Dislocating Japanese Popular Culture: Creative Misreading of “Thai Boys Love” by a Filipino Fan Community

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Advertisement for a “Thai BL” fanmeeting in Manila, APril 2018

I will be attending the Annual Conference of the Association of Asian Studies between March 22nd and 25th in Washington DC, where I will be presenting on some of my Philippines-based research into transnational BL and “creative misreading.” I will join my colleagues James Welker (who organised and is chairing our panel), Asako Saito, Katrien Jacobs and Lakshmi Menon to discuss “Boys Love (BL) Media in Transit and Transformation around East, South, and Southeast Asia.”

My paper is entitled “Dislocating Japanese Popular Culture: Creative Misreading of “Thai Boys Love” by a Filipino Fan Community.” Here is the abstract:

Recent years have seen a growth in popularity of lakorn (TV serials) in Thailand which have been strongly influenced both narratively and stylistically by the Japanese genre of homoerotic fiction for young girls and women known as Boys Love (BL). Through unofficial fan distribution of these TV serials via the internet, consumption of these Thai “BL lakorn” has become increasingly embedded within broader transnational BL fandoms. This is particularly true of the Philippines, where a large English-language fandom of “Thai BL” has developed. Drawing upon a “netnography” of Filipino fans of Thai BL, this presentation investigates how the historically Japanese pop-cultural phenomenon of BL has become dislocated from Japan and reconfigured as a fundamentally Thai phenomenon within the conceptual worlds of this fan community. Building upon earlier scholarly work on the globalisation of Japanese popular culture which emphasised the process of “decentring,” this presentation argues that rather than becoming decentred from Japan, Japanese popular culture has become disconnected from its Japanese history through its transnational circulation and consumption. Central to this argument is these fans’ “creative misreading” of the term BL to describe the phenomena with which they are engaging, as well as their rejection of the narrative and stylistic conventions of Japanese BL in their fan discussions of Thai lakorn. Ultimately, utilising Deleuze’s theories of rhizomatic consumption, I propose an alternative model for understanding the transnationalisation of Japanese popular culture by focussing upon the “de-territorialisation” of Japanese BL through Filipino fans’ practices of creative misreading.

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