Creative Misreading Across the Asia-Pacific: Transnational Japanese Popular Culture and Queer Utopian Consumption

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Advertisement for a Manila fanmeeting with Thai BL couple Prachaya “Singto” Ruangroj (L) and Perawat “Krist” Sangpotirat (R) in 2019

I will be presenting on my ongoing research into the transnational circulation of Japanese queer popular culture at the upcoming Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Cultures at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 27-29 September 2019. I will be giving a paper entitled “Creative Misreading Across the Asia-Pacific: Transnational Japanese Popular Culture and Queer Utopian Consumption”

Here is my (overly ambitious!) abstract. Please note that I have limited the scope to only 2 cases studies and won’t talk about Japan at Mechademia this time!

Within this presentation, I unite three separate ethnographies of the consumption of Japanese queer popular culture – including Boys Love (BL), gei komikkusu, and Japanese gay pornography (GV) – by gay male fans in Japan, China, and the Philippines to develop a theory of affective consumption that I term “creative misreading.” Creative misreading, I argue, represents a fundamentally queer and postmodern method of engaging with texts that dislocates cultural products from their purported history and opens new horizons of hopeful knowledge that meaningfully intervene in conditions of heteronormativity and homophobia. Through interviews with Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino fans who regularly consume such media, I destabilise common-sense assumptions from previous scholarship that the “Japanese cultural odour” of these pop culture texts motivates consumption. While some of these fans may possess an affective attachment to Japan, I argue that it is instead collective fantasies of development that underscore what Tadiar (2004) terms the “libidinal economy” of the Asia-Pacific which unlocks the queer potential of Japanese popular culture among fans in Japan, China, and the Philippines. My analysis demonstrates that acts of willful misreading of BL, gei komikkusu, and GV by fans are primarily affective, highlighting how the political economy of desire that underpins the Asia-Pacific as a capitalist system are ultimately disrupted through the creation of queer utopian logics via fannish consumption. I conclude by extrapolating on these case studies to think through how creative misreading may emerge in other contexts, such as Anglophone fandom for Japanese queer popular culture.

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