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Presentation on theme: "AMAZING, FANTASTIC, WEIRD: SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES IN TEXAS APRIL 15, 2010 TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY Race in Fandom: Experiences from the margins Dr. Sarah."— Presentation transcript:

1 AMAZING, FANTASTIC, WEIRD: SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES IN TEXAS APRIL 15, 2010 TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY Race in Fandom: Experiences from the margins Dr. Sarah N. Gatson Sociology, TAMU-CS

2 Autoethnographic Grounding Fandom roots: leading edge of the fully legitimated biracial baby boom in the U.S. Fandom scholarship: “Perhaps when early white Netizens were arguing that cyberspace was "color-blind," what they really meant was that they desperately wanted a place where they didn't have to think about, look at or talk about racial differences.” ~Jenkins, 2002

3 “Little reflection” & “Recurring myth(s)” Discursive and narrative frames have some influence on how people understand things - especially new things with which they may actually have very little direct experience. The insertion of the color-blind (or post-racial) discourse into the online context is important. On the one hand, color-blind discourse has as one of its often implicit foundations the idea that racial identity in particular is or should be invisible. The civil rights intention behind “color-blindness” has arguably been turned on its head (or, rearticulated). Instead of focusing on race and what it does (what we make it do, what it does to us) in the real world, we are told not to focus on race because in an ideal world, it does not (should not) matter. Both leisure spaces and cyberspace fit very well with this post- racial/civil rights discourse. I think that sometimes we don't want the problems of the "old world" invading our shiny new cyberspace, especially when so much of what many of us ordinarily do online involves leisure and entertainment.

4 Limits of the Digital Divide? Obviously issues of access to media are important, especially when we are talking about access to the creation and dissemination networks involved in the processes of media production. While it is understood generally that new media technology - being both expensive and powerful - is pervasive, its relative lack of penetration into and use by racial minority communities, some of the most prominent research on the digital divide however (e.g. Van Dijk's most recent book) is fundamentally disconnected from the vast literature on race and ethnicity. The digital divide framework in one sense replicates one strand of race/ethnicity theory (I think it tends to be more grounded in assimilation theory), but does not engage with more contemporary theories.

5 Critical race studies & fandom Understanding fandoms as bounded groups (with more or less permeable boundaries). A crucial component of critical race theory (which is influenced by black feminist theory) explicitly examines the interplay between salient identities, how they interact, and how they are prioritized in macro and micro situations, by both those who hold the identities, and everyone else. Like any other group-identity, one's membership in a fandom may have more or less salience given a particular situation. While one might assume that a fandom identity takes the ultimately salient position in a fandom space, what exactly might that fandom identity entail, and who is to say what is the "appropriate" salience a fan's other identities should take in that fan- expressive space? Not talking about race, gender, class, sexuality - or being pressured not to do so - in a fandom space ends up offering a "generic" or "normalized" fan. If that fan is generic, what has typically been the go-to generic fan identity? The fanboy also has a presumed race, class, and sexuality. We're being disingenuous if we pretend that this isn't so.

6 Audiences, leisure, and race: Resident Evil 5 trailer Dominant themes: 1) Talking about race is racist 2) That Croal and anyone else that saw anything racist about the trailer were, in addition to racist, unhealthily focused upon race and/or crazy 3) If the trailer did contain disturbing racial imagery, it was not the intent of the designers, and thus those who did see such imagery should either ignore it, or forgive, forget, and move on, since the fault of seeing it was their own problem. The general exhortation to "move on" from race was repeated quite a bit. This audience response contains several classic narrative points in what we might call the post-civil rights or indeed post-racial era 1) Rearticulation of race and racism (Omi & Winant; Feagin; Bonilla-Silva; Moore) 2) Innocence/Intent (Moore) (usually of whites, but in the commentary responding to Croal it is extended to the Japanese game designers, as if Japan has no history of its own racial and ethnic constructions) 3) Rearticulation of objectivity. Critical race scholars argue that the frame that only racists see race functions to turn the legal notion that race is a suspect class on its head by decontextualizing it from its historical and legal intent.

7 Some people just don’t get it… Well, how about you flip that around and consider the possibility that you are trying to make something out of nothing. Maybe these gamers don't see the racism because they aren't racist and they don't see it as an issue of color. If you want to know what is keeping racism alive in America, then I suggest you start by looking in the mirror and build from there. Hello, Im black...I've seen the trailer... It is a video game; if you dont like it don't watch it or play it! Maybe you, instead of writing about a video game trailer, you should be discussing something important like the AIDS problem in Africa or anything else of importance in the world. Games are for fun; an escape. Nothing else. Sucka.

8 Demographics & fandom Definitions of integration: by whites (10% black) and by blacks (50% black) (Bobo). People are entitled to the culture they want (Gans). That we value different media because we have different taste cultures shouldn't be either surprising or problematic per se. I think it becomes a problem when, in part, we're mainly talking about commercial products, taste cultures reflective of smaller and/or less powerful parts of the overall potential audience don't actually get to reach the audiences that are entitled (in Gans's terms) to access those media. As I suggested above, I don't think audiences are necessarily as segmented as we are when we are talking about things like residence – media flows more freely than does real estate. Perhaps the most a particular fandom community might do in terms of diversity is recognize that freer flow, and not police their boundaries quite so vehemently when it comes to discussions of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. vis-a-vis their favorite media products.

9 NOC’d UP: Nerd of Color Robert. Dude. Great party but... where are all your friends of color? ~Eric, Free Enterprise Black rage! ~Hooper X, Chasing Amy

10 Battlestar Galatica: Epic RaceFail Dualla = dead Tory = dead Skulls = dead Elosha = dead Simon/Number Four = dead Yes. Lots and lots and lots of people die in BG, but this configuration of the dead, as part of a narrative that exists in our world, is read by me in a particular way…

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