Research Goals for 2023! Fieldwork in Japan, Queering K-pop, and a New Book on Thai BL!

Snow Man Johnnys
Japanese male idol group “Snow Man” from Johnnys and Associates

At the start of every year, I take some time to reflect and write down my tentative research plans, not so much in order to create a strict “to do list” but to instead think about the various ideas which have been bouncing around in my head.

Last year, despite successfully pulling off a large project focussed on LGBTQ fans of K-pop in Australia and the Philippines, I had a particularly rough personal year and came very close to burn out.

As such, despite looking like quite an extensive list, this year’s principal aim will be to focus on balancing out my research work, ever increasing teaching commitments, and personal life. Of course, this is partly going to be achieved through my sabbatical!

Here are my (tentative) research plans:

1. Sabbatical in Japan to research male idol fandom

Takahashi Kaito, my oshi from King & Prince

I am extremely excited and privileged that I will be spending 6 months in the second half of 2023 as a visiting research at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo to conduct an ethnographic project focussed on male idol fandom in Japan. As I stated in the internal application to my institution:

Male “idol” celebrities form the cornerstone of the Japanese and wider East Asian media industries, yet they remain under-researched. I will draw upon my relationship with Johnny & Associates to conduct both archive-based and interview-based qualitative research that investigates the queer and feminist histories of Japanese male idol production and fandom.

While the emphasis of this project will likely be the Japanese male idols from the production and management company Johnny and Associates – which is the largest and most influential male idol producers in Japan and one of the most significant players in the Japanese media industry – my previous interest in Japanese fandom for K-pop idols and Thai BL idols will also form part of this research.

The project will focus on analysing media representations of male idols (principally through content analysis of women’s magazines focussed on Johnnys fandom, such as Myojo), attending various fan events and activities (including concerts!), and observations of and participation within the practice of oshi-katsu (the practice of “pushing” your oshi, or “bias”).

Keep your eyes peeled for more specific details about the project in the next few months!

2. Boys Love Media in Thailand


After almost a decade of research, writing, and general fandom nonsense, my book Boys Love Media in Thailand: Celebrity, Fans, and Transnational Asian Queer Popular Culture is finally coming out from Bloomsbury in mid-2023!

As such, I will be likely to be engaging in even more talks and discussions relating to Thai Boys Love… indeed, BL and its relationship to Thai media culture will always form a significant part of my intellectual work.

I also have two small projects hanging over from 2022, both of which represent joint-authored articles. The first is an article on the impacts of BL and its new celebrity culture on advertising in Thailand. The second is an article exploring the soft power potentials of Thai BL through a case study of Japanese fans.

The theoretical arguments and empirical case studies that I am exploring in both these articles will also inform the new project I am commencing while on sabbatical in Japan.

3. Queering the Korean Wave

The New Employee (2022), a South Korean BL web series

Although I had many unexpected logistical problems emerge which impacted the management of my project exploring the role of K-pop as a safe space for LGBTQ fans throughout 2022, the year ended with an extremely well-attended and fascinating international symposium on “Queering the Korean Wave.”

The first three months of 2023 will actually be focussed on writing up the two articles emerging from my interviews with LGBTQ fans in Australia and the Philippines, as well as revising an old paper on K-pop idol shipping in light of my new thinking (and data!) from my 2022 project.

Together with my always amazing collaborator Dr Kristine M. Santos of Ateneo de Manila University, I will also work on editing a special issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture based on December 2022’s international symposium, which will include an article on developing a specific queer theory of the Korean Wave. This theory will also be deployed to make sense of my sabbatical project, tying all my three main foci into one overarching intellectual endeavour.

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