Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
Vol. 1, No. 2, December 2010, 105–119
Producing comics culture: a sociological approach to the studyof comics
Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, UK
Received 20 May 2010; ﬁnal version received 11 September 2010
)This paper introduces a sociological approach to the study of art and literature and demonstrates its value as a methodological intervention in the ﬁeld of comics studies.Known as the ‘production of culture’ perspective, this approach argues that all artisticwork – including comics – is the product of collective, often routinized, human activity.Therefore, it is not sufﬁcient merely to study the text and
or the artist to whom thework is directly attributed. Rather, to fully understand any artistic work, one must alsostudy the larger social and organizational context of its production and dissemination.In the ﬁrst part of the paper, I will provide an overview of the production of cultureapproach, discussing some of its foundational theorists and their respective intellectualcontributions. Sociologists covered will include Howard Becker, Pierre Bourdieu, and Richard A. Peterson. In the second part of the paper, I will present an example of howthis approach may be applied in scholarly practice. Using the transnational comics pub-lishing industry in Japan and the United States as a case study, I will show how theconditions and mode of production help to determine the particular sorts of texts thatare actually created. Finally, I will conclude with a discussion of the limitations of the production of culture approach and possible directions for future research.
cultural production; methodology; manga; trasnationalism; Japan–US rela-tions; Pierre Bourdieu; Richard A. Peterson
‘Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga!’ proclaims – and promises – the title of the popular satirical how-to guide by veteran Japanese comic book artists Koji Aihara and KentaroTakekuma (2002).
The guide purports to teach its readers a super-simple series of tech-niques for taking the art world by storm. But what do these two men actually mean? Arenot creative works of art such as manga, after all, a uniquely human craft which requires aconsiderable and concerted investment of time and effort in order to master it? How could they dare even to suggest that drawing manga is so easy even a monkey can do it?Manga, which literally means ‘irresponsible pictures’, is the Japanese word for themedium of the comic strip, and in the English language has come to refer both to Japaneseand Japanese-inﬂuenced comic books.
Contemporary titles famous worldwide include
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
. The manga publishing industryin Japan dates back to the beginnings of Japanese modernity and is now mature, large, and lucrative, accounting for approximately 25% of all book sales and 20% of all magazinesales in 2006 according to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO 2006 cited in
ISSN 2150-4857 print/ISSN 2150-4865 online© 2010 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/21504857.2010.528638http://www.informaworld.com
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