Spoiler Alert: It’s All Transcultural


It doesn’t sound sexy. It isn’t the story of enthusiasm or passion or creativity or love or anything like that. No one particularly wants to talk about it – at least in my experience – because it’s perceived to be outside most people’s experiences of both fan studies and fandom. But, let me tell you, fandom is all transcultural – and so too should fan studies be.

The argument that ‘transcultural’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘transnational’ is an old one, and you’re welcome to have a look at the essay I co-authored with Bertha Chin if you need a more detailed explanation. But one thing few people ever seem to really get into is what transcultural might be when it’s not being transnational, and my answer – especially in this age of intensifying media and fan convergences* – is that it’s inherently transcultural. But understanding fandom as transcultural requires understanding the many ways we might understand ‘culture’.

Which, yes, has been the project of both anthropology and cultural studies for so long that it’s safe to say there’s no one answer. But if we understand culture, generally speaking, as part and parcel of our lived experiences relative to the multiple communities and identifications that cumulatively make us who we are, then we might begin to understand how fandom – as a social thing – might necessarily be transcultural. To take myself as an example, I bring cultures of gender, Americanness, race, Anglo-American media, academia, able-bodiedness, fatness, etc. to play in any and all interactions I have in the world, fannish or not. And the people I interact with bring their own to the table as well; and where they commingle, connect, and clash, there’s where we can locate ‘transcultural fandom’.

It seems blindingly obvious to me that this is why we should be talking more about it; yet work on the ‘transcultural’ remains almost always shunted off to the side, seen but not heard.

So, this is short. And probably not entirely convincing… but I felt it when I wrote it, and I really wish I could convince someone to talk with me about it to help spread the word.


*in this fast-paced, blink-and-you-missed-it world of changing academic fashions, ‘convergence’ has been criticized for being overused to the point of meaninglessness. I beg to differ; we’re in a world where the most egregious behaviors are enabled and intensified through cultural convergences both offline and online, and if we ever hope to make it through the xenophobia, racism, and general antipathy to difference that characterizes our current global moment, we absolutely must take convergence seriously. IMO. YMMV.

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