States of Fandom: Community, Constituency, Public Sphere
Mueller, Hannah Ruth
Approaching grassroots fan communities as political constituencies, this dissertation traces the historical development of self-organized fan groups from the 1930s to the present, focusing specifically on conceptions of community, the negotiation of public discourse, processes of decision-making, and fannish engagement with social and political issues. While fan studies scholarship previously has emphasized the relationship between text and fan, this study thus steers attention towards the relationships between fans themselves and articulates the interrelations between fan activism, transformative fan practices, and the discursive conditions within fandom. On the basis of archival and online-ethnographic research, the dissertation investigates crucial controversies in the Western literary science-fiction and fantasy community from the 1930s to the 1980s as well as in contemporary online transformative fandom to show how historical context, the demographic makeup of the fandom, fans’ use of communication technologies, and their self-conception as community influence the negotiation and resolution of internal conflicts. Drawing on different theories of community formation and the public sphere, the first chapter of the study proposes that pre-internet literary science-fiction fandom was dominated by a communitarian ideal that regulated in-/exclusion by prioritizing the community over its individual members. In contrast, transformative online fandom promotes the ideal of a non-hierarchical, inclusionary, unregulated alternative public sphere, in which the ethical principles of consensus-building have to be constantly re-negotiated. As the following chapters show, this constellation has facilitated the increasing fan-organized political and social activism in the past decade which goes beyond resistant practices of reception and consumerism: from Glee fans supporting LGBT rights to the appropriation of images and symbols from The Hunger Games by political activists around the globe. The dissertation further shows how the industry attempts to control, appropriate, and incorporate resistant audience behavior and transformative fannish practices through the proliferation of transmedia storytelling and marketing strategies in contemporary entertainment franchises, thus threatening fans’ attempts at meaningful action. At the same time, these marketing strategies, meant to ensure consumer loyalty by encouraging audience participation, not only appropriate fan practices and consumer-generated content but can inadvertently also facilitate fan-organized activism.
Film studies; Activism; Fan Studies; Internet; Online Communities; Popular Culture; Public Sphere; Web studies; Cultural anthropology
Siegel, Elke; Juffer, Jane A.; Haenni, Sabine; Waite, Geoffrey Carter W
Ph. D., Germanic Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis