Centering Blackness in Fan Studies
This special issue centers Blackness in fandom studies. Fandom studies has gestured toward race generally, and Blackness in particular, from its alleged white center while always keeping race at its margin. It has largely co-opted the language of race, difference, and diversity from the margins and recentered it around white geeks and white women. Indeed, fandom studies has done lots of things—except deal with its race problem. But as Toni Morrison (1975) asserts, that is the work of racism: it keeps those at the margins busy, trying to prove that they deserve a seat at the center table. In this way, those considered marginal expend energy trying to be granted access to the center while citing, reifying, and expanding the supposed universality of the center that fails to engage the margin because it is too particular. If, as the title of Audre Lorde’s famous 1984 essay reminds us, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” then it is time to willfully ignore white fandoms, just as Black fandoms have been willfully ignored.
For this special issue, we seek to privilege and celebrate Blackness, not as a comparative but as enough on its own. We want essays that build on the relatively small but groundbreaking scholarly work that centers Black fandoms, including work on young Black male (Brown 2000) and female (Whaley 2015) comic readers; Black gay sitcom fans (Martin 2021a); Black fan “defense squads” that protect fictional characters’ Blackness (Warner 2018); Black fan labor (Warner 2015); Black antifandom (Martin 2019b); Black fans’ enclaving practices (Florini 2019b); Black female music fans (Edgar and Toone 2019); and Black acafans (Wanzo 2015). It also engages and with and builds on our Black feminist foremothers, including bell hooks (1992), Jacqueline Bobo (1995), and Robin Means Coleman (1998), who showed us ways to think about how Black audiences engage with media. This corpus of work on Black audiences and fandoms provides a base for further theorization about the experiences and meanings of Black fandom. We encourage work that engages, nuances, and challenges this foundational work, leading to novel reconsiderations of how fan studies defines and understands Black fandoms.
We invite submissions that contribute to a conversation that centers Black audiences, fans, antifans, and global Blackness itself. We are not interested in comparative studies of Black fandom practices, because Blackness is enough. This issue seeks to center Blackness and (anti)fandom in all of its permutations. We hope the following suggested topics will inspire wide-ranging responses.
- Black folks and “doing” fandom.
- Black fans and deployment of (anti)fandom.
- Black fan practices imbricated in a politics of representation.
- Affective Black fandoms.
- The politics of Black (anti)fandoms.
- Interactions between Black fans and media producers.
- Audience/fan response to Black-cast remakes and recasting non-Black-cast texts with Black actors.
- Black fandoms of non-Black-cast media.
- Blackness and enclaving.
- Black music fandom.
- Black sports fandom.
- Black fandom and labor.
- Black fandom and affect.
- Black antifandom and hate.
- Global Black fandoms.
- Black fandom and contemporary or historical politics.
- Mediated constructions of Blackness.
- Black fandoms and celebrities/parasocial relationships.
- Black queer fandom.
- Disabled Black fandom.
- Case studies of specific texts related to Black fandom.
- Historical and archival accounts of Black fandom.
Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC, http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) is an international peer-reviewed online Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works, copyrighted under a Creative Commons License. TWC aims to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics and promotes dialogue between academic and fan communities. TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms, such as multimedia, that embrace the technical possibilities of the internet and test the limits of the genre of academic writing.
Submit final papers directly to Transformative Works and Cultures by January 1, 2023.
Articles: Peer review. Maximum 8,000 words.
Symposium: Editorial review. Maximum 4,000 words.
Contact—Contact guest editors Alfred L. Martin Jr. and Matt Griffin with any questions before or after the due date at BlackFandomTWC@gmail.com.
Due date—January 1, 2023, for March 2024 publication.
Bobo, Jacqueline. 1995. Black Women as Cultural Readers. New York: Columbia University Press.
Brown, Jeffrey A. 2001. Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Click, Melissa A., and Sarah Smith-Frigerio. 2019. “One Tough Cookie: Exploring Black Women’s Responses to Empire’s Cookie Lyon.” Communication Culture and Critique 12 (2): 287–304. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcz007.
Coleman, Robin R. Means. 1998. African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. New York: Routledge.
Early, Gerald. 1988. “The Black Intellectual and the Sport of Prizefighting.” Kenyon Review 10 (3): 102–17.
Edgar, Amanda Nell, and Ashton Toone. 2019. “‘She Invited Other People to That Space’: Audience Habitus, Place, and Social Justice in Beyoncé’s Lemonade.” Feminist Media Studies 19 (1): 87–101. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2017.1377276.
Everett, Anna. 2001. Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909–1949. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Florini, Sarah. 2019a. Beyond Hashtags: Racial Politics and Black Digital Networks. New York: NYU Press.
Florini, Sarah. 2019b. “Enclaving and Cultural Resonance in Black Game of Thrones Fandom.” In “Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color,” edited by Abigail De Kosnik and andré carrington, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 29. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1498.
hooks, bell. 1992. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press.
Martin, Alfred L., Jr. 2021a. The Generic Closet: Black Gayness and the Black-Cast Sitcom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Martin, Alfred L., Jr. 2021b. “Blackbusting Hollywood: Racialized Media Reception, Failure, and The Wiz as Black Blockbuster.” JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 60 (2): 56–79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/cj.2021.0003.
Martin, Alfred L., Jr. 2019a. “Fandom while Black: Misty Copeland, Black Panther, Tyler Perry, and the Contours of US Black Fandoms.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 22 (6): 737–53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367877919854155.
Martin, Alfred L., Jr. 2019b. “Why All the Hate? Four Black Women’s Anti-fandom and Tyler Perry.” In Anti-fandom: Dislike and Hate in the Digital Age, edited by Melissa A. Click, 166–83. New York: NYU Press.
Morrison, Toni. 1975. “A Humanist View, Part 2.” Presented at Black Studies Center public dialogue, Portland State University, May 30, 1975. Transcription available at: https://www.mackenzian.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Transcript_PortlandState_TMorrison.pdf.
Rose, Tricia. 1994. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press.
Shankman, Arnold. 1978. “Black Pride and Protest: The Amos 'n' Andy Crusade.” Journal of Popular Culture 12 (2): 236–52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-3840.1979.1202_236.x.
Stewart, Jacqueline Najuma. 2005. Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Tracy, James F. 2001. “Revisiting a Polysemic Text: The African American Press's Reception to Gone with the Wind.” Mass Communication and Society 4 (4): 419–36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/S15327825MCS0404_6.
Wanzo, Rebecca. 2015. “African American Acafandom and Other Strangers: New Genealogies of Fan Studies.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0699.
Warner, Kristen. 2018. “(Black Female) Fans Strike Back: The Emergence of the Iris West Defense Squad.” In Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Melissa A. Click and Suzanne Scott, 253–61. New York: Routledge.
Warner, Kristen J. 2015. “ABC’s Scandal and Black Women’s Fandom.” In Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century, edited by Elana Levine. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
Whaley, Deborah Elizabeth. 2015. Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime. Seattle: University of Washington Press.