BL: Queer Vernaculars in World Literature (ACLA 2023)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Alvin K. Wong
contact email: 

This seminar proposes a collaborative theorization of Boys Love (BL), a transnational Asian media phenomenon conventionally associated with adolescent heterosexual female fan subcultures who create, consume, and circulate content depicting male-male romance and sexuality. We invite papers that theorize BL as vernacular forms of world literature with a reach beyond their targeted demographics to unsettle norms of gender and sexuality across national, linguistic, and cultural borders. While critics of BL have focused on the genre’s commodification and entrenchment of normative aesthetics of male beauty, as well as fans’ identitarian conflation of BL actors’ sexuality with the roles they play, recent scholarship has also modelled how comparative analyses of the regional and global circuits in which BL travels illuminate how geopolitics shape the representation of non-normative intimacies that blur the boundaries of platonic, erotic, and familial relationality. 

The seminar aims to gather interdisciplinary scholars working on BL and its entanglements with queer Asian popular culture across multiple genres (e.g. mangadanmei, live-action TV adaptations, etc.), languages, and locations to collectively parse what James Welker calls the genre’s “world-shaping” potentiality. Some possible lines of inquiry include:

How do sociologies of BL transmission in the form of fansubs, fandubs, slash- and fan-fiction on the part of fans and “shippers” who idolize the relationships of BL characters (and the extra-diegetic friend/ships of BL actors) reveal the stakes of queer translation in popular culture in building non-heteronormative lifeworlds?

Queer pedagogy: how does teaching BL in the classroom make us rethink our reading practices when juxtaposing institutionalized forms of “close reading” and “critical writing” alongside paraliterary discourse (e.g. fan reception) taken as vernacular theorizations of the genre? 

How might the focus on school-boy romance suspend the heternormative temporality of linear growth from adolescence to adulthood? How might BL imagine alternative queer worlding, moments, and temporality beyond the time of the family, the nation, and queer liberalism? 

What are the specific transnational routes and regional connections through which BL travels? How does BL rethink conceptual categories such as transnationalism, regionalism, and globalization?

What is the relationship between BL and geopolitics (creative strategies in the face of censorship; aesthetic responses to contemporary crises)?


Instruction for submission:

Interested participants should create a free user account at ACLA website (, pick our panel "BL: Queer Vernaculars in World Literature," and submit your abstract by the deadline (Oct 31, 2022).