Global Fandom/Global Fan Studies
C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby
When we were asked to submit a chapter on global fandom, we said “sure.”1 We put the idea aside for several months, came back to it, and began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. What, we asked ourselves, does the term “global fandom” even mean? Does it mean studying the meaning of “fan” in different parts of the world? Does it mean studying how fans in different countries all respond to the same “global” text? Does it mean studying import/export trade patterns and how fans in one cultural context respond to texts from another cultural context? Given our own uncertainties, we decided to pose these questions to scholars who conduct fan research in different parts of the world. This chapter is thus about the status and possibilities for global fandom and global fan studies, and is based on email interviews with sixty-five scholars.
Our exploratory study is framed by four overlapping debates. Most obviously, it is framed by debates over cultural globalization, since media consumption2 is “perhaps the most immediate, consistent and pervasive way in which 'globality' is experienced” (Murphy & Kraidy 2003: 7). Until recently, there has been a clear distinction between global media studies taking a macro political economic approach and the more micro (textbased) media reception research more commonly associated with cultural studies. In the latter approach, scholars have spent the last two decades exploring the effects of border crossing by both texts and persons; that is, the reception of imported media by local audiences (e.g. a Chilean in Chile watching Desperate Housewives) and the reception of “home” media by dislocated audiences (e.g. someone from the United States traveling in Chile watching Desperate Housewives) (see Ang 1985; Harrington & Bielby 2005a; Juluri 2003a, 2003b; Liebes & Katz 1990; Milikowski 2000; Naficy