in the Russian language has very strong negative connotations of fanaticism, radicalism, intolerance, and violence. Moreover, fan studies in Russia often come into conflict with the official stance and state policies on issues like family and sexuality. For example, LGBTQ+ topics are not allowed to be discussed with or in the presence of children under 18, and public demonstration of the so-called ‘non-traditional relationships’ (the term coined by and used in Russian legislation) or anything associated with them (e.g. a rainbow flag) is prohibited by several federal laws. For these reasons scholars who study fan practices and fandoms often hide their research interest under less provocative terms such as poklonnik (admirer) or lyubitel’ (fancier, enthusiast) instead of fanat (fan) or soobschestvo (community) instead of fandom. Such scholastic camouflage makes it very difficult to conduct fan studies discourse in Russia as well as for researchers to find other scholars with similar interests.

My interest in fan studies is heavily influenced by my main field of research – education, to be exact – informal educational practices and the possibility to implement them into formal and non-formal education. Therefore, while watching SKAM and its remakes, observing its fandom, and participating in its activities, I focus on the following questions:

·       To what extent participating in fandoms is an educational experience?

·       Which fan activities can be utilized in formal and non-formal education and how?

·       How may educational content be successfully included in youth shows without being overly didactic?

I approach the first two questions with the 21st-century skills concept scale. My observations show that participating in fandom requires cognitive, communicative, collaborative, and creative skills – the so-called 4Cs, the core of the 21st-century skills model. It is possible to theorize fandoms as mutual-teaching and self-educating communities where people master these skills with the help and encouragement of fellow fans. Thus, fandoms can be seen as a potentially rich resource to teach the 4Cs. This is especially pertinent in Russia where teaching these skills in schools is underdeveloped or non-existent even though it is proclaimed among the goals of education.

Formal school education in the Russian Federation is a highly centralized system. Federal State Educational Standards define the goals students must achieve at each stage of education – elementary, middle school, and high school. These goals include three types of achievements: acquiring subject knowledge and skills, acquiring transferable skills, and personal development. While Russian teachers have a lot of experience in teaching subject knowledge and skills, the other two goals present a challenge for many of them. This can be explained by the relative novelty of these requirements, lack of well-developed teaching materials for regular classrooms, and lack of time allocated to teach them. Thus, there is an acute need for educators in Russia to acquire new ways to teach 21st-century skills which are both effective and practical. I believe fandom practices may serve as a useful tool for teachers to meet this need.

I will be happy to discuss the educational side of fandom activities and youth TV shows with fellow scholars from around the world.

 

Anastasia Rossinskaya, Ed.D., is a senior researcher in the Laboratory of Sociocultural Practices, Research Institute of Urban Studies and Global Education, Moscow City University, Moscow, Russia. She is the program director of the Master’s program ‘Teacher-researcher’ in MCU and a guest lecturer at the Institute of Education, HSE University, Moscow, Russia.






[1] Samutina, N. (2019). Japanese manga in Russia: Introduction to research on reading practices. NOVOE LITERATURNOE OBOZRENIE, (160), 307-321.

[2] Samutina, N. (2013). The Great Female Readers: Fan Fiction as a Literary Experience. Russian Sociological Review 12 (3):137-194.

Samutina N. (2016) Fan fiction as world-building: transformative reception in crossover writing, Continuum, 30:4, 433-450, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2016.1141863.

Samutina N. (2017) Emotional landscapes of reading: fan fiction in the context of contemporary reading practices. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 2017;20(3):253-269. doi:10.1177/1367877916628238.

Global Fandom: Mbong M. Mai (Cameroon)




Secrets and Styles in Popular Culture: Youths’ Krotal Cameroun Nâ yâh feat Jahel Video

 

Cameroun nâ yâh (feat Jahel)

Refrain :

Ring di alarm / anoda soul si dying / oohh / Faisons sonner l'alarme / plus rien ne va regardes bien / Ntondobe ma sili na yâ o né / I wa yen foâ infâ bi toâ ? / Cameroun ma sili wa nâ yâ ? / I wa tsog nâ bi ne dzâm kuî ???

Krotal :

Aveuglés par un monde sourd / à nos appels le silence nous a doté de la parole et sans appel / Mon coeur de lion depuis n'a plus de crinière / mais juste un collier de barbe et sur son pelage des tâches de Panthères
Un jour tu gagnes comme un jour tu perds / à défaut d'être un roi gars appelles moi juste chef einh / dès la naissance c'est le tiercé les dés sont lancés réfugié dans le rêve la lune m'a brûlé les ailes / En vol plané bien qu'ayant sorti mes flaps / ma destinée s'est écrasée sur une table de craps / à les entendre vivre est une maladie chronique / et si mes fauve sont blessés le Hiphop est une clinique / En attendant le changement / ou que la nous console au bord de la console on fait tourner l'Odontol / Trop tôt pour beaucoup c'est le ghetto / pour les getam babylon a mit un veto / ça sert plus à rien petit que tu te leves tôt / l'avenir appartient ici à ceux qui se baissent tôt .

Refrain ...

Jahel :
Wow !!!
C'est une histoire de quoi ? / De monarchie d'anarchie ou de droit ? Stop !!! / Faut arrêter de nous prendre pour des chèvres / faut arrêter de nous abrutir au jus de maïs / Un peuple acculturé moderne entre guillemets berné par un système éducatif de bornés mort - nés / Ici on ne peut plus accepter d'être / et si l'écart se creuse c'est que la classe sociale est polarisée / Donc nos histoires sont faites de lances et de flèches / de peuples Moundang ou de Guinarous qui se réveillent / passe passe l'Essingan que je développe ma pensée / pour ceux qui ont traversé l'âge de la pipé taillée / aveuglés par l'école et les diplômes la vie à fait qu'ici les jeunes se pètent pour s' en sortir / Trop de pression y'a le feu dans les backs / les animaux se lâchent et y'a le feu dans la brousse / y ' en a qui volent tuent pillent / au nom de la religion torturent en démocratie

Refrain ...

Krotal :

Aveuglés par un monde sourd / à nos appels le silence nous a doté de la parole et sans appel / On nous a dit pour évoluer faut go au school / familles démunies donc à l'église on se colle / même si chez les curés après les cours c'est la tourmente / combien se barrent en courant des viols et des tournantes / Les vies prennent des virages / des directions opposées / déjà à contre - courant bien avant même de poser l'espoir fait vivre / mais ici le droit de vivre est une marque déposée / l'essence de ma musique et ses idées sont ménopausées / Le Cameroun vit quand Yaoundé respire / le pays subit l'asphyxie si la vérité se respire / falsifier jusqu'à notre histoire t'inquiètes on vit dans le faux donc du mensonge on s' inspire / 2013 on paye pour leurs erreurs / subir le ndem ou mourir en martyr / Si le savoir est une arme je suis calibré comme le B.I.R / En attendant le meilleur j'ai appris à maîtriser le pire

Refrain ...

 Krotal is among the first hip hop musician in Cameroon with thousands of fans. Thought-provocative about the youth situation in Cameroon, he protrays the regime in place that has crippled the youth with no hope for the future. For example:” stop treating us as goats/stop stupefying us with corn’s juice. A community asleep through an education system of blind dead-born…/ the country is suffocating…/ while waiting for the best, I have learned to master the worst”.  Such are some of its words. The language used here is a combination of French, English and a local language as illustrated on the refrain. This type of expression is common among Cameroonian musicians and hip hop musician in particular. This style of expression, typical of Cameroonian youth, appears to orchestrate well with the local youth. 

This style of language, synchronizing with the youth population in general and drawing a large number of fans in the process will be investigated. We will also explore the cross-border and commercialization of such Cameroonian styles.



Art of Attracting Massive Followers in Cameroon 

 

Popular culture generally refers to those type of things that have mass accessibility and appeal to the wider population. The football sports for instance and its associated lead figures like Samuel Eto’o Fils in Cameroon has the highest number of fans and followers on the three major social media namely; Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It goes without saying that popular culture goes hand-in-hand with its fans and followers and on specific media. In the modern West as in Africa, pop culture refers to services and products such as music, art, fashion, dance, film, cyber culture, television, and radio that are consumed by majority of the society’s population. The focus of this project however will be the Cameroonian hip hop culture from a metapragmatic perspective as portrayed on social media. Metapragmatics describes relations between different discourses in linguistics and thus relates to aid in understanding certain aspects of culture inter-subjectively (Overstreet and Yule, 2002).

 

Hip hop can be defined as a subculture, of which artists and youths use for self-expression or self-definition, and as a tool for resistance. This relates to (Wortham, 2006) assertion that youths, can use language to co-construct (inter)subjectivities and related identities. For example, in expressing the youth frustration and rage about unemployment, Valsero in 2002 wrote the songs ‘Ce pays tue les jeunes’ (This country kills the youths) and ‘Ne me parlez plus de ce pays’,(Do not talk to me about this country anymore) which rapidly became very popular, especially among the disillusioned youth who could identify with the harsh realities in his songs. 

 

In Cameroon, there is dearth in this area of research with just one referenced article on Cameroon hip hop in 2013 by Wakai, Kangsen Feka which was published in a magazine. The hip hop artists and the youths whom they represent become an important constituent in the socio-political and economic development or the lack of these in the country. 

 

Given the Anglo-French background in the already multicultural and multilingual setting of Cameroon this genre of music becomes multifaceted as stimulated (Nyamjoh and Fokwang, 2005) by either the many other music genres and/or the many languages and cultures of this country. Thus, other genres of music and their expansion would require a comparative glance to ascertain the place of Hip hop as a sub-culture. To do this, first, I briefly outline the history of hip hop, and its expansion, second, the language of hip hop as expressed by local artists and finally the use hip hop as an identity will be reviewed below and the finally, the implications thereof. Cameroonian hip hop musicians use a language style typical of local contemporary youth’s expression, which enable them to synchronize with their large youth population followers.  It is this style of language enabling such synchronicity that we aim to explore.

 

A brief account of hip hop

Historically, it is believed that hip hop was born at a  birthday party in Bronx in the early ‘70s (History.com Editors).But in reality, the roots of hip hop can be traced as far back as the 40s in Jamaica, where it gradually evolved to street corners by the ‘60s. Only by the 70s was this phenomenon to become popular in the United States, particularly in the Farragut Projects in Brooklyn, NY. Among the earliest DJs then, were; Kool, Maboya, and Plummer who mostly played disco music. As the love for hip hop increased, so too was the controversy about what sub categories of music actually defined hip hop. Hip hop and most of its subgenres are often defined by the artist’s lifestyle, sound, subject as well as where an artist comes from. This project explores the hip hop sub culture in Cameroon while acknowledging the different facades of popular culture. 

 

The Origin and artist behind the evolution of Cameroon hip hop.

Traditionally, the Hip-hop genre was associated with resistance (Mbock 1996, Nyamjoh 1999). On contrary, other popular local genres such as bikusi, makossa, bottle dance, soukous or bend skin among others, usually relate to celebration and happiness in general where themes such as love, social problems, sex and relationship issues are expressed. While the many most genre of music all over the country tend to derive from specific linguistic groups, hip hop on the contrary, is associated with youth movement that bring to the fore new music, language and art. According to Nyamnjoh and Fokwang, Bikutsi and Makossa, they argue, became popular thanks to the emergence of His Excellency, Biya as head of state since Biya is from this region of the country.  But it took almost two decades for hip-hop to establish itself and become as popular as the genres mentioned above. This so because in the beginning, hip-hop was marginalised and associated with angry youths. However, this was not always the case with some pioneering artists namely Benjo, Stars System, Bashiru, Ak Sang Grave and so on. This master genre has musical themes that are different from other genres, offering platforms for youths to speak up for socio-political issues they believe in.  In this light, hip hop unfolded in Cameroon in fascinating ways in the ‘80s. As this genre gained more grounds in the ‘90s, Louis Tsoungi purchased a recording studio, and alongside Paul Edouard Etoundi and Patrice Bahina in 1998 and started Mapane records in the capital city of Cameroon-Yaoundé in 2000. This became one of the most important music labels of the 2000s, championed by artists such as Krotal, Ak Sang Grave, Bashirou, Ebene and others. The first album to be released under this label was Yaounde Pour La Planete in 2002 by Ak Sang Grave. Following from this, other emergent hip hop musical labels were to spread over the country. 

Despite its status as a latecomer among Cameroonian musical genres, two decades since it first emerged, hip-hop has undergone a series of transformations and today is no longer associated with disgruntled youths, but rather with social consciousness and musical innovation. Today, Stanley Enow’s ‘Hein Pere’ (2013) from his EP Tumuboss has become the first of a MTV Africa Music Award winner in the Best New Act category in 2014 in Durban-South Africa.  This album explores complicated issues of hardship, and faith and flaunts his Cameroonian-ness on almost every level – culturally, thematically, linguistically and stylistically.

 

 Stanley Enow - Hein Père (Official Music Video)

Hein Père

{Intro}

Stanley Enow, Stanley Enow
Bayangi boy huh
You know what it is, hehe!
Hein pere!
Hein pere!
Listen, check!

{Verse 1:}
I don waka no be small, see ma foot
Up down around town see ma boots
Ma foot dem di worry need Dschang shoes
Like Banso man I di fight fo ma oun
Tara dem di gossip, hala hala
No time for dirty fight man, pala pala
Hustle hard nigga I di waka waka
Go slow go slow, hein Jaga Jaga
Hein! Etantimomanyang hein!
Niggas holla back I never rest yo
Been working so hard with the king yo
Thank you Tony Nobody this is me hein
Hein père! say what!
Pour tout mes gars du mboko,mes tatats
Soso go before no matter what
Ask Petit Pays na God go pay
Hein père!

{Hook: x2}
Nous on est au quat on est high père!
Et comme mes gars du mboko on dit "Hein père" (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Yes yes yes yes c’est pour mes frères père!
Oh boy we dey fo qwata on est high père!
Et comme mes gars du mboko on dit "Hein père" (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Yes yes yes yes c’est pour mes frères père!

{Verse: 2}
Mami nyanga, rouge à levre kos kos
Straight bensikin wanna see Mr Cosmos
Don petite seour wanna get rich at all cost
Ma’ala, Kamdem wanna be a boss-boss
Hein Pere! Sexy Makero
Ova don na mbout oh boy da wan na lapiro
Jean Michel Kankan donne moi mon marigo
Djobolos vient on va au beignet Haricot yeah!
Yémalé! Sharp sharp,chakak koubi,zing zing,fap fap
Don petite soeur I go take you for la’akam
Work dat body,gi you small Kanwang
Muah!!
Charlotte Dipanda I go marry you
Lady Ponce I go marry you
Karyce Fotso I go marry you
I go marry you, I go, I go marry you yeah

{Hook: x2}
Nous on est au quat on est high père!
Et comme mes gars du mboko on dit "Hein père" (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Yes yes yes yes c’est pour mes frères père!
Oh boy we dey fo qwata on est high père!
Et comme mes gars du mboko on dit "Hein père" (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Hein Père (Hein Père)
Yes yes yes yes c’est pour mes frères père!

{Outro: End} 

Stanley Ebai Enow is referred to as the Cameroonian King Kong with over 400.000 followers on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnEh1dU7bfY). Enow is a Cameroonian rapper, radio and TV presenter, and voice actor. He is the co-owner of the record label, Motherland Empire. He began writing rap lyrics break dancing while at high school. With his English-French bilingual background and multi talents, Enow quickly combined his talents and showbiz personality to become part of the new generation of the hip hop movement in Cameroon. With Hein Père (where hien is a typical Cameroonian slang which means what; usually used to seek clarification or express surprise) and Père, (a French word meaning dad/father but in slang language would mean guy, man, buddy etc.), literally, it meaning What buddy!), while sticking to the hip hop gangster style, Enow’s clip and language has no vulgarity, a thing very rare to find in hip hop nowadays.

Apart from his talents, Enow performed with a lot of Cameroonian originality, the language style where his lyrics and street stories are in typical Cameroonian Pidgin English and French spiced with Lapiro-like flavour of slangs. His intentionally sloppy sounding voice over the beat makes it look like he is drunk and high on some kind of drug. To crown it all, Enow appears as patriotic when he is shown on a few scenes draped with the Cameroon flag. This song has taken him round the world and to the Unity Palace where he performed in front of the Presidential couple. In addition, to this, he has also created a social movement with Hein Père.

In the above video clip, the fans and followers of Stanley Enow are presented life in the capital city of the country Yaounde. Notice that Cameroon is a country made up of both English and French regions. As shown above, Stanley is from the minority English-speaking Cameroon.  Yet, from the response and attitude he gets, it shows how Stanley’s followers and fans cut across both national and international boundaries.

In addition to these fans and followers, hip hop is prominent for nurturing and preserving collaboration among artists. In the above video clip, Stanley Enow was invited on stage by a hip hop artist from another country who apparently is a legend in the domain, compared to young Stanley, and so, he was invited to perform in Cameroon. In hope, to hear the famous “Hein Pere”, once more, he eagerly asked Stanley for an impromptu performance. But Stanley instead sang “My way” which the audience and fans still welcomed as shown above. While expressing his love and admiration for Stanley he quickly announced their (Stanley and himself) up-coming album and mentioned his preference “Hein Pere”. At the mention of this, Stanley quickly switches and sang parts of the second verse of “Hein Pere” that was happily received by the audience who sang along with him and followed his gestures.

Below is a video clip of my way.

 

 References & Further Reading

Clark, Misa Kibona. 2012. “Hip hop as Social Commentary in Accra and Dar es Salaam”. African Studies Quarterly 13(3):23-24.

MBOCK, C. G. (ed.), Cameroun : pluralisme cultel et convivialité (Edition Nouvelle du Sud, Paris, 1996). 

Nyamnjoh, Francis B. & Jude Fokwang. 2005. “Entertaining Repression: Music and politics in Postcolonial Cameroon.” African Affairs:245.

NYAMNJOH, F. B., ‘Cameroon: a country united by ethnic ambition and difference’, African Affairs 98, 390 (1999), pp. 101–18.

Overstreet, M. and Yule, G., 2002. The metapragmatics of and everything. Journal of Pragmatics34(6), pp.785-794.

Onambélé, Paul Edouard Etoundi. “Les Musiques Urbaines au Cameroun de 1983 à nos Jours.” (Unpublished Ministry of Culture Document)

Wakai, Kangsen Feka. “A New Chapter in the Kamer (Cameroon) Hip-Hop Files: A Review of Jovi Le Monstre’s H.I.V (Humanity is Vanishing)”.  Bakwa Magazine <http://bakwamagazine.com/2013/04/26/music-review-a-new-chapter-in-the-kamer-cameroon-hip-hop-filesand-there-was-jovi-le-monstre-a-review-of-h-i-v-humanity-is-vanishing/(link is external)

Wortham, S. (2006). Learning identity: The joint emergence of social identification and academic learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 Mbong M. Mai completed a PhD in Language and Communication at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Mai’s research interests include curriculum language and culture, language and identity, transformation, language and migration, entrepreneurship, and globalisation with interesting findings, some of which relate to the well-established perspectives on centre-periphery, territoriality, and identity formation. Mai has served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Communication and Media Sties at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)., and as an Academic coordinator at the office of the Vice Chancellor: Academic Affairs for the Division for Postgraduate Studies at the University of the Western Cape and as a Sociolinguistics and Super-diversity fellow for the Max Plank Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. Currently, Mai is a researcher32 at the UJ. 

Transforming Hollywood 10: Streaming to Global Markets


Transforming Hollywood 10: Streaming to global markets

 Friday, April 8, 2022

 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. PT

 Online

Transforming Hollywood is an annual summit where communication and media studies scholars join with media industry professionals, creators, producers, talent, and executives to engage in panel discussions regarding the future of entertainment.  Comprising a partnership between USC’s Annenberg School and UCLA’s Television, Film and Theatre Department, Transforming Hollywood 10 will focus on the topic of Global Streaming Video.  Panels will discuss the disruptive influence of these new players and technologies that are dramatically reshaping the global media industries landscape, the challenges and opportunities for cross-cultural programming across a global streaming environment, data harvesting, and the cultural politics engaged by programming strategies.

Program

The program panelist line up is still is still being finalized. This site will be updated periodically.

Opening Remarks

9–9:15 a.m.

  • Willow Bay, Dean, USC Annenberg

  • Hector Amaya, Professor of Communication, Director of the School of Communication, USC Annenberg

  • Henry Jenkins, Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education, USC Annenberg

  • Denise Mann, Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of TFT

Panel 1: Carnival Row: Producing world-building TV originals to access global markets 

9:15–10:35 a.m. PT

Panel 1 engages in a deep-dive exploration of Amazon Studios’ Carnival Row to discover whether not just Amazon but all U.S. streaming platforms are expediting a shift in overseas media industries by financing high-profile TV originals that use world-building, media franchising, and interactive, digital media marketing experiences to keep global consumers actively engaged within their 24-7 ecosystems.

  • Denise Mann (moderator), Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of TFT

  • Petr Szczepanik (panelist), Associate Professor at Charles University, Prague

  • Kevan Van Thompson (panelist), Producer, Czech Anglo Productions

Break: 10:35–10:45 a.m. PT

Panel 2: Towards data-driven entertainment?

10:45 a.m.–12:05 p.m. PT

This panel will bring together various types of data specialists working for the streamers or the studios, as well as expert scholars, who will engage in a conversation about the central impact of data in the age of global streaming.

  • Violaine Roussel (moderator), Professor, University of Paris VIII; Affiliated Scholar, UCLA, TFT

  • Chloé Delaporte (panelist), Associate Professor, Film and Media Studies, University Montpellier 3, France

  • Marina Kosten (panelist), Head of Research and Strategy, Storyfit; Senior Fellow, USC Center for Digital Future

  • Rohit Joshi (panelist), Senior Director, Data and Analytics, NBCUniversal

Lunch (informal networking event): 12:05–1 p.m. PT

Panel 3: Streaming the global majority

1–2:20 p.m. PT

As film and TV distributors shift to global streaming, how does that shift the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion? Join executives from across the industry and the world to discuss how Hollywood is expanding the concept of representation in 21st century.

  • Aymar Jean Christian (moderator), Associate Professor Communication Studies, Northwestern University

  • Ramon Labato (panelist), Associate Professor DSC School, Media and Communication, RMIT University

  • Erik Barmack (panelist), Producer, CEO Wild Sheep Content

Break: 2:20–2:30 p.m. PT

Closing discussion: U.S. SVODs going global: A conversation with Amanda Lotz

2:30–3:30 p.m. PT

Amanda Lotz is a media scholar, professor, and industry consultant. She leads the Transforming Media Industries research project in the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology. She is the author, coauthor, or editor of ten books that explore television and media industries including We Now Disrupt This Broadcast: How Cable Transformed Television and the Internet Revolutionized It All, The Television Will Be Revolutionized and Portals: A Treatise on Internet-Distributed Television, and Media Disrupted: Surviving Cannibals, Pirates and Streaming Wars.

  • David Craig (moderator), Clinical Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg

  • Henry Jenkins (moderator), Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education, USC Annenberg

  • Amanda Lotz (speaker), Professor and Transforming Media Industries program leader

  • Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology



Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Uwa Innocent (Nigera) and Swapnil Rai (India) (Part Two)

LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND LATERAL FLOWS OF CONSUMPTION PRAXIS BETWEEN INDIAN AND NIGERIAN FANS


Uwah: 
I love the whole thing you said and how have placed it within a historical perspective, like the way Zee world began. That's interesting to see how a television network that stood up to globalization is now a globalizing factor. In discussing Bollywood as its same in discussing Zee world, one discovers Indian identity, dressing style and culture and the patronage it receives across the world and like you mentioned, it is now in about 169 countries and one of the high points it has is cultural resonance which is why it is so popularized also in Nigeria because people are interested in India stories. It is what you alluded to when you spoke of the Hollywood director who handled the Slumdog Millionaire story and made people feel good about the Indians in the story. It is what is found in Germany with the emphasis on melodrama, music, and same for us in Africa,  a great point in it is large families since Africa is communalistic and people do a whole lot of things together within the family.


Uwah: But it is also amazing that its language appeals to all whether in Africa or the West. The west coastt is individualistic and Africa is communalistic but Zee world being presented in English translations or other languages helps fans across the continents to follow and enjoy its storylines. The fans actually create the structures and contexts of consumption mechanisms. 
Fandom in Zee world then is big in Nigeria because of ESL – English as second language – so many young people learn their grammar through acting out what they see on screen and by imitating their heroes. In that way what came to fight globalism by sticking to Indian stories is today a channel of globalization by extending the same stories globally.
We are by is saying it is going round and people are embracing it.


I quoted the director of a film, Dancing Queen in my write up It is a Nollywood film,  of course you know that Nollywood is the film industry in Nigeria, just like we have Bollywood.
Both of them going after Hollywood. So, in this film Dancing Queen, on

e would see that the protagonist, had good love for Zee world, alongside the mother, and some other fans and as she watches it on screen and becomes engrossed in the mannerisms of its casts, she uses her lines to influence the mannerisms of her fellow villagers, in terms of dressing culture, dance steps, accent and attire and because of the changes people see in her as she becomes influential (like a celebrity) in the society, she is able to gather youngsters in the village square and be teaching them how to dance Indian music and carry out actions as seen in  Zee world storylines. Like a network standing for globalization, so also is Nollywood today not only standing up for Africans as against but also for the world as to help add glee to the integrity of Nigerian cultures on screen.


Rai:  You make a great point. And this is something that I bring up in my own research as well . It's like you're pointing to like these global South proximities and for that reason how Bollywood is perceived differently. This sort of comparative research can highlight that. So Bollywood, even though the term itself sounds very imitative in that it is named after Hollywood, Bollywood is a very old industry. To borrow Michael Curtin’s phrase, Mumbai has been this media capital and existed contemporaneously with Hollywood. The first Hollywood movie was made in 1910, India made its first movie 1913. So the fact that this industry became popular as Bollywood happened in the 70s. I think that what we need to understand this dichotomy between the global north and south and we need to acknowledge the existence of other centers, you know, that have existed contemporaneously with Hollywood and have influenced other global regions like Nigeria because of cultural ties because of postcolonial proximity. Yeah, so we have defined that the fact that we have something like Zee points to, you know, these other centers within the global south, that are perhaps as if not more important in thinking about lateral flows and flows of cultural form and connections. Because Nigeria and India have a lot more in common, and have a lot more cultural connections, whether it is their post-colonial past that brought about sort of a different type of exchange or, you know, other kinds of political solidarities. And so, to think about recentering this narrative about how Hollywood is thought of as the originating point for everything,  which in the case of India and Africa it's not.


Uwah: That makes it a good contribution to note that Bollywood is an old industry. The first-time cinema was shown in Nigeria was in 1903. but the influence and aspiration to be like Hollywood has been there. African filmmakers keep reacting to it, I mean Hollywood, whatever it is.  So, what we want to do is be like Hollywood, or be on top of it and tell our own stories unlike what was told about Africa at the earliest times when cinema began about the continent. So, Africans today believe that they can tell their stories better than what the Western world has already told about them before now.


They believe that the wisdom of God in filmmaking and in creating Africa stories can be handled by themselves since the West did not utterly do justice to most of the stories, it was something like what Chiamanda Adichie says when she cautions about believing a “single story” which does not tell the whole truth, So most stories, do not play with specific things and that's why when they do, they want to showcase the context. Yeah, originality, identity, history and other issues like you said point to the connection between Nigeria and India, your arts and ours, again our political history, but also our cultural aspects. Not only political history actually, but also in some form of aspirations to be independent of colonial powers. After their long back and forth battle against colonialism and the effort to really assert themselves in who they are, they have meeting points that we can as well raise.

Uwah: Ok, do you see Zee world making inroads into any other country, whether in the West, or somewhere else, apart from Germany and how do people share in its storylines?

Rai: So to be very honest I haven't watched the Zee world shows in great detail and Zee world is specific to Nigeria. But what I can say in general is that, and this is something you also talked about so in terms of fandom and fan consumption, what attracts these fans or audiences to this type of content is that they want to dress like that, you know, be like Indians wear the bangles, wear the jewelry in a specific way. Thus kind of consumption of Bollywood as a cultural form beyond  just a media text is very interesting. It is a consumption pattern where Bollywood sort of exceeds this its limits as media or becomes this broader cultural form that encompasses Indian traditions, Indian culture, Indian kind of mannerisms gestures, all of those become interesting. So now the point of comparison I would say between how that same thing is received in Nigeria versus Germany would be able to say how are they consuming it? Is there an exoticization happening, even in the Nigerian context because surely in the German context it is happening. Whether it's Bollywood dancers who think about Indian media in specific way as exotic, as different, as fun, and that sort of becomes the point of resonance. However, the fans as entrepreneurs that I talk about are able to think beyond it. They understand this phenomenon and make connections with the industry.

The example that I used in my blog post is about this woman who grew up in the 2000s so she's very young. She grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood films edited for TV that were now being shown on German television. Zee came to Germany only recently, so the young fan consumed Bollywood in a specific way on mainstream German TV not Zee. In her performances she mimics gestures that she sees in Bollywood movies, perfectly like the Indians and there are sort of two levels of exoticization happening here. First she is consuming as a unique cultural form, then presenting it front of the industry and audience as this fan-entrepreneur. The industry is receptive to her because she is exotic. Her fandom and interest in Bollywood is exotic because she is occidental. There is a complex reverse post-colonial exoticization of the white fan/entrepreneur at work here. Her Bollywoodized whiteness is being consumed by the Indians. the Indian embassy or cultural organizations looking to sell Indian culture, for cultural diplomacy would then hire her to perform the Indian Bollywood dance in this context. It's like a very recursive loop where this sort of and exoticization is happening at multiple levels.

Uwah: Zee world is also a bit different and culturally specific. For instance, in its love stories, there is a shift in understanding what people call romance. It is full of words without the emotional show of specific arts like kissing as you see in western movies.
It has to be clean as it is hard to see a full-blown kissing, or having intimacy, on screen in Zee world, again it reveals fashion and how actors are covered-up with costumes and that they do not go as far as showing flesh. They cover the flesh. They are well dressed, shows too how Indian culture plays a huge role in whatever costumes they wear and whatever vision they portray, and the kind of culture, they feel to share. So in that context when we talk about romance in Zee world, it is quite different from some other portrayals in, say Hollywood movies. So, if we use the yardstick of the Western world to discuss romance in Zee world, it can be misleading.
That means that romance in the context of Zee world can be qualified as not making one uncomfortable or saying that too much of flesh is exposed.


Rai: One thing I would say that Indian self is changing very rapidly in these contexts, especially with the coming of streaming platforms and you see the newer bollywood movies and a lot is exposed and a lot is now permitted on screen. So yeah, so this is there is a different level and it's kind of dual edged sword. That sari can be worn in a certain way and thought of as a garment of modesty, in one context, can be a very sensual garment in another context so you have to look at how the fans in Africa are wearing it versus how these German fans are wearing it.
It is important to be able to make these comparisons because Bollywood or Indian media content in general as it exists today, is very vast therefore the form of consumption  is important.
The form is important because for Zee primarily, it is  Bollywood filtered for, the home, for TV ergo for a family audience. Right. And that's why it's important because the world is not the same as the Bollywood world. Zee world presents a kind of Bollywood sensibility filtered for the family and that is why I feel there's that great level of reliability in Africa, which would kind of focus on modesty, or the way that older Bollywood films were they aren't anymore. But still TV content in general uses some of the same structures because the primary target audience is still a family audience.


Uwah: Yeah, so that's the big difference I think.


Rai: Yeah. The other thing I would also say is that there is also a big cultural difference in the reception of Bollywood films  in Germany and Nigeria. In Germany the circulation of Bollywood started on TV. The films are usually three hours long. They were edited down to cut many songs and remove the extraneous information. That is how the circulation started in Germany, by showing edited Bollywood films on the German channel RTV 2. As long as that existed and the Bollywood films were being shown by mainstream German channels it worked fine, but as soon as Zee went into that market and started showing the kind of TV content that's popular in Nigeria that's more Bollywoodized, the fandom dropped. They did not appreciate it in the same way and Zee had to shout down their German operations.

Uwah: Exactly, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly because we consume to relax and feel happy… the fastness or thematic thrust in production angles may not be the same, so it's understandable that culture speaks to all audiences who patronize it and not merely for academic purposes.

 

Swapnil Rai is Assistant Professor of Film, TV and Media at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Swapnil’s research is concerned with the intersections of politics, popular culture and media industries and brings together global media industry studies, transnational stardom, audience studies and women and gender studies. Her work has been published in a range of scholarly journals including Communication, Culture & Critique, Feminist Media Studies, International Journal of Communication, Jump Cut and Cinephile. In her prior experience as a journalist, writer and editor, Swapnil has covered beats pertaining to cinema, art, and culture. She has also worked in the multimedia and information services industry for Thomson

 

Dr. Innocent Ebere Uwah is a Reader in Film Studies, at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. His research interests are on the interface between representations and cultures, Nollywood and media education, identity constructions in films and religion communications.

 

Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Innocent Uwa (Nigeria) and Swapnil Rai (India) (Part One)

Bollywood Fandoms: The West versus East (Germany and Nigeria)

Is this fandom feminized in the West?


Rai: All right, so the first question of that I had for you is how is the Bollywood fandom itself feminized in a global more Western context. This is something I’ve been mentioning is the case in Germany. But I'm curious to know if it is similar in Africa,  or is it more dispersed because in some of the examples that I saw of Bollywood fans hailing from let's say Africa or other countries, living in western context both men and women equally consume the cinema. What are your thoughts in this for Nigeria, specifically?

Uwah: Fandom in Nigeria can be witnessed by looking at the contexts of film consumption – for example, where and how is Zee world consumed? The media act with attractions to audiences, like football game, music, film, or whatever help us to appreciate the nature and dynamics of fandom. That is what obtains in speaking about Zee world here.

Rai: it is similar to what you get by looking at Bollywood?

Uwah: Whatever I say Zee world stands for Bollywood which I concentrated on while discussing fandom as can be seen in my write up. Therein you see how, especially young couples, follow and consume Zee world; you discover that for homes that have aspirations and share values together, they look out for what to see in Zee world series.
So, they do a whole lot of things together, and everything they tend to share seems to revolve around the Zee world values. You also discover that apart from couples doing things together. Most women, consume it because there's some sort of escapism in it, because so many of them would love the canons of the story from the angle of romance.
The angle of love. and the way issues of life relationships are treated in Zee word are well captured in its stories. So, Zee word has a whole lot of patronage in Nigeria, because of its thematic thrust, focus of its relationships, because of its high points in humanness among young people. Again, because of its high appeal, people tend to enjoy how it goes about family issues and therein one can discover the dynamics of huge familyy life from one generation to the second and even up to the third.

Every story is in fact too wide to collapse, so  many people here in Nigeria practice living with extended family members and it is one thing you see sustaining family relationships in Zee world where everybody is involved, you don't take any person for granted. And sometimes the need of the baby can even be seen in the act of a granny, and the joy of the wife has implications for the husband, or the affairs of the house can make someone declare war in the family…so it makes people look up to the stories that resonates with their circumstances and feel good.

People also use it to explore the culture of the Indians. Look at the kind of traditional attires they put on as costumes as well as the way people handle spoken English spoken, most young people want to have aaccess to best practices in other words people also learn grammar through this, so they have a lot of things that bring up treasures to them from the screen experience and these things are some of the reasons why because zee world is hugely patronized and consumed on TV rather than on websites many would have gone online in Nigeria as a collective, but because not so many people can access the digital world from their homes, emphasis is on consuming it on television screen. The most they have to do is to buy the watch their favorites on TV unlike how it is done in the Western world where fans would connect each other online.

We have people in Nigeria that can follow a particular series of TV wherever they are by going online, and then watching it on screen, but people prefer to follow it live on television in Nigeria and watch it on TV. So that's how the zee world fandom sounds here.

Rai: So, what I'm hearing here is that there are a lot of factors that create these cultural resonances so one is age factors and generational. You said young couples, so the romance of it becomes important. You're also saying that family values, and the kind of resonances that exist in the way that Indian families are structured, that kind of reflects in in the narratives of the world, resonates with the African way of life as well, because it, it places emphasis on family bonds and children on like filial piety and things like that.
You also pointed to some platform issues that there is sort of this digital divide, wherein the access primarily comes through TV.

Uwah: Yeah.

Rai: For my part I can actually begin with contrasting this with how Zee exists in other contexts, and how the consumption of Zee which is this big TV conglomerate has a very interesting history in India . Zee’s parent corporation was a large industrial corporation Essel that had now media interests before they started Zee. And when, at the beginning of point of globalization, you know, when star and Rupert Murdoch and others wanted to enter the Indian market Zee stood up, as this entity who did not like these white skin channels to dominate the Indian mediascape .They were sort of the real original powerful Indian media conglomerate.
So, and they existed like that for a long time. And, like in their heyday even now, they have operations in over 169 countries now. Mostly they operate on the kind of cultural resonances that you're talking about so they started with markets where they had that sort of resonance, but they built on Bollywood. Because Bollywood has had a global circulation and popularity as you and I already discussed in Africa.

And so this cultural resonance with Bollywood is something that they banked on to then identify where else should they start their next channel and that this would function but then, like you also said genre elements the fact that a lot of their soap operas and stories were based on romance this sort of family drama and traditionally operated through a very melodramatic narrative. So those became key factors but often like they started with culturally proximate markets, but oftentimes Bollywood was sort of their touched on, to figure out whether their content would work in this specific market or not. Now, Germany, the context that I talked about in my blog post and is sort of a newer context.


In contrast to Africa in Germany Bollywood only became popular as it started to get globally popular in the 2000s with. And this was several factors that contributed to the global presence of Bollywood which was the industry itself was changing got globally ambitious got recognized by the Indian state as a legitimate industry so then could be a part of the global market in a way that it couldn't have been in the past and that changed a lot of things in the early 2000s. And then you've got a movie like Slumdog Millionaire, which essentially was an homage to Bollywood actually was an Indian story used Indian actors used bollywood, bollywood tropes and kind of this Hollywood director presented a cultish Bollywood for the rest of the world but are most of the elements, a lot of the elements of the movie were Indian so so this kind of Bollywood becomes a thing, a cultural form that people look up to and it becomes globally popular and is in that moment that a German channel sort of picked up on Bollywood movie to show, and this one particular star becomes really famous and and his films kind of start to get exported andthis whole thing starts. And that's when Zee also begins to think that okay well maybe there is a market here, and they start a channel of the Germany, but mostly as you know to see world It isn't just Bollywood but it's also Indian soap operas, and all of those kind of are intermixed as cultural forms both operate within similar structures of melodrama and music and so forth, which works well, let's say in a more culturally proximate market like Africa, but was and didn't work all that well in Germany consistently and it's only until they actually shut down their channel in the midst of the pandemic because they were incurring losses.

So how Bollywood continues to circulate is through the fans. These cultish fan followers these white women that are older women and younger women that are all very fond of Bollywood predominantly for how it emotionally moves them. But, unlike Africa, the difference is that they do not see any direct resonances to their real life or circumstances because that being a very Western context, the society is individualistic and not so community family driven, that those kind of resonances would be possible. But it's mainly around sort of the romance of it. And I've seen how now those fans have now carried the baton and want to create an Industrial structure which is sustained by them so these fans actually went ahead and started a Bollywood magazine, and they have their blog, they do film festivals.

So, even though industrially with nodes like Zee, Germany seems to be a place where they have sort of given up or do not have a concerted strategy around this market. The fans have become this industrial node that they are sustaining these flows and the Bollywood industry itself, draws from them.

Global Fandom: Swapnil Rai (India)

A Portrait of a Fan as an Entrepreneur and Industry Node:

Bollywood’s Female Fans in Germany and Russia

 

I was intrigued by [Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, 2001 (SRK’s film)], but I was even more intrigued by the effect it had on my mother. I cannot remember ever seeing my mother cry, not even at funerals. But there she was watching this film, and she had tears running down her face.

—Julia Wessel, Editor of German Bollywood Magazine Ishq[i]

Julia Wessel, a twenty-five-year-old German student, was so moved by the phenomenon and fandom around Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) that she quit her degree in cultural anthropology to edit a German Bollywood magazine.[ii] SRK’s popularity among his German fans spurred the creation of fanzines, industry infrastructure, and collaboration that opened up a new market for Bollywood in the early 2000s.

Similarly, women in Russia and the former Soviet Union have consistently been ardent admirers of Bollywood since the 1950s. Awaara (1951; Dir: Raj Kapoor) was one of the earliest and most popular Indian films in the Soviet Union. The film’s release turned out to be a pivotal and defining moment for cinematic and cultural exchange with Russia. Awaara sold close to 64 million tickets, became the third most viewed foreign film in Soviet history, and made Raj Kapoor a soviet cultural icon.[iii] According to Bollywood fan Alyona Kuznetsova, "back then, Raj Kapoor was a sex symbol."[iv] Many of Kapoor's films subsequently found distribution in Russia, and he collaborated with Russian production companies and actors. Thus, Awaara instigated a new channel for distribution and market for Indian films. By the time of the collapse of the USSR, no fewer than 226 Indian films had been screened in the country.[v] However, following Perestroika, Russia was inundated with media products from around the world, and the popularity of Indian cinema declined. Nevertheless, the Indian Hindi film culture still retained its most dedicated audience – women. 

 

In an interview with a programming consultant for Zee, an Indian satellite TV broadcaster that has operations in over 169 countries, it was revealed that the main pull for Zee to launch a Bollywood channel in Russia was the dedicated female audience for Hindi films. Even though the global popularity of Indian cinema is not well known in the Anglo-phone western world, Indian films have been popular in diverse global regions ranging from Azerbaijan to Egypt. While in the global south in countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, or China, Bollywood films are seemingly popular across male and female audiences, Germany and Russia offer an interesting manifestation of female fandom. Companies such as Zee or Rapid Eye Movies (German Distributor) are very clear about the audience they are targeting and, in their estimation, it is women –  particularly older women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

 

The core questions that I want to engage with are tied to

  • 1) the feminization of a film culture from the Global South, especially when the recipient is from a western context. What are the reasons for it, and why are German and Russian women attracted to Bollywood movies?

  • 2) How does this affective fan labor engage with industry networks, especially in Germany, where the fans themselves became an industry node by starting a magazine, organizing Bollywood award shows, and hosting films on the web. In this context, I want to foreground the notion that these women fans become the affective industrial catalyzers and intermediaries that exceed notions of traditional fandom based on free fan labor or the exploitation of fan labor. While it is a labor of love for them, it comes with the expected fruits of entrepreneurship.

  • 3) How do these fans and their mattering maps (Grossberg) for these films and film stars generate affect that in turn translates to industrial contexts creating new distribution networks for Bollywood films in regions where Bollywood was not popular before?

[i] (Chopra, 2014) Chopra, Anupama. 2014. "Bollywood is dancing far abroad; Global fortunes advance for Hindi films, but US market is still resisting." International New York Times, September 27: 1.

 

[ii] Wessel’s magazine, Ishq, has a circulation of 30,000 in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (Chopra, 2014).

[iii] ibid

[iv] (Fedotova 2013)

[v] ibid

Global Fandom: Innocent Ebere Uwah (Nigeria)

Fandom is typically a global consumption practice. Among the platforms where it is visibly contextualized in Nigeria are popular cultures like football, music, big brother Naija, comedy skits, and Nollywood films with different genres and stars having large followers among the audiences. Being the nation’s film industry, Nollywood in particular, is very popular with prosumers – (producers and consumers) – as it serves many sensations and tastes given fans’ identification with its storylines, stars and thematic concerns. Although my interest in media studies has overtime been focused on Nollywood studies, I am drawn to discuss the Zee World television channel here in the same light as Nollywood genres since it is consumed in the same fashion and mode as films on television screens. Again, both share borderline connections such as the overarching use of dialogue to drive storylines and excessive use of visual effects to punctuate narratives. There is reliance on emotional appeal to inflect suspenseful key motifs in them. Added to these is the idea of audiences taking both Nollywood and Zee World representations as purveyors of good spoken English language techniques and social behavior mannerisms for possible identity construction and affirmation.

 

Zee World is a Bollywood English Language television channel and program that is made available to consumers in Nigeria via the South African satellite television network provider, DSTV, owned by The Multichoice Group. It plays melodrama in seasons and is replete with excesses of emotion, sensation and suspense. Of course, many things can trigger one’s interest in consumption practices of media fans, but one which makes me consider Zee World’s patronage in Nigeria is not only because of the massive number of consumers it has but the nature of its reception contexts as an example of Bollywood, in competition for fans and audiences, with Nollywood in the country. 

 

Most young people love arts and follow it up wherever it is showcased insofar as it is beautiful and satiating. Zee World is one of those with every melodramatic quality: filled with excesses of emotion and dialogue. Its depictions are more of romantic stories that tend to elicit responses from passionate viewers, most especially the young and females in particular. Of course, this is one of its high points and one of the key reasons why it attracts most people to its viewership. People do not only love watching romance on television but follow emotions as cast on screen to identify with characters and their stories. They watch and comment alongside the narratives as the ‘seasons’ unfold progressively. Reporting their joy in watching Zee World, some Nigerian women interviewed for this write up point to their escapism with the television program based on a few things, such as the admiration of the portrayal of Indian culture on, the sense of fashion and jewelries used by cast and the tropes of romance that is differentially suspenseful. One person who emphasized this is Salome[i], a thirty-two-year-old woman who loves watching Zee World with her husband. According to her:

 

As for me and my husband, we like watching Zee World and while doing so, you discover that you are lost in suspense because they have lots of seasons and you cannot predict the storylines. I like it because it is a friendly television program. You can hardly see in Zee World where people kiss or openly romance, unlike some others that can make a family uncomfortable. I think they respect the Indian culture just as seen in Bollywood movies. My children watch Zee World with me and my husband because there is no fear of misleading them with excessive romance on screen, not to talk of sex and I love the sense of fashion they show…Zee World respects the Indian culture. They hardly swift away and keep to the rules of their Indian culture. It resonates with us as a young couple because the stories are all about giving love and receiving love. The cast do the normal things movies portray, such as real emotions, culture, jewelries and nice costumes. Also, I love seeing them portray emotional commitment and couples reasoning alike and trying not to hurt each other…it just feels nice watching the episodes.

 

Fandom as implicative here therefore, refers to the exuberant and habitual performative consumption of the screen actions that the Zee World television melodrama helps us decode among Nigerians, especially young women, by looking at key mannerisms underlying the sites and moments of its consumption. Even though, an analysis of this nature may not easily tally with expectations that pertain to digital platforms where fans have a network of friends engaged in chatting and discussing their views, yet; activism in media consumption, especially in Nigeria, where some limitations do not yet guarantee full blown netnography of audiences cannot easily be ignored based on premises that pertain to digitization. It will be denying the truth if one thinks that not much of interactivities take place between Zee World texts and its numerous consumers across Nigeria, albeit in the domestic rather than online spaces. For other fans like Agnes[ii], who takes her womanhood serious, “Although Zee world is my favorite television program, the stories can at times be disrespectful to women… toiling with their emotions…. but the one character I love most is Zara. Zara, in one of the episodes fought hard for the right of women…if men have the right to work, then the female folk has to have the same equal right to work…she fought for her right and I love her and her role.” Like Agnes so also is Juliet[iii], another young woman of twenty-nine years who believes that Zee World resonates with her mainly because of her position as a newly married woman and the lessons it helps her learn. According to her, “I love it when I see a good storyline and the cast playing captivating roles in Zee World. Over 90 percent of Zee World films I have watched has marriage and family settings…. they show how a good number of people live together as a family, both the young and the old. So, as a young woman who has a new home, I love to watch it and learn how I can handle my home and live with good number of people and accommodate them.”

 

There are ample reasons to robustly think that there are Zee World fans in Nigeria than can be imagined. Apart from the one-on-one personal communications I have had with most Zee World fans; I have experienced the joy and laughter of a group in catching up with the episodes even in my sitting room. I once invited some young people to a meeting and while we were waiting to form the quorum, the television set was on and people, mostly young women, could be seen discussing a Zee World episode going on at that time passionately with convincing knowledge of plotlines from its beginning and using names of casts to drive their analysis. Again, at some other gathering, I have seen couples leave an assembly earlier than others because they would not like to miss a show out of the ‘seasons’ of their favorite Zee World television program. In other words, Zee World has become a household word and a catch phrase in the Nigerian lexicon currently. There are both passive and active consumers. Most importantly, there are engaging and vibrant fans who follow the ‘seasons’ on regular basis and have deep-seated knowledge of the history and storylines of the programs. Corroborating the popularity of Zee World in Nigeria, a filmmaker I cited his work in my article decided to encode frames of family members watching Zee World in one Nigerian (Nollywood) film, titled Dancing Queen[iv] (Chidebe, Mac-Collins, 2017). By doing so he foregrounds the connection of people with Zee World and showcases the high level of patronage the Indian melodrama receives in the country.

 Strictly speaking, discussing fandom in Nigeria can be engaging from many fronts. But the idea behind limiting it to Zee World here is with the mindset of conducting an ethnography that can be managed in terms of exploring the nature of its consumption practices among young people who have access to it via cable television network. Such a study will dovetail not only the personal contexts of its consumers but also the uses they make of the screen narratives and the nature of their consumption modes. Doing so will not only reveal further the place and status of fan studies in Nigeria but also significantly help to map out the unique characteristics of the fans of  Zee World in the Nigerian context.

 

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Innocent Ebere Uwah is a Reader in Film Studies, at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. His research interests are on the interface between representations and cultures, Nollywood and media education, identity constructions in films and religion communications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[i] Salome, not the real name, personal communication on 01/21/22.

[ii] Agnes, pseudonym, personal communication on 01/20/22

[iii] Juliet, pseudonym, personal communication on 01/25/22

[iv] See: Uwah, I. E. (2019). Repositioning Nollywood in a Struggling Economy: The Need to Reform a Self-Help Industry for Maximum Impact in Nigeria. Black Renaissance Noire. Volume 19. Issue 1. New York University. USA. Pp. 126 – 135.

 

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Global Fandom Jamboree Conversations: Veluree Metaveevinij (Thailand) and Khursten Michelle L. Santos (The Philipines) (Part Four)

Santos:


I would like to express my appreciation to Veluree and the knowledge she has imparted on Thai BL in her comments. Seeing the robust transformations of women’s literature and the thriving creative industry in Thailand makes me recognise the parallels in publication trends in the Philippines. Interestingly, while this has transformed women’s literature, it hasn’t developed on the same scale as it has in Thailand. In the next sections, I’ll be answering some of Veluree’s questions. 

       

BL ECOSYSTEM IN THE PHILIPPINES


While my research on Boys Love (BL) initially focuses on Japan, the next stage of my research looks into the idea of how BL literacies are translated and adapted outside of Japan. For example, one of the more popular BL literacy involves kabedon, the act of pushing a person against a wall in order to have an intimate conversation. Stemming from depictions in various shojo manga, kabedon has been extensively used in BL manga. This visual concept would be adapted in global BL works as Thai BL and Pinoy BL titles would use kabedon as an opportunity to establish a couple in the story. That said, global BL media are also finding new affective media elements from local concepts and practices. An example of this is the association of nom yen, a Thai pink milk, with characters who bottom in Thai BL. The inclusion of these local concepts and practices highlights the diversification of BL literacies that are expanding beyond those defined by Japanese BL fans. 




A ‘kabedon’ scene from Gaya sa Pelikula (2020)


Compared to Japan, Thailand, and China, the media ecosystem of surrounding BL in the Philippines is still very young and has much room to grow. Unlike in Thailand, where there is wide access to Japanese and Thai-produced BL media, from novels to comics, the Philippines has limited access to these materials and often rely on the limited fan-translated works that are openly distributed online for free. It shares a similar history with Thailand where the initial community of BL readers heavily interacted with BL communities online, many of which are Anglophone BL (or yaoi) fan spaces such as Aestheticism.net or Aarinfantasy.com. In the early 2000s, these spaces were central in educating different fans of the different literacies associated with Japan’s BL culture. As such, initial Filipino BL creators were heavily influenced by these literacies and would use them to create various fan-works. Online blogging spaces such as Livejournal and archives for self-produced fictions such as Fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad were important spaces for Filipino BL fans to explore writing BL. Y!Gallery, Deviantart and Pixiv were critical for learning how to draw BL. By 2010s, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter became important avenues for BL interaction. While these online developments provided a larger space for BL expression, the diverse access points to BL has also diluted BL literacies from Japan. 


Most BL works in the Philippines are fan works produced and distributed online. These BL fanworks shift with global media trends as some feature popular anime and manga characters while recent BL fanworks focus on shipping idols from KPOP, and actors from danmei-related drama or Thai BL. The lack of local original BL works is primarily due to the lack of media infrastructures that sustainably allow Filipino BL creators to make a living out of creating BL. Since 2013, there is only one BL publisher in the Philippines, Black Ink which publishes BL novels and comics in Filipino. The difficulty in producing BL comics and novels at a commercial pace have left creators to pursue self-publication. Artists such as CinnamonRub choose platforms such as Tapas to distribute their BL works. Philippine BL fan events such as Blush have produced BL anthologies but the cost of production and the lack of contributions have made the publication of the anthology inconsistent. In 2020, taking inspiration from Thai BL dramas, PinoyBL, Philippine-produced BL web dramas also emerged. A handful of PinoyBL titles reached global acclaim as titles such as Gameboys received nominations and awards from all over the world. This energy brought about by the confluence of global BL cultures will hopefully help nurture and develop BL media in the Philippines. 


In terms of literacies, Black Ink follows uses Japanese BL literacies while adapting some of these by featuring stories in the Philippine context. An example of this can be seen in Claudine Erang and Peach Balai’s 2015 comic BTS, which features two rival actors where one actor followed a Filipino path to stardom. Black Ink, despite its low prices ($2.00 for an 80-page comic), is less accessible compared to a Thai BL show which can be watched for free on mobile devices. Different mobile packages that give “free” bandwidth data to Youtube has made Thai BL more accessible to Filipino BL fans. As such, since 2014, a good number of Filipinos became more interested in Thai BL (Baudinette 2020). By the time series such as SOTUS became accessible on Netflix and 2gether was globally broadcasted with Filipino subtitles on Youtube at the start of 2020, Thai BL became the more recognizable form of BL in the Philippines. The emergence of PinoyBL, would often allude to Thai BL as their inspiration and motivation rather than Japanese BL. The lack of access to legal or fan translations of Thai Y-novels made Thai BL dramas the main point of access to Thai BL and BL Literacies. As such, there is an interesting mix of BL fans in the Philippines. First, there are BL fans who are literate in Japanese BL literacies and its connections to transnational flows of BL across the region. Second, there are BL fans who are unaware of BL’s long history and highly associate BL culture with Thailand.  


ON EROBL IN THE PHILIPPINES 


While I analyzed EroBL in commercial Japan works, I can’t say that EroBL has emerged in commercial BL works in the Philippines. The obscenity laws in the Philippines prevent the depiction of these kinds of scenes. Black Ink labels some of its BL titles as M, indicating that it contains mature content, but many of its texts imply sexual scenes rather than depict them. PinoyBL also imply sexual intimacy but do not portray sexual acts in their dramas. 


This lack of EroBL in commercial BL media does not mean that pornographic BL works are not produced by Filipino BL creators nor does it mean that there is a lack of support from local BL fans. Many of these are distributed as fanworks online, either as explicit fanfiction or fanart. Some are self-produced and are distributed in local and global fan events such as Comic Market in Japan (Santos 2019).  



ON FILO AU 


While PinoyBL is a commercial BL work inspired by Thai BL web dramas, FILO AU is a fan-based adaptation that engages with Thai BL through localised shipping practices on social media. Filo AU emerged in 2018 as part of K-POP shipping culture and with the popularity of Thai BL it has been used by fans as an avenue to explore different scenarios for their favourite ThaiBL ships. In tagging a social media AU as FILO AU, readers are expected to see ships situated not from their original canon but in the Philippines. For example, BrightWin FILO AU may feature BrightWin as rival athletes from Philippine universities renowned for their athletic rivalry. Sometimes, these popular ThaiBL ships are rewritten in a FILO AU as characters in a famous Filipino romance movie. Even when there are local actors that can slip into these FILO AU, the choice to use queer characters and identities, such as Thai BL characters, highlight the strong heteronormative attachments to local actors and the need to use queer characters to explore queer local Filipino contexts that are deeply attached to heteronormative media and norms. 



Metaveevinij:


I really appreciate the great information Kristine has given. Also, thanks for the questions Kristine picked up for further discussion. I will respond accordingly. 



ON THE TENSION OF MODERNITY IN THAILAND


I argue in my paper that audiences in Thailand and Myanmar are consuming transnational media because of the feeling of ‘modernity’. This argument is in accordance with what Koichi Iwabuchi (2004) argued in his edited book, Feeling Asian Modernities Transnational Consumption of Japanese TV Dramas. Burmese audiences feel a notion of ‘modernity’ when they are watching Thai media, whereas Thai audiences feel similarly when they are watching Korean series. Therefore, transnational media seems to fulfill audiences in a particular way that local media cannot offer them. 

  Recently, there are controversial arguments among netizens in Thailand regarding the difference between Thai and Korean TV dramas/movies. Many Thai netizens, especially the young generation, argue that qualities of Thai media content are lower than those of Korean content. They denounced the predictable formula and melodrama styles of Thai content. Although this criticism is partly true, they ignore the fact that Thai content, including BL series, is able to attract an international audience and receive global recognition. I would like to argue that this criticism comes from the tension of modernity in Thailand. Thai young audiences feel that content in Thai media is less modern so that they cannot be attracted by this local content. 


Arguably, nowadays the audience in Thailand has separated into two main groups. The first group is the audience who still enjoy watching Thai soap operas. The second group is the audience who enjoy watching Korean, Japanese, and Western media. The first group usually is in their 30s and over, while the second group seem the younger generation. Nonetheless, in many times, ages cannot identify this difference, and these two groups of audiences can be overlapped. Thai BLs seem an ‘in between’ of these two kinds of media content. They have Thai settings with  non-heterosexual relationship and Japanese influence. Therefore, young Thai audiences seem to accept this kind of content more than traditional Thai soap operas.    


What I am trying to say is the fact that there is a big generation gap. Or, maybe, it is not a ‘generation’ but an ‘ideological’ gap in Thailand. Many audiences feel that they can relate themselves to Korean TV dramas rather than Thai TV dramas. This means that Thai media cannot offer content that convinces particular audiences in Thailand. For example, young audiences may feel that romantic relationships portrayed in Thai soap operas are not ‘real’ for them, compared with romantic relationships portrayed in Thai BL series, Japanese manga, or Korean dramas. This ideological gap can be seen in a form of differences in political ideologies as well. Arguably, this leads to the phenomena that many Thai youths are using popular culture as an expression of their political ideologies. 


THE FANDOM IS POLITICAL OR APOLITICAL SPACE 


As mentioned in my opening statement, I am interested in the way that young protesters use #MilkTeaAlliance and other popular hashtags to evoke global pro-democracy movement. I am excited to know that the Filipino fans also participate in this movement. As you mentioned, in many times, fan activities seem to be a way to escape from political reality. Nevertheless, I would like to argue that eventually fans cannot help to relate themselves to political reality in Thailand. For example, Thai fans are fascinated to watch Korean series because characters in the series criticize established institutions, such as the military, police, and court in a way that they would like to criticize these institutions in Thailand. 


When the famous Korean series, such as Kingdom (2019), Squid Game (2021), and Vincenzo (2021), are released on the streaming platform. Many Thai fans captured some dialogues and scenes to relate series content to what is going on in Thailand.  My argument is that consuming popular culture seems to be apolitical activity. But, in fact, this activity is closely related to political ideology, regardless of whether audiences realize this fact. 


My current research project, therefore, aims to investigate how the BL fans join online political movements by using a concept of fan-based citizenship, which is public engagement and civic action that arise from fandom participation (Hinck 2019). Hopefully, my forthcoming paper can provide a better understanding of the complexity of cultural and political spaces in BL fandom. 


In terms of literacies, Black Ink follows uses Japanese BL literacies while adapting some of these by featuring stories in the Philippine context. An example of this can be seen in Claudine Erang and Peach Balai’s 2015 comic BTS, which features two rival actors where one actor followed a Filipino path to stardom. Black Ink, despite its low prices ($2.00 for an 80-page comic), is less accessible compared to a Thai BL show which can be watched for free on mobile devices. Different mobile packages that give “free” bandwidth data to Youtube has made Thai BL more accessible to Filipino BL fans. As such, since 2014, a good number of Filipinos became more interested in Thai BL (Baudinette 2020). By the time series such as SOTUS became accessible on Netflix and 2gether was globally broadcasted with Filipino subtitles on Youtube at the start of 2020, Thai BL became the more recognizable form of BL in the Philippines. The emergence of PinoyBL, would often allude to Thai BL as their inspiration and motivation rather than Japanese BL. The lack of access to legal or fan translations of Thai Y-novels made Thai BL dramas the main point of access to Thai BL and BL Literacies. As such, there is an interesting mix of BL fans in the Philippines. First, there are BL fans who are literate in Japanese BL literacies and its connections to transnational flows of BL across the region. Second, there are BL fans who are unaware of BL’s long history and highly associate BL culture with Thailand.  



ON EROBL IN THE PHILIPPINES 


While I analyzed EroBL in commercial Japan works, I can’t say that EroBL has emerged in commercial BL works in the Philippines. The obscenity laws in the Philippines prevent the depiction of these kinds of scenes. Black Ink labels some of its BL titles as M, indicating that it contains mature content, but many of its texts imply sexual scenes rather than depict them. PinoyBL also imply sexual intimacy but do not portray sexual acts in their dramas. 


This lack of EroBL in commercial BL media does not mean that pornographic BL works are not produced by Filipino BL creators nor does it mean that there is a lack of support from local BL fans. Many of these are distributed as fanworks online, either as explicit fanfiction or fanart. Some are self-produced and are distributed in local and global fan events such as Comic Market in Japan (Santos 2019).  



ON FILO AU 


While PinoyBL is a commercial BL work inspired by Thai BL web dramas, FILO AU is a fan-based adaptation that engages with Thai BL through localised shipping practices on social media. Filo AU emerged in 2018 as part of K-POP shipping culture and with the popularity of Thai BL it has been used by fans as an avenue to explore different scenarios for their favourite ThaiBL ships. In tagging a social media AU as FILO AU, readers are expected to see ships situated not from their original canon but in the Philippines. For example, BrightWin FILO AU may feature BrightWin as rival athletes from Philippine universities renowned for their athletic rivalry. Sometimes, these popular ThaiBL ships are rewritten in a FILO AU as characters in a famous Filipino romance movie. Even when there are local actors that can slip into these FILO AU, the choice to use queer characters and identities, such as Thai BL characters, highlight the strong heteronormative attachments to local actors and the need to use queer characters to explore queer local Filipino contexts that are deeply attached to heteronormative media and norms. 




Global Fandom Jamboree Conversations: Veluree Metaveevinij (Thailand) and Kirsten Michelle L. Santos (The Philipinea) (Part One)


Santos:


Veluree’s works and opening statement speak of the transnational impacts of Southeast Asian media within the region. From the exploration of nostalgia to aspirations of modernity and hybrid expressions of gender, Veluree has highlighted fan communities in modern transition. In doing so, we can see through her analysis of these transnational films the ways in which fans in the region reflect on the changes happening in their everyday lives and their desire for change while also longing for the past. I find this negotiation relatable as I also see it within Philippine fan communities that seek to find their identities by engaging with regional media. 


ON THAILAND’S MODERNITY 

Your finding on the contrasting interests among young Thai and Burmese fans and their aspirations has its similarities in the way Boys Love has been viewed here in the Philippines. While I don’t have any idea on the response of Thai Fans to PinoyBL, I have seen Filipino viewer responses to Thai BL and they do associate a kind of “modernity” with Thailand because of how forward Thailand appears in producing BL content alongside their long media history of presenting queer narratives. It is quite interesting that this perception of “‘modern’ sexual expression” is associated with Thailand given that Thailand has its own struggles with LGBTQ politics and issues. If I recall, a number of ThaiBL actors have been quite supportive of the LGBTQ community yet this support is not consistent among other BL actors. I’d like to ask your opinion on this “modern” tension. 




ON #MILKTEAALLIANCE: THE FAN IS POLITICAL



Your section on the #milkteaalliance is a wonderful example of transnational connectivity and political causes brought about by a media landscape that has consciously (or unconsciously) integrated fan culture and politics. In my short observations of this hashtag, I am impressed by how some actors actively participated and fans eagerly rallied behind them. What’s fascinating is how you mentioned Philippine participation in this hashtag when it came to our own border concerns with China. It is one of many examples that exhibit fan networks exercising their political agency. A wonderful counterexample to many criticisms of fans as mindless consumers of popular culture. 



That said, I find the visibly of fan politics highlight the political tension between fans. In the Philippines, whenever fans engage in political activities, there are heated discussions concerning media and its fandom as an apolitical space. The tensions surrounding political factions in the Philippines colour fan understanding of politics. For example, the hashtag #KPOPStansforLeni was an initiative by some Filipino fans to support a political candidate and develop voter education for the upcoming May 2022 Philippine presidential election. This was met by criticism by other Filipino fans who feel that fandoms shouldn’t associate their KPOP groups with political events and issues. Of course, #milkteaalliance and KPOP fans’ political initiatives are some examples of how fans align with the politics of their idols. At the same time, however, not all fans develop this political attachment. Some fans see their idols as a form of escape from political reality. A part of me wonders if you see this kind of tension within fan spaces in Thailand and Myanmar. 



Metaveevinij:

 

“ROTTEN WOMEN” AND BOYS LOVE LITERACIES 

 I am interested in the term “Rotten women” you mentioned in your opening statement. As far as I know, there is no such word in the BL communities in Thailand. Thai female BL fans are called ‘Sao Wai’. Sao means girls, and Wai comes from the sound of Y, the first alphabet of Yaoi. On the contrary, many Thais call television soap operas ‘Nam Nao’, which literally means “Polluted water” because of  their cliché stories and stereotypical characters. 


Therefore, at the beginning of this dialogue, I would like to unfold the literacy communities in Thailand, particularly female writers and readers connecting with the BL literacies. Hopefully, this discussion can bring better understanding of the BL communities in Thailand and the Philippines. 


Previously, novel writers in Thailand, especially female writers who write romance novels, published their works in weekly and fortnightly magazines which target housewives and female readers. Famous magazines, such as Satri Sarn, Sakulthai, and Kwan Ruean highly influenced women’s literature in Thailand. Novels of acclaimed writers published in the magazines may eventually become television dramas, which also have female audiences as a main target. 


Nonetheless, this situation has changed since the late 2010s.  Digital disruption leads to decline in popularity of printed magazines and newspapers. To survive, various magazines have transformed from printed media to online platforms. However, many editors of magazines that publish novels were in their 50s or 60s. They decided to retire from the business. The printed platform for weekly and quatarly Thai romance novels, then, have ceased operations. However, there are still publishers that publish Thai novel books. 

In the meantime, there is a new arrival of digital platforms for writing and reading novels. The website called Dek-D.com, established since 1999 for teenage content, has opened a section for publishing online novels.  Later, many other digital platforms, such as ReadAWrite, Tunwalai, and Joylada, established and quickly gained popularity among young writers and readers. Many writers who publish their works on these platforms are the young generation who are familiar with popular culture from Japanese manga, K-pop, and Western fantasy novels. Finally, these newcomers become key creators for the Boys Love novels that drive the BL community in Thailand. Thai BL writings closely relate to fandom cultures. Many BL novels are written as ‘fan fictions’, in which popular idols are paired up as the imaginary male-male couples. As a result, the readers of this kind of fiction usually share a common interest with K-pop and J-pop fans. This situation possibly happens in the Philippines as well. 


Consequently, I would like to ask you for further elaboration. What kind of ecosystem has BL novels or contents been created in the Philippines? As I already mentioned about Thailand’s case, changes in media technology and the emergence of a new generation of novel writers and readers are key factors that lead to the popularity of this kind of content. I wonder how it is going in the Philippines’ case.

ERO BL 

Another issue I would like to discuss with you is ero BL, a pornogaphic subgenre in Boys Love manga that you mentioned in your paper (Santos 2020). This subgenre exists in Thai Boys Love literacies as well. As mentioned earlier, many Thai BL novel writers published their works online. The online platforms usually have specific genres for BL novels. For example, in readAwrite, there is a “Boy Love Lovely Room” tag for BL romance novels. However, if love scenes or sex scenes in novels are quite explicit, there is also a “Boy Love Secret Room” tag for BL erotic novels. Readers can access novels tagged “Boy Love Secret Room” only if their ages are 18 years old and over. Some contents are able to be accessed for free. But, writers can limit some content for only readers who pay them ‘coins’ - a currency that is exchanged in the online novel platforms. Many online writers, therefore, try to attract readers by composing sexually explicit narratives. In the Thai online novel community, these explicit scenes are called NC (No children) scenes. Writers, sometimes, inform readers that their content are ‘NC 18+’ (suitable for either 18  years old or above) or ‘NC 20+’ (suitable for either 20 years old or above) to attract readers who are looking for sexually content which are similar to soft core or hard core porn. 






Genres of Thai Online Novels, 

including Boy Love Lovely Room and Boy Love Secret Room




As mentioned above, ero BL exists because there is a system to support them - both readers and writers are motivated to read and write this kind of content. Although online communities seem to give writers more freedom to write adult content, there is also an attempt to limit this kind of content for only suitable readers. I wonder if there is any kind of system in the Philippines supporting ero BL. 



INFLUENCE OF THAI BL IN THE PHILIPPINES 



Last but not least, I would like to discuss with you about Thai BL’s influence in the Philippines. As you mentioned in the opening statement, FILO AU, a fan-produced content based on social media, has transformed Thai BL 2gether (2020) to BL in Filippino’s setting. Could you please elaborate more about this transformation? This fan made content exists in the form of novels, manga, or moving images. Also, it would be more interesting if you could explain further the local audience feedback. Do Filipino fans read the adaptation of 2gether (2020) by comparing it with the original one? Or, they just read it as the Filipino BL. 











Compared to Japan, Thailand, and China, the media ecosystem of surrounding BL in the Philippines is still very young and has much room to grow. Unlike in Thailand, where there is wide access to Japanese and Thai-produced BL media, from novels to comics, the Philippines has limited access to these materials and often rely on the limited fan-translated works that are openly distributed online for free. It shares a similar history with Thailand where the initial community of BL readers heavily interacted with BL communities online, many of which are Anglophone BL (or yaoi) fan spaces such as Aestheticism.net or Aarinfantasy.com. In the early 2000s, these spaces were central in educating different fans of the different literacies associated with Japan’s BL culture. As such, initial Filipino BL creators were heavily influenced by these literacies and would use them to create various fan-works. Online blogging spaces such as Livejournal and archives for self-produced fictions such as Fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad were important spaces for Filipino BL fans to explore writing BL. Y!Gallery, Deviantart and Pixiv were critical for learning how to draw BL. By 2010s, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter became important avenues for BL interaction. While these online developments provided a larger space for BL expression, the diverse access points to BL has also diluted BL literacies from Japan. 





Most BL works in the Philippines are fan works produced and distributed online. These BL fanworks shift with global media trends as some feature popular anime and manga characters while recent BL fanworks focus on shipping idols from KPOP, and actors from danmei-related drama or Thai BL. The lack of local original BL works is primarily due to the lack of media infrastructures that sustainably allow Filipino BL creators to make a living out of creating BL. Since 2013, there is only one BL publisher in the Philippines, Black Ink which publishes BL novels and comics in Filipino. The difficulty in producing BL comics and novels at a commercial pace have left creators to pursue self-publication. Artists such as CinnamonRub choose platforms such as Tapas to distribute their BL works. Philippine BL fan events such as Blush have produced BL anthologies but the cost of production and the lack of contributions have made the publication of the anthology inconsistent. In 2020, taking inspiration from Thai BL dramas, PinoyBL, Philippine-produced BL web dramas also emerged. A handful of PinoyBL titles reached global acclaim as titles such as Gameboys received nominations and awards from all over the world. This energy brought about by the confluence of global BL cultures will hopefully help nurture and develop BL media in the Philippines. 






In terms of literacies, Black Ink follows uses Japanese BL literacies while adapting some of these by featuring stories in the Philippine context. An example of this can be seen in Claudine Erang and Peach Balai’s 2015 comic BTS, which features two rival actors where one actor followed a Filipino path to stardom. Black Ink, despite its low prices ($2.00 for an 80-page comic), is less accessible compared to a Thai BL show which can be watched for free on mobile devices. Different mobile packages that give “free” bandwidth data to Youtube has made Thai BL more accessible to Filipino BL fans. As such, since 2014, a good number of Filipinos became more interested in Thai BL (Baudinette 2020). By the time series such as SOTUS became accessible on Netflix and 2gether was globally broadcasted with Filipino subtitles on Youtube at the start of 2020, Thai BL became the more recognizable form of BL in the Philippines. The emergence of PinoyBL, would often allude to Thai BL as their inspiration and motivation rather than Japanese BL. The lack of access to legal or fan translations of Thai Y-novels made Thai BL dramas the main point of access to Thai BL and BL Literacies. As such, there is an interesting mix of BL fans in the Philippines. First, there are BL fans who are literate in Japanese BL literacies and its connections to transnational flows of BL across the region. Second, there are BL fans who are unaware of BL’s long history and highly associate BL culture with Thailand.  






ON EROBL IN THE PHILIPPINES 





While I analyzed EroBL in commercial Japan works, I can’t say that EroBL has emerged in commercial BL works in the Philippines. The obscenity laws in the Philippines prevent the depiction of these kinds of scenes. Black Ink labels some of its BL titles as M, indicating that it contains mature content, but many of its texts imply sexual scenes rather than depict them. PinoyBL also imply sexual intimacy but do not portray sexual acts in their dramas. 





This lack of EroBL in commercial BL media does not mean that pornographic BL works are not produced by Filipino BL creators nor does it mean that there is a lack of support from local BL fans. Many of these are distributed as fanworks online, either as explicit fanfiction or fanart. Some are self-produced and are distributed in local and global fan events such as Comic Market in Japan (Santos 2019).  






ON FILO AU 






While PinoyBL is a commercial BL work inspired by Thai BL web dramas, FILO AU is a fan-based adaptation that engages with Thai BL through localised shipping practices on social media. Filo AU emerged in 2018 as part of K-POP shipping culture and with the popularity of Thai BL it has been used by fans as an avenue to explore different scenarios for their favourite ThaiBL ships. In tagging a social media AU as FILO AU, readers are expected to see ships situated not from their original canon but in the Philippines. For example, BrightWin FILO AU may feature BrightWin as rival athletes from Philippine universities renowned for their athletic rivalry. Sometimes, these popular ThaiBL ships are rewritten in a FILO AU as characters in a famous Filipino romance movie. Even when there are local actors that can slip into these FILO AU, the choice to use queer characters and identities, such as Thai BL characters, highlight the strong heteronormative attachments to local actors and the need to use queer characters to explore queer local Filipino contexts that are deeply attached to heteronormative media and norms. 





Metaveevinji:



I really appreciate the great information Kristen has given. Also, thanks for the questions Kristen picked up for further discussion. I will respond accordingly. 





ON THE TENSION OF MODERNITY IN THAILAND





I argue in my paper that audiences in Thailand and Myanmar are consuming transnational media because of the feeling of ‘modernity’. This argument is in accordance with what Koichi Iwabuchi (2004) argued in his edited book, Feeling Asian Modernities Transnational Consumption of Japanese TV Dramas. Burmese audiences feel a notion of ‘modernity’ when they are watching Thai media, whereas Thai audiences feel similarly when they are watching Korean series. Therefore, transnational media seems to fulfill audiences in a particular way that local media cannot offer them. 

  

Recently, there are controversial arguments among netizens in Thailand regarding the difference between Thai and Korean TV dramas/movies. Many Thai netizens, especially the young generation, argue that qualities of Thai media content are lower than those of Korean content. They denounced the predictable formula and melodrama styles of Thai content. Although this criticism is partly true, they ignore the fact that Thai content, including BL series, is able to attract an international audience and receive global recognition. I would like to argue that this criticism comes from the tension of modernity in Thailand. Thai young audiences feel that content in Thai media is less modern so that they cannot be attracted by this local content. 





Arguably, nowadays the audience in Thailand has separated into two main groups. The first group is the audience who still enjoy watching Thai soap operas. The second group is the audience who enjoy watching Korean, Japanese, and Western media. The first group usually is in their 30s and over, while the second group seem the younger generation. Nonetheless, in many times, ages cannot identify this difference, and these two groups of audiences can be overlapped. Thai BLs seem an ‘in between’ of these two kinds of media content. They have Thai settings with  non-heterosexual relationship and Japanese influence. Therefore, young Thai audiences seem to accept this kind of content more than traditional Thai soap operas.    





What I am trying to say is the fact that there is a big generation gap. Or, maybe, it is not a ‘generation’ but an ‘ideological’ gap in Thailand. Many audiences feel that they can relate themselves to Korean TV dramas rather than Thai TV dramas. This means that Thai media cannot offer content that convinces particular audiences in Thailand. For example, young audiences may feel that romantic relationships portrayed in Thai soap operas are not ‘real’ for them, compared with romantic relationships portrayed in Thai BL series, Japanese manga, or Korean dramas. This ideological gap can be seen in a form of differences in political ideologies as well. Arguably, this leads to the phenomena that many Thai youths are using popular culture as an expression of their political ideologies. 





THE FANDOM IS POLITICAL OR APOLITICAL SPACE 





As mentioned in my opening statement, I am interested in the way that young protesters use #MilkTeaAlliance and other popular hashtags to evoke global pro-democracy movement. I am excited to know that the Filipino fans also participate in this movement. As you mentioned, in many times, fan activities seem to be a way to escape from political reality. Nevertheless, I would like to argue that eventually fans cannot help to relate themselves to political reality in Thailand. For example, Thai fans are fascinated to watch Korean series because characters in the series criticize established institutions, such as the military, police, and court in a way that they would like to criticize these institutions in Thailand. 





When the famous Korean series, such as Kingdom (2019), Squid Game (2021), and Vincenzo (2021), are released on the streaming platform. Many Thai fans captured some dialogues and scenes to relate series content to what is going on in Thailand.  My argument is that consuming popular culture seems to be apolitical activity. But, in fact, this activity is closely related to political ideology, regardless of whether audiences realize this fact. 





My current research project, therefore, aims to investigate how the BL fans join online political movements by using a concept of fan-based citizenship, which is public engagement and civic action that arise from fandom participation (Hinck 2019). Hopefully, my forthcoming paper can provide a better understanding of the complexity of cultural and political spaces in BL fandom.