CFP: Fandom and Controversy Special issue of American Behavioral Scientist

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Rebecca Williams & Lucy Bennett

CFP: Fandom and Controversy

Special issue of American Behavioral Scientist edited by Rebecca Williams and Lucy Bennett

In 2005, American Behavioral Scientist published a special issue on Fandom, which contained articles that continue to resonate and influence the field today. This proposed special issue seeks to offer a follow-up to that foundational issue, offering new perspectives on fan cultures which respond to the changes that have happened in the fifteen years since its publication and acknowledging the complex cultural, social and political landscape that we currently occupy. The issue seeks to showcase voices from both established and emerging scholars, offering work that addresses these key concerns from a range of perspectives. Its focus is on the relationship between fandom and moments of fissure or controversy, including how this intersects with the current political and cultural moment.

Although fandom can very often involve admiration and pleasure towards a person or text, there are also moments where disappointment, shame, and displeasure occur (Jones 2018). In the past decade accusations of sexual harassment and assault surrounding celebrities such as Michael Jackson, R, Kelly, and the spread of the #metoo hashtag, have caused some fans to re-evaluate their attachments to famous figures and celebrities, challenging how we conceive of concepts such as ‘anti-fandom’ (Gray 2003), so-called ‘cancel culture’, or the spread of forms  of ‘toxic fandom’ (Proctor and Kies 2018) or ‘reactionary fandom’ (Stanfill 2019). However, other fans have sought to maintain their fandom for these celebrities, offering justifications and solidarity to their object of fandom in the face of these controversial moments. 

Indeed, the wider current social and political landscape offers a set of unique challenges that has a clear impact on how we understand the discourses and practices of fandom. As the United Kingdom deals with the consequences of Brexit and leaving the European Union, as Europe itself negotiates its future, and as the United States faces a series of new challenges under the Trump Presidency, the political and the personal intersect like never before. Meanwhile protests in Hong Kong have captured the world’s attention as fannish modes of communication including memes are appropriated for political and cultural purposes (Teixeira 2019). The issue thus encourages scholars from a range of national perspectives, especially those from non-Western countries and those outside of the Global North.

The emerging overlaps between fandom, controversy and the political moment can be seen in the use of fannish language to describe key politicians such as those who support the UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn as Corbynistas (see Hills 2017, Sandvoss 2017, Dean 2017), fans of the previous Leader Ed Miliband which led to the so-called Milifandom (see Hills 2015, Wahl-Jorgensen 2019, Sandvoss 2015), or the emergence of young female fans of former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, referred to as Mayllenialls (Smith 2017). The approaches of Fan Studies have been employed to understand loyal supporters of President Donald Trump (Wahl-Jorgensen 2019), whilst the tools of online fandoms such as forums, social media, memes and hashtags have been employed by a range of groups with varying political viewpoints and agendas (Sandvoss 2013, Booth et al 2018, Wilson 2018). The increasing celebrification of politics has perhaps reached its nadir in the star status of Barack Obama (Sandvoss 2012) and the election of Donald Trump to the office of President (see Negra 2016) but the blurring of boundaries between the political and the famous continues as rumours swirl about the intentions of famous figures as diverse as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Disney CEO Bob Iger to run for office.

Meanwhile, existing fandoms continue to mobilise both political and activist efforts (Jenkins 2012, Hinck 2019) to combat human rights violations and respond to natural disasters (e.g. the efforts of the Supernatural fandom in raising money for relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas). Other fan groups often find themselves thrown into unforeseen controversial political moments, as in the juncture of singer Ariana Grande fans with narratives around international terrorism after the bombing of her concert in Manchester, or the co-option of Taylor Swift by members of the alt-right.

Given these intertwining threads, this issue focuses on the confluence of fandom and controversy. Seeking contributions from a range of disciplines including media and cultural studies, fan studies, politics, celebrity studies and beyond, contributors are invited to submit proposals on any of the above examples, the following topics, or any other aspect of the linkages between fandom, controversy and politics (in all its forms):

  • Celebrity/fan connections
  • Discourses of “superfandom”
  • Disappointment and shame within fandom
  • Links between fandom, controversy and the public sphere (e.g. fandom of certain figures or political parties, fannish resistance to political readings of texts)
  • Fandom as citizenship/fans as citizens
  • Forms of anti-fandom or non-fandom
  • The intersections between celebrity, fandom and political culture
  • Fan activism
  • The use of social media and its language (e.g. memes, hashtags, GIFs)
  • Affect and emotion
  • The importance of places and spaces, both physical and virtual
  • The creation of transformative works (e.g. fanfiction, fan videos) that address these issues
  • Material cultures
  • The ethics of studying these forms of participatory culture and fandom
  • Stan culture
  • Fandom and cancel culture
  • Toxic fandom

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words in length, plus a short author biography to Dr Rebecca Williams at Rebecca.williams@southwales.ac.uk and Dr Lucy Bennett at BennettL@cardiff.ac.uk by 31st March 2020. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 30th April 2020.

Please note than acceptance of an abstract does not guarantee publication. All submissions will undergo double blind peer review once completed articles are submitted.

References

Booth, Paul, Amber Davisson, Aaron Hess and Ashley Hinck (2018) Poaching Politics: Online Communication During the 2016 US Presidential Election, Peter Lang.

Dean, Jonathan (2017) ‘Politicising Fandom’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19 (2) 408–424.

Gray, Jonathan (2003) ‘New audiences, new textualities: anti-fans and non-fans’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 6 (1): 64-81.

Hills, Matt (2015) ‘The ‘most unlikely’ or ‘most deserved cult’: citizen-fans and the authenticity of Milifandom’, Election Analysis 2015, http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2015/section-7-popular-culture/the-most-unlikely-or-most-deserved-cult-citizen-fans-and-the-authenticity-of-milifandom/

Hills, Matt (2017) ‘It’s the stans wot (nearly) won it’, Election Analysis, http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2017/section-8-personality-politics-and-popular-culture/its-the-stans-wot-nearly-won-it/

 Hinck, Ashley (2019) Politics For the Love of Fandom: Fan-Based Citizenship in a Digital World, LSU Press.

 Jenkins H (2012) ‘Cultural acupuncture’: Fan activism and the Harry Potter Alliance. Transformative Works and Cultures 10. Available at: http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/305/259

 Jones, Bethan (2018) ‘Navigating Grief and Disgust in Lostprophet’s Fandom’. In: Williams, R. ed. Everybody Hurts: Transitions, Endings, and Resurrections in Fan Cultures. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, pp. 43-60.

 Negra, Diane (2016) ‘The Reality Celebrity of Donald Trump’, Television and New Media, 17 (7).Show all authorsDiane Negra

 Sandvoss, Cornel (2012) ‘Enthusiasm, Trust, and its Erosion in Mediated Politics: On Fans of Obama and the Liberal Democrats’. European Journal of Communication, 27(1): 68-81.

 Sandvoss C (2013) Toward an understanding of political enthusiasm as media fandom: Blogging, fan productivity and affect in American politics. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 10(1):252–296.

Sandvoss, Cornel (2015) ‘It’s the neutrosemy, stupid!: fans, texts and partisanship in the 2015 General Election’, Election Analysis, http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2015/section-7-popular-culture/its-the-neutrosemy-stupid-fans-texts-and-partisanship-in-the-2015-general-election/

Sandvoss, Cornel (2017) ‘Corbyn and his fans: post-truth, myth and Labour’s hollow defeat’’, Election Analysis, http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2017/section-8-personality-politics-and-popular-culture/corbyn-and-his-fans-post-truth-myth-and-labours-hollow-defeat/

Smith, Patrick (2017) ‘The "Mayllennials" Are Young Women Who Love Theresa May And It's The Most Unlikely Fandom Of 2017’, Buzzfeed News, 10 May 2017  https://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/the-maylennials-are-young-women-who-love-theresa-may-and

Stanfill, Mel (2019) ‘Introduction: The Reactionary in the Fan and the Fan in the Reactionary’, Television & New Media, Online First, pp. 1 – 12. DOI: 10.1177/1527476419879912

Teixeira, Lauren (2019) ‘China Is Sending Keyboard Warriors Over the Firewall’, Foreign Policy, 26 August 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/26/china-is-sending-keyboard-warriors-over-the-firewall/

Wahl-Jorgensen, Karin (2019) Emotions, Media & Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press.