Conference Grants: Miyoko Conley on the Nebulous Transnational Fandom Archive

20 Nov, 2019

Conference Grants: Miyoko Conley on the Nebulous Transnational Fandom Archive

Miyoko Conley received a Fall 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover her costs attending the annual Fan Studies Network-North America (FSN-NA) conference in Chicago, Illinois. Conley presented “How Fanon Becomes Canon: EXO, Free!, and the Nebulous Transnational Fandom Archive." Read more about her experience in her own words below!

I attended and presented at the annual Fan Studies Network-North America (FSN-NA) conference this year, which was held in Chicago, IL, from October 24-26. FSN-NA is an organization for fan studies scholars, or those who study impassioned audiences of all types of media.

I presented a paper called “How Fanon Becomes Canon: EXO, Free!, and the Nebulous Transnational Fandom Archive,” which interrogated methodologies when studying transnational fandoms. The case studies of my presentation were the debut of EXO (2012-present), a K-pop (Korean pop music) group, and the initial release of Free! (2013), a Japanese anime (animated TV show). Though different objects, both have large transnational fandoms that significantly impacted the band and show’s initial formation, specifically through the Tumblr blogging platform.

While it is not uncommon for fans to contribute to their objects, I note this time as a growth period in transnational, transmedia creation. The events surrounding the co-creation of EXO and Free! reveal just how porous relations are between producer, object, and consumer, between fandoms, and between online and offline, challenging the where and how a transnational product is produced. However, my presentation focused on the methodological questions of how to frame an event that is now seven years old, transnational, and stored in an unstable archive (Tumblr).

How does one study phenomena that cross borders, without reducing “transnational fandom” to something that is culturally unspecific, as scholars such as Lori Morimoto have previously pointed out? Additionally, as much of transnational fandom activities take place online within platforms that are not efficient archives, how can we as fan scholars historicize important yet fleeting events in these fandoms? This presentation was part of a unique “speedgeeking” event, where myself and a couple other scholars presented shorter talks to three different groups of audiences in order to get varied feedback.

At the conference, there were many papers and panels that were of interest and related to my research. For example, I attended a panel called “Pop Music Fandom, Identity, and Power in the Digital Age,” which directly linked to my research into K-pop (Korean pop music) fandom. Particularly, Paxton Haven’s (UT Austin) presentation “I AM NOT IN A CULT: Poppy and Digital Pop Music Superfandom” which discussed the digital, cult-like communities built around pop star Poppy, mirrored the affective digital communities of K-pop fans that I study and gave me another critical lens (cults) with which to think about my research.

Another panel, “Slash & Queer Readings,” engaged with queer representation within homoerotic fan works (also known as “slash”) and relates to the research I am doing on Boys’ Love fandom. (Boys’ Love is a genre of both fan and commercial works that grew out of Japanese popular culture and depicts homoerotic relationships. Though historically and culturally different from Slash, both focus on homoerotic relationships between male characters.) Prof. Alexis Lothian’s (U of Maryland) paper, “White Queer Utopias and Fantasies of Representation: Slash Fanfiction’s Racial Imaginary” was particularly helpful as it analyzed the history of implicit racial bias within American slash fan works, which is also important when considering the transnational flows of such works, as my research does.