Research Plans for 2022 – From Thai BL to Queer K-pop Fandom and Johnny’s Idols!

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As has become a bit of a tradition for me, I am beginning my working year with an introduction to what I plan to do in 2022. Unlike in previous years, where things were remarkably tentative – with a mid-year pivot on the cards in 2021! – my 2022 is looking to be much more structured.

One very big change that has occurred in the past year was my promotion to Senior Lecturer and conversion to a continuing contract at Macquarie University (this means tenure, US friends!) and the publication of my first book, Regimes of Desire: Young gay men, media, and masculinity in Tokyo. These achievements have provided me with a level of professional security that will facilitate me undertaking a more ambitious course of research moving into the future.

Before listing the projects, I want to also address something I intend to do this year which may seem a bit unorthodox. My precarious position within the academy has often led me to take on a lot of work, and I have written quite a lot and review things with a lot more frequency than other colleagues. So, for 2022, as I move into a more senior stage of my career, I’m going to write less and think (and read!) more. I will also dedicate more time to my teaching and mentoring of graduate students.

Anyways, here are my three research plans for 2022!

1. Thai Boys Love book for Bloomsbury Academic and other related papers on BL

I was incredibly privileged to receive a contract for my book Boys Love Media in Thailand: Celebrity, Fans, and Transnational Asian Queer Popular Culture from Bloomsbury Academic at the end of 2021. In fact, this labour of love that has been more than seven years in the making, will be the inaugural volume of Bloomsbury Academic’s new “Asian Celebrity and Fandom Culture” series, on the editorial board of which I am also very privileged to serve. I will be spending the first half of 2022 finalising this book – as well as a few other BL related writing projects with colleagues, including my paper on the misogynistic commentary on BL emerging in the Philippines – and then, sadly, bringing my academic studies of Thai BL to a close as I move on to new projects.

2. “Exploring K-pop Fandom as a Space for LGBT Support in the Asia-Pacific During Pandemic Times”

Perhaps the biggest surprise I received at the end of 2021 was that my application for $16,000 (USD) worth of funding from the Academy of Korean Studies under the Korean Studies Grant was successful!

From February 2022 until January 2023, I will be conducting research in Australia and the Philippines on a project entitled “Exploring K-pop Fandom as a Space for LGBT Support in the Asia-Pacific During Pandemic Times.” This project emerges from my previous research on this space, specifically idol shipping as a queer praxis, and I have some articles on this topic to finish in early 2022 as well.

The questions which this AKS project seeks to explore are presented below (more details will be posted on a dedicated page on my website, including a call for volunteers to participate!):

1) How can the critical study of LGBT fans’ attraction to K-pop theoretically extend dominant accounts of the Korean Wave phenomenon?
2) How and why has fandom for K-pop emerged as an important space of support for LGBT fans across the Asia-Pacific? How has the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacted fandom spaces for LGBT fans?
3) How do LGBT fans across the Asia-Pacific engage with K-pop and its fandom as a resource to make sense of their positioning in a heteronormative society? How has this changed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
4) In what manner has fandom for K-pop influenced how LGBT fans understand their gendered and sexual identities? How does K-pop inform these fans’ interactions with local systems of knowledge concerning sex and gender?
5) What differences and similarities exist between the Australian and Philippine cases? What do the two case studies – as well as my prior research on the Japanese context – reveal about the LGBT experience across the Asia-Pacific region?

3. A Queer Feminist Cultural History of East Asia through Male Idol Production and Fandom, 1986-2021

One of the most surprising moments for me in 2021 was reconnecting with one of my oldest fan obsessions, the Japanese male idols from management company Johnny and Associates. This primarily occurred due to my engagement with two rising stars (Michieda Shunsuke and Meguro Ren, pictured above) from the agency who played the leads in the Japanese BL drama Kieta Hatsukoi (My Love Mix-Up).

As I tweeted my dissatisfaction with how Johnny’s and Kieta Hatsukoi were failing to engage with their international fandom on social media, the unthinkable happened… representatives of the Agency contacted me and invited me to speak with them about their globalisation strategy! This has led to an informal consultancy role and potential future research opportunities with the Agency that I am very excited to explore from 2022 onwards.

I have started to think about male idols in East Asia quite a bit now. As many scholars who work on the celebrity culture of Japan would be well aware, most work to date on Japanese idol culture has tended to focus on female idols and there is a lack of theorisation of male idols, especially in English. So, my next “big” research project, extending from the work I have done on Boys Love in Thailand and K-pop fandom, will be to develop a queer and feminist theory of East Asian male idol culture.

If you’re curious, I have a very tentative (there’s that word again!) project outline available here. I will spend 2022 thinking about this project, with plans to launch it more formally in 2023 once my other two major commitments for this year are finished.

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