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SUSSEX STUDIES I N CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION Series Editor: Jane Cowan

University ofSussex
Books i n this series express Sussex's u n i q u e c o m m i t m e n t t o interdisciplinary w o r k at t h e c u t t i n g edge o f c u l t u r a l and c o m m u n i c a t i o n studies. Transcending the interface between the social a n d t h e h u m a n sciences, t h e series explores some o f t h e key themes t h a t define the particular character o f life, a n d t h e representation o f life, at t h e e n d o f one m i l l e n n i u m a n d t h e b e g i n n i n g o f the next. O u r relationships t o each o t h e r , t o o u r bodies and t o o u r technologies are c h a n g i n g . N e w concepts are r e q u i r e d , new evidence is needed, t o advancc o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f these changes. T h e boundaries between disciplines need t o be challenged. T h r o u g h m o n o g r a p h s a n d edited collections t h e series w i l l explore new ways o f t h i n k i n g a b o u t c o m m u n i c a t i o n , p e r f o r m a n c e , identities, a n d t h e c o n t i n u a i refashioning o f meanings, messages, and images i n space and time.

FAN CULTURES
Matt Hills

CULTURAL Edited by Elizabeth

ENCOUNTERS Hallam and Brian Street

T H E HOUSE OF DIFFERENCE C u l t u r a l Politics and N a t i o n a l I d e n t i t y i n Canada Eva VIRTUAL Edited by Mike Crang, Mackey GEOGRAPHIES Phil Crang and Jon May

" WA.A8 ^ COPIADORA DA B V A


B L O C O J

Bodies, Space and Relations

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VISUAL DIGITAL CULTURE Surface Play and Spectacle i n N e w M e d i a Genres Andrew FAN Darley

CULTURES MattHills

P U B L I C RAPE: Representing V i o l a t i o n i n F i c t i o n a n d F i l m Tanya Horeck

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Taylor & Francis Group

LONDON AND NEW YORK

First publishcd 2002 by Roudedge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4 R N Simultaneously publishcd in the U S A and Canada by Routlcdge 270 Madison Ave, New York, N Y 10016 Rcprnted in 2 0 0 4 , 2 0 0 6 Kmtltigc is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group 2002 Matt Hills Typesct in Galliard by Taylor & Francis Books Ltd Printed and bound in Great Britain by St Edmundsbury Press L t d , Bury St Edmunds, Suflblk Ali rights reserved. N o part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or urilised in any form or by any electronic, mcchanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any infrmation storage or retricval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Libtary Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British library library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Hills, Matt 1971Fan Cultures / Matt Hills Includcs bibliographical references and index. 1. Fans (Persons) - Psychology. 2. Subculture. 3. Television viewers - Psychology. 4. Celebriries in mass media. 5. Motion picture actors and actresses. I. Tide. HM646 .HS5 2002 306.1-dc21 2001051092 I S B N 0-415-24024-7 (hbk) I S B N 0-415-24025-5 (pbk)

I N L O V I N G MEMORY OF ERNEST 'JIMMY' HILLS, WINIFRED HILLS AND MARY L E W I N

BETWEEN

COMMUNITY AND HIERARCHY

rationality'. T h i s means that Bourdieu and his followcrs ali have a tendency to read moral and aesthetic differences off from the master-grid o f class difference, or through a limited 'dommanty'subordinate' model. By examining work o n psychotronic film, I have considcrcd h o w Bourdieu's model is unable to account for the moral dualisms which emerge within class fractions and within fan (sub)cultures.

FAN CULTURES BETWEEN 'KNOWLEDGE' AND 'JUSTIFICATION'

[I]f I have not sought to get people to speak about ... [their passion or fndom], it is not just bccause the subject 'speaks for itseir, but also because in matters of admiration and celebraton every request for jusuficadon produces a backlash. For, in inducing intcrviewees ... to provide an account of their experience, one forces them out of their participatory stance ... and throws them into a position of justificador). (Heiich 1996: xiii) M y focus in this chapter o n ethnographies o f fndom will lead me to suggest that ali too often fan 'justificaqons' are acceptcd as cultural fcts by ethnographers, rather than being subjcted to further analysis. I w o u l d argue that the rccent boom in 'fan studies' has produced the figure o f 'the fan' within a highly specific cultural studies' narrative. Work o n fndom has formed a key part o f the move towards valorising active audiences, and this use o f the fn has rcsulted in an extremely partial and limited examination o f fn practices. F a n d o m has been curiously emptied o f the dimensions w h i c h , I w o u l d suggest, most clearly define it: dimensions o f affect, attachment, and cven passion"" as wcll_a^ u c ^ y ^ l i e r "cDmensions o f commodificaSn through w h i c h these p r o c e s s s a r e enablcd and cnsttined" "'" """ ' " ~

Fan ethnographies: emphasising the knowledgeable fan


T h e significandy affcctive nature o f the fn's attachment renders ethnographic methodology problematic i n this context; it cannot be assumed (as is so often the case i n cultural studies) that fndom acts as a guarantee o f self-presence and transparent self-undcrstanding: We should emphasisc from the outset that the pleasure can be so intense that it almost cannot be articulated by those experiencing it. We were struck repeatedly i n our interviews and informal conversatons with fns by the strength o f their passion for, devotion to, and sheer

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BiiTWiibN

'KNUWLtUUli' AND 'JUSTIFICATION'

lovc o f daytime tclcvision, hension.

fc?

cewf o/frr beyond their own compre-

comedy, t o name b u t a f e w o f its m u l t i p l e genres. ' T h i s is w h a t makes Doctor Who so great' they ali say, from h a u g h t y academics, d r a w i n g their f a n pensions, t o members o f the greedy brat-pack. Alas, these are o f t e n m e r e l y the e m p t y h o m i l i c s o f u n i m a g i n a t i v e p l o d d c r s , w i t h most o f us doubtless having suecumbed t o using this stock favourite slice o f hyperbole i n the past ... I t is n o m o r e t h a n a c l o u d o f smoke, a cult phrase repeated p a r r o t - f a s h i o n , perhaps t o hide the fact t h a t w e cannot agree o n w h a t Doctor Who is o r s h o u l d be. (Haslett 1994: F a n - e t h n o g r a p h y w o u l d readily u n c o v e r this discursive mantra, 10) I

(Harrington and Biclby 1 9 9 5 : 1 2 1 , my italics) T h e ethnographic process o f 'asking the audience', although usefui in many cases, constitutcs a potcntiaUy reductive approach. I t assumes that cultural activitics can be adequately accounted for i n terms o f language and 'discourse', rather than considering h o w the quesdon Svhy are y o u a fan o f ... ?' itself causes the fan to cut into the flow o f their experience and producc some kind o f discursive 'justification'. Cultural studies' 'ethnography' has rarely pursued this insight, failing to considcr processes o f auto-legitimaton within fan culture, and instead depicting these processes as fan 'knowledgcability'. T h i s emphasis o n the fan's knowledge, and o n the display o f knowledge, acts, i n part, as an alibi for the ethnographic process: given the fan's articulate nature, and immersion in the text concerned, the move to ethnography seems strangely unquestionablc, as i f it is somehow grounded i n the fan's (supposedly) pre-existent form o f audience knowledge and interpretive skill. A n d yet this grounding figure of 'the fan' is itself a reduction o f subjectivity; a reducton which operates as a foundational legitmation of, and for, ethnographic methodology. Fandom is largely reduced to mental and discursive actvity oceurring without passion, without fceling, without an experience o f (perhaps involuntary) sclf-transformation. This ethnographic version o f fan culture seems to have n o inkling that discursive justifications of fndom might be fragile constructions, albeit socially-licenscd and communal ones. T h i s is not to argue that fans cannot discuss their fcelings, passions and personal histories o f fndom in any meaningml manner. Far from it. Instead I am trying to emphasise that fan-talk and dislocations, its moments of failure self-reflexivity, concerned with communal cannot be accepted merely as evidence within narratives narrative justification offan knowledge. It must also be interpreted and analysed in order tofocus upon its gaps of self-consciousness and constructions in the face of which are 'externai' and its repetitions or privileged (or subcultural)

by w h i c h

mean a relatively stable discursive resource w h i c h is c i r c u l a t e d w i t h i n niche media a n d fanzines a n d used ( b y w a y o f c o m m u n a l r a t i o n a l i s a t i o n ) t o w a r d o f f the sense t h a t the fan is ' i r r a t i o n a l ' . I f Doctor
1

Who f a n d o m relies o n the j u s t i f i -

cation o f a ' c u l t phrase' stressing the f o r m a t ' s flexibility, t h e n an equivalcnt defence f o r Star Trek fans w o u l d c o n c e r n the progressive politics a n d m u l t i c u l turalism o f t h e o r i g i n a l crew. H o w e v e r , i f 'asking the audience' is sufficient i n itself, t h e n such discursive structures a n d repetitions w o u l d t e n d t o be accepted at face value rather t h a n b e i n g considered as defensive mechanisms designed t o render the fan's affective r e l a t i o n s h i p m e a n i n g f u l i n a r a t i o n a l sense, i.e. t o g r o u n d this relationship solely i n the objective attributes o f the source text a n d therefore t o l e g i t i m a t e the fans' love o f ' t h e i r ' p r o g r a m m e . Addressing the question ' w h y are y o u a fan o f this particular text?', i t seems that fans typically register some c o n f u s i o n o r d i f f i c u l t y i n r e s p o n d i n g , before then failing back i m m e d i a t e l y o n t h e i r particular f a n d o n f s discursive m a n t r a . T h i s process the m a r k e d absence o f an explanatory f r a m e w o r k f o r one's intense d e v o t i o n w h i c h i m m e d i a t e l y shifts o n t o the f i r m e r g r o u n d o f discussing textual characteristics - is neatly encapsulated w i t h i n ( t h e n - P r e s i d e m o f 'Six o f O n e ' , The Prisoner Prisoner: A p p r e c i a t i o n Society) Roger Langley's c o n t r i b u t i o n t o The Masterpiece (Carraze and O s w a l d 1 9 9 0 ) : in my life ofover 20 years? A Televisionary

hostility. Previous fn-ethnography has largely erred on the side o f accepting fan discourse as interpretive 'knowledge'. M y aim here is to reconsider fan discourse as a justification for fn passions and attachments. Analysing the affective nature o f the fan-text attachment means that 'asking the audience' cannot act as a guarantee discusses i n the Doctor Who fanzine Skaro, o f knowledge. As Michael Haslett Who fndom as a community typi-

Why has a television series ... played a big part I still already be interested i n The Prisonerl

do not know ... I f y o u are r e a d i n g this n e w b o o k , y o u m u s t So, w h a t d o w e share? Is i t the

acting o f Patrick M c G o o h a n , t h e beauty o f P o r t m e i r i o n , the excitem e n t o f the episodes o r the strange atmosphere o f the episodes as a whole? Is i t the issues raised by the stories, the strange happenings i n the V i l l a g e , the unusual music o r the striking costumes? These t h i n g s , and m a n y m o r e , are ali vital ingredients o f The Prisoner, m a n y reasons f o r its appeal. (Langley i n Carraze and O s w a l d 1 9 9 0 : 12, m y italics) providing

cally presents particular justifications o f its collective love for the programme, but these justifications are - to a great extent - merely a way o f defending the fan's attachment against externai criticism: Harken to . . . some'stirring rhetoric about ' W H O ' having the most flexible format o n British tclcvision, something about its narrative range incorporating horror, sci-fi, fantasy, historical adventurc and

T h e fan c a n n o t act, t h e n , as the u n p r o b l e m a t i c source o f the m e a n i n g - o f their o w n mdia c b n s u l n p t i o h ! T h i s is n o t necessarily t o recap the 'failacy o f

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B E T W E E N ' K N O W L E D G E * AND ' J U S T I F I C A T I O N ' as an ethnographer, community: I found myself searching for the heart of this tick? . . . T h e deeper I penctrated the

meaningfulness' u n c o v e r e d by H e r m e s ( 1 9 9 5 ) - w h i c h emphasiscs the Instead I w o u l d describe the belief t h a t fans can f u l l y account

ritual-

istic rather t h a n p r i m a r i l y semiotic use o f media such as w o m c n ' s magazines. f o r their fandoms as a 'fallacy o f i n t e r n a l i t y ' . T h e assumption here is t h a t sense and u n d e r s t a n d i n g are securely present inside the fan c o m m u n i t y , whereas externai academic narratives - w h e t h e r they are psychological, psychoanalytc o r sociological are s o m e h o w f r a u d u l c n t o r i m p o s e d u p o n the p h e n o m c n o n that f o r example B a c o n - S m i t h 1992). T h i s they a t t e m p t t o explain away (see,

what made it

community, the more elusive my goal became. O f course, a community gives certain signals w h e n an outsider approaches the heart o f its culture. I n the beginning the heart is o f the practice . . . starts to explanations hidden - often in plain sight - passed over, casually dismissed by those in the know. Later, as the importance emerge from the dense fog o f apparent communal indifference, the intrepid ethnographer finds herself swamped with data questions with no loose ends to unravel. W h e n the investigator gets too close, the community sidetracks with something o f value, sometbjng that conserves the risk the pher knows is present but that does not exposc too m u c h . ( 1 9 9 2 : 2 2 4 and 226) ethnograthat agree too closely with one another, that ofer tidy answers to her

'fallacy o f i n t e r n a l i t y ' neglects the extent t o w h i c h i n t e r n a i f a n c o m m u n i t y understandings are collectively negot i at ed precisely i n o r d e r t o w a r d o f f the t a i n t o f i r r a t i o n a l i t y , and i n order t o present a p u b l i c a n d ratonaliscd face t o the w o r l d outside the fan c u l t u r e . T h e fallacy o f internality assumes t h a t the ' i n - g r o u p ' is a source o f pristne k n o w l e d g e . I t neglects the sociological dynamics w h e r e b y the culturally devalued ' i n - g r o u p ' o f m e d i a f a n d o m is c o m p e l l e d t o a c c o u n t f o r its passions. I precise instance
2

am hence r e f u t i n g the adequacy o f ethnographic m e t h o d o l o g y in ( a n d n o t across ali instances positivist.

this Bacon-Smith is clearly highly aware o f the self-mythologjsing narrative o f her ccunt ,hene_.the o y e r ^ t t e n ' m t t p i d l s d ^ g r a r i b ^ o n bravely through the 'fog\e her exaggerated presentation o f such a narrative, Bcn-Smith nonetheless relies o n it to determine her account o f the 'evasive' fan community. She concedes her desire to 'jump up and d o w n and scream " L o o k what I found! A conceptual space where w o m e n can come together and ercate - to investigate new forms for their art and for their living outside the restrictive boundaries men have placed o n women's public behaviour! N o t a placc or a time, but a state o f b e i n g " ' (ibid.: 3 ) . T h i s introductory admission is presumably intended to reassurc the reader: Bacon-Smith wants to jump up and down, but 'a colder mind prevails' and we are rcturned to the hallowed halls o f strictly objective and affect-less academia. A s such, Bacon-Smith's presentation of the fan community plays its o w n narrative games o f expectation, disruption and delay with the reader. Bacon-Smith chides Jenkins for using the fan community to further his own 'pohtical agenda' (ibid.: 2 8 2 ) , but it is hard to see how her o w n account could refute such an aceusation. Bacon-Smith announces her academic identity as 'Ethnographer' (see also Bacon-Smith 2 0 0 0 ) . By doing so, she positions herself as a kind o f detective, using the conventions o f the murder mystery or detective-thriller to frame her account of fandom. She is the seeker o f knowledge, the character who will prevail. I t is her 'colder m i n d ' w h i c h is able to circumvent the stalling tactics, distractions and diversions o f the fan communiry. Bacon-Smith's account is one o f a world o f clues and misdirections, a subcultural fn world charged with meaning. T h i s narrative construction resembles the principies o f Sherlock Holmes's 'empirical imagination' where 'the truth is right there to be read o n the surfce o f things, had we the wit to see. M u n d a n c faets become marvels and wonders - clues, evidence, p r o o P (Atkinson 1998: 109). A n d Bacon-Smith's version o f events, which I have quoted above, fits entirely and uncannily into

o f media c o n s u m p t i o n i n ali

contexts a n d modalites) o n the basis t h a t the positivism o f such empirical w o r k is insufficiently i t typically ignores the s t r u c t u r e d gaps a n d replications w i t h i n the discursive frameworks w h i c h are used by fans t o account f o r and justify t h e i r f a n d o m s . B u t w h a t o f the various fan-ethnographies that have been p r o d u c e d , and w h i c h f o r m the c n o n o f ' f a n studies'? H e n r y Jenkins ( 1 9 9 6 : 2 6 3 ) contrasts his own Textual Poachers t o m o r e 'traditonal partcipant-observer approaches'. T h i s is because Jenkins's w o r k doesn't present an 'outsider' e n t e r i n g int - and discovering the c u l t u r a l t r u t h o f - the ' f i e l d ' o f f a n d o m . T h e t e r m ' e t h n o g r a p h y ' is o f t e n used rather loosely i n m e d i a and ctutural s^tues/smetirnes i n d i c a t i n g litte m o r e t h a n Hur-Thg" m t r v i w r w i t h respondents. I n its original a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l c o n t e x t , the t e r m implies a l e n g t h y i m m e r s i o n i n theffielcl_bing studied. ( A n d this ' f i e l d ' is typically t h o u g h t o f as b e i n g alien t o the analyst, w h o has t o come t o understand a d i f f e r e n t way o f life.) O n the basis o f these definitions o f the t e r m ' e t h n o g r a p h y ' as i t has been used i n classical ant hrop o l o g y , Jenkins argues t h a t another s t u d y o f f a n d o m , pub l i shed i n the same year as Textual Poachers a n d w r i t t e n by C a m i l l e B a c o n - S m i t h , m o r e f u l l y deserves ' f a n - e t h n o g r a p h y ' . This is because Bacon-Smith
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the label o f a traditional she self-consciously Bacon-Smith's

presents a participant-observaton o f sectons o f Star represents herself as 't he

Trek fan c u l t u r e i n w h i c h

e t h n o g r a p h e r ' e n t e r i n g an

u n k n o w n s u b c u l t u r a l field, d e t e r m i n e d t o u n d e r s t a n d its practices a n d activities. conclusions validate her m e t h o d o l o g y v e r y precisely and w i t h o u t r e m a i n d e r : she veritably scrapes away at the layers and layers o f misdir e c t i o n w h i c h the f a n c o m m u n i t y presents t o her as an i n i t i a l ' o u t s i d e r ' w h o gradually, over the course o f years o f research, learns the ropes. I n d c c d , the p o w e r struggle b e t w e e n insider and ethnographer-outsider is explicity depicted by B a c o n - S m i t h i n terms o f her o w n e t h n o g r a p h i c quest narrative:

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BETWEEN

' K N O W L E U U E ' A N D ' J U S T l h l (J A T I U N

Pierre Bayard's analysis o f the detective novel. Where the truth of a fan culture is always i n plain sight, but where fans attempt to distract the detectiveethnographer, we find: 'the principie of truth hidden by its obviousness . . . [and the second mechanism, that of] [djistraction. ... T h i s time we are dealing with a negative disguise. I t is not that the truth is made unrecognisable, but that the false . . . is dresscd up to draw attenton to itselP (Bayard 2 0 0 0 : 2 1 , 2 4 ) . T h i s highlights a further problcm with fan-ethnographies; the extent to w h i c h they use narrative conventons from popular ficton, thereby allocating certain narrative functions to their respondents and the fan community. I t may be impossible to avoid writing academically without providing a narrative shape to one's 'theoretical' account (meaning, non-judgemcntally, that ali theories are also stories). I t is still a problem for ethnographers, however, that their accounts may so elosely rescmble the conventons of certain genres. This resemblance means that such accounts are unable to construct more complex characterisations o f fn culture beyond a sense o f 'communal conspiracy' to be battlcd by the detective-ethnographer (Bacon-Smith), or a sense of 'communal creatvity' to be recognised and valued by the scholar-fan (Jenkins). As Van Maanen has observed: 'literary tales [ethnographies using the conventons of literature] may be so tied to the representatonal techniques o f rcalistic ficton that they distort the very rcality they scek to capture' (1988: 135). M y o w n narrative of fandom is less detective-based and is equally less concerned with depicting fn cultures as inhercntly positive or as miniaturised modcls o f academia. I n my o w n rather less heroic narrative template, the character o f 'the academic' abandons the construction o f easily legible moral dualisms (thereby creating a meta-dualism between those who champion a cause or a fn community and those who refuse to draw moral and communal lines elcarly around ' u s ' and 'them'). This abandonment of moral dualism is perhaps an academic version o f 'anti-hero' ficton in which characters we are expected to sympathisc with ('the academic' and 'the fan') may also possess unwanted or undesirable attributes. T h e work o f Jenkins and Bacon-Smith seems to embody two sides o f the same coin: both refuse to let go o f onc-sided views o f fandom. Jenkins sees Bacon-Smith as presenting a falsely negative view o f fans (Jenkins in Tulloch and Jenkins 1995: 2 0 3 ) , while, in turn, she castgates his work for presenting a falsely positive view (Bacon-Smith 1992: 2 8 2 ) . A n d oddly enough, the 'rcality' o f fandom that each sceks to capture in broadly ethnographic terms may well exist between their respective moral positions. M y o w n position herc is dose to that established by Jensen and Pauly (1997). T h e y decry the way that theories o f media audiences tend to construct these audiences as 'other' to the investgatng academic (ibid.: 195).

would suggest that what academics need to learn is that their o w n accounts lu-Talso 'deficient', meaning^that chis cannot be used as a way of (morally) devaluing..othcr_subcul*Mres and communities. W h a t academics can learn from
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subjeets who are unable to articulate their o w n experiences is that they, too, may not be able to articulate the full meaning o f their own experiences, therefore n o longer existing i n a fantasised 'authoritative' space outside any cultural strugglc over meaning. T h i s possibility is closed off by Jensen and Pauly's assumption that the ' g o o d ' subject is self-present, articulate and always capable of full self-explanation without remainder; a perfect restatement o f academic imagined subjectivity. Another related and very real problem for fan ethnographies is what they assume will count as 'the real'. Although few fan ethnographies dwell on this question, what counts as the 'field' to be observed will differ if a psychonalytic critic is interpreting ethnographic 'data' as opposed to a sociologist. T h e notion that these sorts of problems of academic knowledge and interpretation can be 'put ... to one side', seems, to my mind, faintly optimistic ( C o u l d r y 2 0 0 0 b : 14). T h i s suspension of theoretical debate in favour of 'getting on with things' also implies that what counts as the 'real' is self-evident and can be detached from the arguments over its interpretation. H o w e v e r , rather than accepting the 'abstract' and supposedly 'unreal' space o f overly-generalising G r a n d narrative of ethnography as an encounter with the 'real' (which is superior to T h e o r y ) , I would argue that ethnography needs to be based on a reconceptualisation of empiricism so that 'the real' consistently encompasses not only the discourses and routines o f everyday life (Silverstone 1 9 9 4 ) , but also the possible absences in discourse, and the potential gaps i n both academics' and fans' reflections on their o w n identities and cultures. By way of illustrating these possibilities, I will n o w turn to the practice o f autoethnography 'ethnographies of the s e l f are produced. in which

Autoethnography: narratives of the fan, narratives of the

self

I n acquiring one's conception of the world one always bclongs to a \ particular grouping w h i c h is that of ali the social elements w h i c h sharc the same mode of thinking and acting. W e are ali conformists o f some conformism or other, always man-in-the-mass or collective m a n . ... T h e personality is strangely composite: it contains Stone A g e elements and principies of a more advanced science ... T h e starting point o f critical elaboration is the consciousness o f what one really is, and is 'knowing thyself as a product of the historical process to date w h i c h has deposited in y o u an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. T h e first thing to do is to make such an inventory. - -J (Gramsci 1 9 7 1 : 324) / ; i j \ !

However, Jensen and Pauly concludc that ' i f subjeets are imagind as deficient in their articulation o f their o w n experience, then therc is n o t . m u c h chance that the rcscarchcr will learn anything from those subjeets' (ibid.: 166). T h i s , however, is a view which assumes that 'learning' is only possiblc on the basis of the o t h c r ' s full or 'non-deficient' sclf-artculaton. O n the contrary, I

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B E T W E E N ' K N O W L E D G E ' AND ' J U S T I F I C A T I O N ' investments' o f the 'defended su|>ject' (2000: 19). T h e s e are moments when a core o f self-identity is protected by an investment i n a particular discourse. However, the radical component in Hollway and Jefferson's work is that they view themselves, as researchers, as equally 'anxious, defended subjeets' ( 2 0 0 0 : 45). T h e i r work therefore meets with the key criteria o f 'accountable suggested by Nic k Couldry: Quite simply: the language and theoretical framework with which we analyse others should be always be consistem with the . . . language and theoretical framework with whic h we analyse ourselvcs. A n d , equally, in reverse ... T h e reversibility of the principie is crucial: it is what prevents us from failing into a spiral o f endless self-interrogation, never to resurface. ( C o u l d r y 2000b: 126) theory' ,

I f f a n - e t h n o g r a p h y has typically been l i m i t e d by its v i e w o f ' t h e real' as a matter o f discourse a n d a r t i c u l a t i o n , o r by its one-sided accounts o f f a n d o m either as a social c o p i n g mechanism (Bacon-Smith 1992) o r a valuablc 'interpretive c o m m u n i t y ' (Jenkins 1992a; Amesley 1 9 8 9 ) , t h e n h o w can the limits o f b o t h fan and academic self-expression be e x p l o r e d differently? A useful exercise here is a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y , i n w h i c h the tastes, v a l u e i , ^ t a c l v ments a n d investments o f the fan a n d the academic-fan are placed under the microscope o f c u l t u r a l analysis. A u t o e t h n o g r a p h y aims t o create a partial ' i n v e n t o r y ' o f the ' i n f i n i t y o f traces' deposited w i t h i n the self by c u l t u r a l and historical processes. A u t o e t h n o g r a p h y also displaces the problems o f assuming that the 'real' is always p r i m a r i l y discursive. T h i s is possible because a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y asks the p e r s o n u n d e r t a k i n g i t t o q u e s t i o n their self-account constantly, o p e n i n g the 'subjective' and the i n t i m a t e l y personal up t o the c u l t u r a l contexts i n w h i c h it is f o r m e d and experienced. As a f o r m o f voluntary self-estrangement, a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y c o n f r o n t s the subject w i t h a variety o f possible interpretations o f their self-accounts, and their self-accounts o f their self-accounts. T h i s process o f persistent q u e s t i o n i n g t h r o w s the self i n t o the realisation t h a t explanations o f fan and cons umer activity are themselves culturally c o n v e n t i o n a l . This realisa/ tion can o p e n u p the possibility o f i n s c r i b i n g other explanations o f the self; i t / can p r o m o t e an acceptance o f the fragility I able to 'explain3 and and 'justiff L of fandom stop media at consumption. a certain p o i n t The and inadequacy of our claims or personal to be is our own most intensely private fragility moments

However, I am not convinced that the problem o f 'endless self-interrogation' expressed here is a pressing one. F o r me, the real problem is the absolutc What reverse; w h e n and why do we call a halt to our self-interrogations?

cultural categories, common sense narratives and systems o f value do we leave i n place by assuming that we have reached rock-bottom in our self-justifications? I am not at ali interested in initiating some endless and narcissistic navel-gazing. But I am concerned by the possibility that narcissism place~~wh~rwe stop self-interrogiJi,Javiig emergesat preciselythe a comtortable " s n s e o f our o w n

o f discursive accounts challenge

exposed by this persistent q u e s t i o n i n g , p r o v o k i n g an i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f w h y w e self-analysis by refusing t o privileged discourses. T h i s e n d p o i n t o f self-analysis does n o t reveal t h e ' t r u e ' discourse t h r o u g h w h i c h w e can account f o r o w n cultural practices. Q u i t e the reverse; these l i m i t s reveal t h a t certain discourses are p o w e r f u l because o f the ( n o n discursive) investments that w e make i n t h e m , and because o f t hei r s t t u c t u r i n g absences and familiar repetitions. A u t o e t h n o g r a p h y does n o t s i m p l y indicate that the 'personal is p o l i t i c a i ' .
6

culturTvT(s) and identity fixed I n place as somehow authentic. A n d it is this sense o f narcissism - not navel-gazing but instead complacently caliing a day o n the analysis o f how the self is formed inside culture - that I will examine in four autoethnographies: raphy. Fiske ( 1 9 9 0 ) , Bukatman ( 1 9 9 4 ) , W is c ( 1 9 9 0 ) and W o l f f autoethnog( 1 9 9 5 ) . I will then concludc this chapter by presenting my o w n
7

I n 'Ethnosemiotics: Some Personal and Theoretical Reflections', John Fiske sets out to explore his o w n responses to The Newly Wed Game. Fiske's aim is to consider h o w social discourses in the text link into the social discourses w h i c h he draws o n to construct his sense o f self. Fiske identifies three discourses: the professional, the popular and what he terms the 'semantic'. T h e last type covers ali topics 'that both infused . . . daily life and were callcd up by the program' (1990: 8 6 ) , while the first two types cover Fiske's work as an academic and his sense o f himself as a fn of the popular with 'vulgar tastes: the garish, the sensational, the obvious give me great pleasure, not least because they contradict the tastes and positionings o f the class to which, objectively, I " b e l o n g " ' and 'semantic' discourses. I n other words, he is writing as an (ibid.). Fiske notes that, in his article, a professional discourse is dominating 'popular' academic, producing an article which has to meet the standards expected o f a major internationa Journal. So fr, so good. Fiske does not claim that his own audience responses are in any way 'typical'. Instead, he observes that self-introspection

Instead, i t indicates t h a t the personal - the heart o f the self a n d t h e x o r e o f o n r cultural i d e n t i t y as w e p e r f o r m i t - is always b o r r o w e d a n d alien. T h e logic o f that b o r r o w i n g is rarely evident t o us, w h i c h is where t h e q u e s t i o n o f cultural politics can enter the e q u a t i o n , b u t t h e key statement o f any a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y is that the 'personal is c u l t u r a l ' ; o u r identities are c o n s t r u c t e d t h r o u g h relatively homologous systems o f cultural value. T h i s means that n o single 'system o f value' can be isolated, o n l y the interference p a t t e r n p r o d u c e d by m u l t i p l e systems o f value w h i c h c a n n o t readily be made t o line u p and w h i c h are, equally, n o t entirely u n r e l a t e d . I w i l l n o w demonstrate w h a t this can mean i n m o r e practical terms by exami n i n g a n u m b e r o f academic-fan autoethnographies and s h o w i n g h o w they are 'deficient' i n t h e i r self-accounts. A U refuse t o question aspeets o f i d e n t i t y w h i c h the w r i t e r is attached t o and w h i c h 'self-reflexivity' therefore cannot easily dislodge. H o l l w a y and Jefferson refer t o these m o m e n t s as the 'discursive

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based o n cultural theory is important because although '[njeither I nor my readings are typical ... the process by which I produced them is evidence o f a cultural systcm' (ibid.). E x a m i n i n g this supposedly singular 'system', Fiske then broadens the scopc o f his study to take i n his living room. T h e objects contained in the room are analysed in relaton to the discourses through w h i c h Fiske realises his sense of self: the 'chcap plastc toy T V s ' (1990: 88) o n top o f his actual T V are linked to a 'popular' discourse, whilc .Fiske analyses both his antiquc furniture and his homemade T V stand and cheap tcchnology as examples of his~TKTcTance~"to enter uncKfically into the capitalist commodity economy' (ibid.). T h e same anti-capitalism 'semantic' discourse is therefore reflectcd i n a variety o f different cultural artifacts. Fiske also observes that the same object can operate 'multidiscursively', meaning different things in different discourses. Both the physical environmcnt in w h i c h media consumption takes place, and the types o f texts that are consumed, can therefore be linked to the 'cultural system'(s) through w h i c h the self is constructed. Fiske claims that autoethnography, where he as the ethnographer 'is both producer and product' ( 1 9 9 0 : 9 0 ) , can be used to 'open up the realm o f the interior and the personal, and to articulate that which, in the practices everyday life, lies below any conscious articulation' (ibid.). of T h e approach is

questioned; i t is an element o f Fiske's self-identity a n d his experience o f self w h i c h is n o t sufficicntly ' o p e n e d u p ' as p a r t o f a c u l t u r a l system o f value. I w o u l d argue t h a t this is the narcissism i n h e r e n t i n Fiskc's autoethnography. H i s analysis o f his o w n l i v i n g r o o m and his o w n subjectivity is n o t i n h e r e n t l y narcissistic, b u t the narrative closures o f his a c c o u n t are. These p r e m a t u r e closures p u t an e n d t o self-reflexivity, a l l o w i n g t h e ' g o o d ' self t o settle i n t o its h a b i t u a l boundaries, a n d leaving this r o u t i n e ' b e l o w any conscious a r t i c u l a t i o n ' rather t h a n 'raising' i t i n t o the space o f t h e o r e t i c a l reflection. B y contrast, the n e x t male a u th or whose w o r k I w o u l d describe as ' a u t o e t h n o g r a p h i c ' seems i n t e n t o n confessing a l i , a n d r i s k i n g the embarrassment a n d loss o f ( s t u d e n t ) respect w h i c h this m i g h t i n v o l v e . S c o t t Bukatman's 'X-Bodies ( t h e t o r m e n t o f t h e m u t a n t s u p e r h e r o ) ' begins w i t h a provocative set o f statements. Rather like Fiske, B u k a t m a n also sounds a f a i n t l y apoiogetic n o t e w h e n discussing his masculinity: ' I d o n ' t read superhero comics anymore. F m p r o b a b l y n o t as w o r r i e d a b o u t m y dick as I used t o be. W e l l , that i s n ' t exactly t r u e - b u t I n o l o n g e r deal w i t h i t by r e a d i n g a b o u t m u t a n t muscle m e n a n d t h e b i g - t i t t e d w o m e n w h o love t h e m ' ( B u k a t m a n 1994: 9 3 ) . Superhero comics are i m m e d i a t e l y p r o p o s e d as some kind of compensatory reading, s o m e t h i n g vaguely d y s f u n c t i o n a l t h a t can be used t o assuage a sense o f n o t m a t c h i n g u p t o a masculine ideal. A n d the d o u b t , the fragility and the impossibility o f any sustained i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h this ideal does n o t , after a l i , come t o an e n d i n Bukatman's a ccou n t. H e explicitly c o m m e n t s that perhaps n o t ali o f his early (adolescent) anxieties have been e n t i r e l y left b e h i n d (ibid.: 125). Bukatman's account is a u t o e t h n o g r a p h i c because i t combines a t h o r o u g h c r i t i q u e o f the cultural positions w h i c h he adopts as a cultural critic a n d a fan. U n l i k e Fiske, B u k a t m a n worries away at his sense o f self, constantiy refusing t o a l l o w a stable narrative o f t h e 'valued' a n d 'secure' self t o emerge. Layers u p o n layers o f self-exploration are revealed. B u k a t m a n is 'f or ce d t o realize t h a t the autobiographical subject i s n ' t m e , the adolescent d r e a m i n g o f b o d i l y s t r e n g t h a n d cosmic consciousness, b u t m e , the adult academic w h o feels c o m p e l l e d t o w r i t e a b o u t comic b o o k s ' ( 1 9 9 4 : 9 6 ) . B u t this investment i n a c o n t r o l l i n g academic i d e n t i t y w h i c h magically displaces his adolescent lack o f c o n t r o l is n o t taken f o r granted. B u k a t m a n questions this separation o f identities, suggesting t h a t the adult academic i d e n t i t y a n d the adolescent superhero c o m i c b o o k reader can't be separated o u t ( 1 9 9 4 : 1 2 6 ) . N e i t h e r i d e n t i t y is a u t o m a t i c a l l y the ' g o o d ' c o u n t e r p o i n t t o t h e deficient o r ' b a d ' other. Academic i d e n t i t y is a threat as w e l l as a f o r m o f salvation; its desire t o c o n t r o l causes i t t o become overly n a r r o w a n d overly disciplined: ' t h e academy keeps refusing t o tell me a b o u t w y s e l f ' (ibid.). N o r does Bu k a tma n 's self-reflexivity e n d here, because he t h e n confesses t h a t this u n e n d i n g struggle o f g o o d - b a d 'academic' versus g o o d - b a d ' f a n ' i d e n t i t y is itself a version o f t h e c o m i c b o o k narratives he is analysing, b e i n g ' [ v j e r y h e r o i c . . . M y w r i t i n g s validate m y o w n past, a n d thus

therefore justified o n moral grounds: autoethnography does not privilege 'the theory and the theorist' by assuming that the theorist has a privileged insight into the experiences o f his or her respondents. Instead, Fiske's version of autoethnography is one where the subject is able to participate in their o w n construction o f meaning, coming to view their sense o f self in an altered and expanded way through the use o f theory, but not through subordination to theory. W h a t , then, are the hmits to Fiske's autoethnography? Where, as a 'defended subject' does he demonstrate an investment in certain discourses and identities w h i c h prevents any further self-reflection? I w o u l d argue that this oceurs primarily in Fiskc's account o f his politicai position: 'my call for an extension o f this methodology (with its policies, ethics and theory) comes from a left-wing, progressive academic (albeit a male, though hopefully not too masculine a o n e ) ' ( 1 9 9 0 : 9 1 ) . Although Fiske's work presents a number of points which allow theory to illuminate experience and vice versa, his politicai stanec remains outside the frame o f self-reflexivity, remaining sccmingly unquestioncd and unchallengcd. Fiskc's narrative o f himself as 'critically rcsisting' capitalism is left firmly in place, and the contradiction between his o w n ('duly traincd' and privileged) ability to manipulate theory and a sense of autoethnography being 'non-imposed' is not uncovered and explored. Instead, autoethnography is contrasted to psychoanalytic and ideological approaches, sinec these are vicwed as approaches where theory is imposed o n experience. T h i s moral dualism, and Fiske's attachment to his o w n 'good' and apologctically 'masculine' lcftist subjectivity, is never

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'KNOWLEDGE' AND 'JUSTIFICATION'

m y o w n self. Superheroes, science ficton, Jerry L e w i s - F m d i e e m p e r o r o f t h e nerds, t h e g o d o f geeks' (ibid.). U n l i k e Fiske, B u k a t m a n ruthlessly exposes the c u l t u r a l value systems w h i c h operate w i t h i n his w o r k . H e arrives at a sense o f h a v i n g validated his o w n i d e n tity, s o m e t h i n g w h i c h Fiske does by p o s i t i o n i n g h i m s e l f as the l e f t - w i n g academic, b u t w i t h o u t r e f l e c t i n g o n this. Is B u k a t m a n ' s account therefore a better autoethnography? Yes, i n a sense, b u t i t t o o fails t o b u i l d u p a w i d e r i n v e n t o r y o f the self. B u k a t m a n ' s investment is i n a discourse o f the ' p r o u d academic - still c o m m i t t e d t o r i g o r o u s intellectual i n q u i r y a n d supportive pedag o g y despite t h e narrowness o f so m a n y o f the " a p p r o v e d " academic discourses' (ibid.). L i k e Fiske, B u k a t m a n u l t i m a t e l y has n o o p t i o n o t h e r t h a n t o s u b o r d i nate f a n discourses t o academic discourses. T h e l i m i t s t o his self-exploration are reached w h e n a final c o m m i t m e n t is uncovered w h i c h cannot be called i n t o q u e s t i o n . A n d this c o m m i t m e n t - t h e r i g o u r o f the i n t e l l e c t - is litte m o r e t h a n an idealisation a n d a ' c o m m o n sense' cultural category. Intellectual rigour cannot f o r m the unchallengeable alibi f o r a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y . C o n t i n u i n g t o q u e s t i o n the investments o f t h e self m u s t also call i n t o q u e s t i o n this very investm e n t i n t h e process o f ' q u e s t i o n i n g ' as essentially ' r i g o r o u s ' . T h e ' c r i t i c a i ' academic o p p o s e d t o narcissistic ' c o m m o n sense' is certainly a very useful l e g i t i m a t i o n f o r this type o f academic t h o u g h t . B u t i t is a v a l i d a t i o n w h i c h m u s t u l t i m a t e l y c o m e i n t o c o n f l i c t w i t h its o w n principies. Perhaps, t h e r e f o r e , a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y achieves its fullest aims o n l y w h e n : (a) i t refuses t o stop q u e s t i o n i n g the narcissism o f ' c o m m o n sense' a n d its narrative closures, w h i l e ( b ) s i m u l t a n e o u s l y a c k n o w l e d g i n g that ' i n f i n i t e traces' o f the self cannot ever be f u l l y enclosed by any alternative narrative, w h e t h e r this is a narrative o f 'criticai e l a b o r a t i o n ' , secure l e f t - w i n g politics o r 'intellectual r i g o u r ' . A l i such t e r m s merely expose the non-discursive a n d affective investments i n discourses o f ' u s ' (cultural critics) a n d ' t h e m ' (fans). T h i s seems t o i m p l y that the best autoethnographies s h o u l d succeed i n a type o f self-deconstruction and self-destructiveness i n w h i c h ali possible g r o u n d s f o r legible c u l t u r a l value are e r o d e d . B u t even this sounds rather optimistically avant-garde, recapping the banality o f the b o h e m i a n m i n d . Perhaps the m o r e useful i m p l i c a t i o n is that a g o o d a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y s h o u l d reveal t h e narcissistic l i m i t s o f 'intellectual rigour' as w e l l as the narcissistic l i m i t s o f ' c o m m o n sense'. F o r w h i l e t h e latter leaves o u r sense o f self securely i n place, the f o r m e r n o t o n l y disrupts usual c o m m o n sense categories, i t also needs t o be d i s r u p t e d w h e n i t becomes t h e ' c o m m o n sense' o f academia. This means t h a t
8

sarily moving beyond the point where it can defend its o w n value as an exercise, but also moving beyond the point where 'criticai' thought has any relevancc, running up against and exposing its o w n affective roots. Another false ending. E v e n this convenient twist, this juxtapositon between criticai thought as ideal and affect as material, cannot remain fixed in place as a surrepttious restoration o f the value of autoethnography. By running into its own final limits, autoethnographic thought is not heroically elevated into a new realm o f emotional awareness and material struggle. B y running into its o w n final limits, far past the safety o f the narcissistic, autoethnography academic thought as embedded in one industry among exposes others.

Autoethnography leaves behind the concept o f the 'culture industry' and cuts through to the 'criticai industry'. T h i s is a cultural space intent o n producing novel versions of thought's limited repertoirc and intent o n promoting and validating 'intellectual rigour' as an authentic subcultural value. B u t , 'intellectual rigour' proposed by rather curiously, the excessive autoethnography

exposes the fact therc can never be cnough 'intellectual rigour'. A s l o n g as criticai thought operates as a commodity, as a marker o f academic reputation, and as a token o f 'academic' versus 'fan' cultural difference, then the same old ' c o m m o n sense' oppositions and moral dualisms will be reproduced through discourses of, and investments i n , the rigour of the 'criticai' versus the laxity o f the 'untutored'. Although both Fiske and Bukatman seek to distance themselves from ' b a d ' mascuhnity, both also reinstate the figure o f the authoritative academic w h i c h autoethnography dcmonstrate aims, ultimately, to the cultural undermine. Autoethnography should through which the self is and instead contexts

constructed, exarnining h o w processes of 'common sense', commodification self-justification/rationalisation feminist identity and f a n d o m . structure both fan and academic identities.

I want to move o n to discuss autoethnographies w h i c h deal with issues o f


9

Sue Wise ( 1 9 9 0 ) has rcflected o n her lvis

fandom, while Janct Wolff has written about her 'personal music history' as a fan o f American rock V roll singer E d d i e C o c h r a n (Wolff 1995: 2 3 ) . T h e tone o f Wise's account is what immediately strikes the reader. We are not confronted with an analysis o f cultural order (as i n Bukatman 1 9 9 4 ) or discussions o f cultural agency (as i n Fiske 1 9 9 0 ) . Wise does not immediately adopt a highly academic writng style which is peppered with technical terms. She begins very conversatonally: ' " W h o s c are ali those L V I S records? A r g h ! " is a commonly heard question i n my home, and always has been ever since it has been regularly frequented by feminists' ( 1 9 9 0 : 3 9 0 ) . T h e puzzle w h i c h this generates is how Wise was ablc to be both 'a feminist and an lvis fan' ( 1 9 9 0 : 391). These identities are flt to be mutually exclusive: liking lvis is a badge o f otherness for Wise's right-thinking feminist friends. I t is a taste and an attachment w h i c h doesn't belong within their cultural distinctions, (liscriminations and values. lvis is too securely placed within a particular version o f cultural history, a narrative in which his female fans were 'overwhelmed by his animal

by t r a v e l l i n g t h r o u g h the w i d e s t variety o f discursive battles a n d legitimations that scholarly t h o u g h t can offer, w e arrive at the p o i n t w h e r e self-reflexivity proves t o be an idealisation, sustaining t h e fantasy t h a t w o r d s a n d t h o u g h t alone can change t h e w o r l d . A u t o e t h n o g r a p h y therefore goes o n questioning, neces-

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DDi H L L ; i

X V !> W 11 IvliL- UL,

mii/

magnctism' ( 1 9 9 0 : 3 9 2 ) . T h i s narrative contrasts lvis as a 'butch G o d ' to his passive female conqucsts, and it is therefore viewed as highly patriarchal and ideologically suspcct ('deficient') by 'duly traincd' feminists. I n order to revalue her lvis fandom, Wise attempts to defusc the 'butch God' narrative, recounting that for her, lvis carried a very different set of meanings: mostly my interest i n lvis took the form o f a solitary hobby, a private thing between bim'and
c

! |

is an 'agent o f c u l t u r e i n process'; she was n o t free t o express her fandom.as she 'personally' wished t o . She was enabled t o be a f a n ( b y her family's acceptance o f this) b u t was later constrained by a d i f f e r e n t (1970s f e m i n i s t ) cultural context. Expressions a n d experiences o f f a n d o m c a n n o t , therefore, be assumed t o be entirely ' i n t e r n a i ' t o the 'expressive' self. Experiences o f f a n d o m always have t o be negotiated b e t w e e n the i n t e r n a i self a n d its experiences 'internai' chapter). Wise uses her 'personal experience o f a p u b l i c p h e n o m e n o n as an example o f a t o t a l l y t a k e n - f o r - g r a n t e d v i e w o f reality w h i c h is o p e n t o a d i f f e r e n t i n t e r p r e t a and the ' e x t e r n a i ' ultimately becomes impossible (see a n d the the next externai self and its c u l t u r a l context, m e a n i n g t h a t d i s t i n g u i s h i n g b e t w e e n the

me ... I had never analysed my fondness for or to me and I had never questioned i |

interest i n h i m as 1 grew up. H e was just there as an important part o f my life - he had always been important how or why ... as the years went by echoes o f my past (in the voice o f lvis?) have from time to time surced ... Such a thing oceurred in 1977 w h en lvis died. I was surprised at h o w much his death touched me ... As I listened to records and delved into clippings . . . the memories that were evoked had nothing to do with sex, nothing even to do with romance. T h e overwhelming feelings and memories were o f (Wise 1990: 3 9 3 , 394, 395, my emphasis) F o r Wise, lvis is represented and experienced as more of a 'teddy bear' than a 'butch G o d ' ; her solitary fndom as an adolescent provided her with a way of securing her o w n personal space within 'an overerowded household w h i c h was accepted as legitimate by my fmily' ( 1 9 9 0 : 3 9 3 ) . lvis was her friend, and a source o f solace, comfort and security. However, w h en Wise 'gets feminism' gradually i n her carly twenties, she realises that her lvis fndom will have to be rejected. I t does not seem to fit with the cultural pressures which are brought to bear on her by her new cultural context: ' I don't remember reading or hearing any specifie feminist analysis w h i c h said that "lvis can scriously damage your health" ... B u t the main pressure carne from incrcdulous friends, w h o were always quick to point out the idcological impurity o f lvis' ( 1 9 9 0 : 394). T h i s autoethnography placcs fandom squarely within the cultural and personal setting o f nctworks o ffriendsa n d fmily, unlikc Fiske's and Bukatman's accounts where the academic-fan tends to appear as a lonely but heroic central figure. Wise partially displaces the idea of the heroic academic-fan by focusing o n her o w n susceptibility to Cultural influences and pressures. F a n d o m may well be experienced as intensely personal (having a kind o f intensified usc-value) but i f this sentiment cannot return to the cultural space o f exchangc-value (carrying shared, intersubjective value) then it is likely to wither or to be temporarily abandoned. F a n d o m does not seem to flourish in a resolutely hostile environment; its passions and attachments have to be linked to a localiscd sense o f cultural value and legitimacy, even if this oceurs only within a household or a small circle o f friends rather than the 'imagined community' o f a fn subculture. Wise therefore offers a practical illustration o f Fiske's argument that the self warmth and affection for a very dear friend.

tion'

(1990:

398).

This

follows

autoethnography's

aim

o f questioning

' c o m m o n sense' assumptions a n d categories, especially since Wise is a r g u i n g against a certain ' d o m i n a n t ' v i e w o f lvis w h i c h is n o t simply ' o u t t h e r e ' i n the media: 'feminists have g o n e a l o n g w i t h this - t h e m e d i a hype has succeeded, the image swallowed, the f e m i n i s t r e w o r k i n g left u n d o n e ' W h a t are the l i m i t s t o W
i s c

(ibid.).

'

autoethnography? She very acutely illustratcs

h o w constructions o f ' u s ' a n d ' t h e m ' can be falsified, d r a w i n g a t t e n t i o n t o the possibility that f e m i n i s t 'critics' o f patriarchal p o p u l a r c u l t u r e may w e l l r e p r o duce 'male ideas a b o u t r o c k music' ( 1 9 9 0 : 397). The ' g o o d ' object o f f e m i n i s m is s h o w n t o be m o r e c o m p l i c i t w i t h w h a t i t opposes t h a n its o w n selfl e g i t i m a r i o n w o u l d in dic a te . Wise also avoids the technical a n d specialised academic language w h i c h is favoured by Fiske. I f a n y t h i n g , her a c c o u n t f o r m s the reverse image t o Fiske's: b o t h writers are c o n c e r n e d w i t h a u t o e t h n o g r a p h i cally p l a c i n g the personal w i t h i n the c u l t u r a l , b u t w h e r e Fiske subordinates his fn discourse t o an academic one, Wise seems t o s u b o r din a te academic discourse t o fan discourse. I n this case, i t is feminists - rather u n u s u a l l y - w h o are represented as c u l t u r a l dupes, and as the passive victims o f ' m e d i a h y p e ' . I t is feminists' discussions o f ' i d e o l o g y ' w h i c h are s h o w n t o be o u t o f step w i t h the consumer a n d fn experiences o f the p r e - o r p r o t o - f e m i n i s t . T h i s reversal o f the typical academic a c c o u n t , where criticai activity dispels audience passivity, remains trapped i n its terms o f reference. t o lvis, rather t h a n figuring F o r example, a m o r e complex r e w o r k i n g c o u l d have e x a m i n c d the c o n t e x t u a l agency o f the feminists opposed t h e m as passive. W h e n e v e r agency is selectively a t t r i b u t e d t o one g r o u p o r character ( t h e a u t o e t h n o g r a p h e r as lvis fan) a n d d e n i e d t o another g r o u p ( t h e feminist o p p o s i t i o n ) , t h e n we are d e a l i n g w i t h an unsustainable m o r a l d u a l i s m . G i v e n Wise's c r i t i q u e o f f e m i n i s m , w e can hardly expect later f e m i n i s t c u l t u r a l critics t o r e s p o n d k i n d l y t o her w o r k . Sure e n o u g h , Janet W o l f f writes: 'Wise . . . feels o b l i g e d t o justify his appeal by rejecting lvis the " b u t c h G o d " ( a n image, she says, c o n s t r u c t e d by m e n ) i n favour o f lvis the " T e d d y B e a r " ' ( 1 9 9 5 : 26). T h i s b r i c f c o m m e n t a r y carries t w o i m p l i c a t i o n s . First, Wise's a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y f u n c t i o n s as self-validation, just as B u k a t m a n validates his o w n experiences, and Fiske validates his o w n politics. Second, W o l f f seems t o i m p l y

78

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BETWEEN ' K N O W L E D G E ' AND ' J U S T I F I C A T I O N ' frmation o f identity: the ways i n which we use certain cultural events, practices, objeets in the continuai process o f our o w n production o f selP (ibid.), but shifts the terms of her argument in order to disguise her personal investment in late 1950s rock V roll as a matter o f theoretical argument and cultural/musical specificity. Wolff describes her work as an 'ethnography o f the self' (ibid.:
10

in the interjection 'an image, she says, constructcd by m e n ' that Wise herself is avoiding the complexites o f interpretation by neady aligning one interpretation o f lvis with a dominant sense of male 'media hype' while leaving her own interpretation supposedly outside the cultural system of power and dominance that her narrative constructs. This should remind us once more that good autoethnography should attempt to be multivocal; it should not operate as a legitimation of the investments of the academic-fan self which are dressed up as theoretical 'critique'. WolfPs own account o f her Eddie Cochran fandom also raises a number of useful points, dwelling on problems with fans' justifications of their fandom. Wolff begins by writing as a fan, indicating that E d d i e Cochran was important to her because of his music, before suddenly varying her account and adopting an academic perspective: I have been talking as though the appeal o f rock ' n ' roll (of E d d i e Cochran) is simply there, in the music - in the beat, the body and the voice. Work on youth culture has shown, of course, that music, like other aspects o f fashion and style, operates in conjunction with a complex process o f individual and social identities, and may therefore be selected on the basis o f affective criteria other than the sound itself. (Wolff 1995: 26)

29),

arguing that this does not substitute autobiography for theory. I w o u l d characterise her account o f E d d i e C o c h r a n , at least, as autobiography which distorts theoretical logic. Personal investment masquerades as theory, and academic discourse is again subordinated to fn discourse.

Self-imagnings: autoethnography as an escape from singular fan culture


Ali o f which sets up the ground which my o w n autoethnography must traverse. T h r o u g h the preceding discussions I have established four key principies for autoethnography: 1 Autoethnography must constantly seek to unsettle the moral dualisms w h i c h are thrown up by the narcissism o f ' c o m m o n sense' and its narrative closures. This requires the constant use o f sclf-reflexivc questioning. 2 Autoethnography must constantly seek to unsettle the use of theory as a disguise for personal attachments and investments; good autoethnography does not simply validate the self and its fandoms by tAvisting theory to fit the preferences of tfie self. Again, this requires the constant use o f sclfrcflexive questioning. 3 Self-reflexivity cannot legitimate autoethnography as an exercise. The concepts o f 'intellectual rigour' and heroic reflexivity act as another form o f academic 'common sense' which sustains the criticai ' u s ' versus the duped 'them'. W h e n self-reflexivity is subjected to 'self-reflexive' critique then it becomes apparent that this term supports a fntasy o f academic power and a fntasy o f the idealist transformation o f society. A t this point, self-reflexivity acts as part o f acadcmia's 'criticai industry'. 4 Autoethnography should treat self and other identically, using the same theoretical terms and attributions of agency to describe both. Autoethnography can also achieve something w h i c h fn-ethnographies to date have neglected. T h a t is, rather than isolating single fan cultures (e.g. the study o f Star Trek fans as in Bacon-Smith 1992 and Pcnley 1991, specific intcrtextual nctworks 1992, 1997) or o f 'cult T V ' / ' t e l e f n t a s y ' (Jenkins 1992a),

I n true autoethnographic style, Wolff immediately reverses her position again, and also acknowledges that this reversal is contradicted elsewhere in her study: ' I do want to argue that there is something in the music of early rock V roll w h i c h constitutes a direct appeal - to the body, to the emotions' ( 1 9 9 5 : 2 7 ) . H e r admission that this is contradicted elsewhere rcturns her work to the predictable academic norms o f cultural studies which suggest that 'the immediacy o f the body' ( 1 9 9 5 : 3 8 n 2 3 ) cannot be trusted or assumed. Wolff does indeed toe this line in a chapter o n dance criticism ( 1 9 9 5 : 6 8 - 8 7 ) . Why, then, does this writer accept the disciplinary norms o f cultural studies and feminism in one instance, but break those norms in her discussion o f Eddie Cochran? I w o u l d hke to view this as a challenge to academic assumptions. B u t it seems to replicate exactly what Wolff has criticised in relation to Wise's account: the investment of the fan-self is protected from the intruding discourses of academia. Cochran's music, as the 'good' object o f a teenage fandom, is split off from academic norms which refuse to allow value to emerge automatically from texts. Wolff therefore makes a theoretical exception for her object o f fandom, refusing to have its personal significance undermined, and holding o n to a sense of her possession o f Cochran's music. T h u s , for ali her claims to be 'working on the assumption that ... preferences are not purely personal or idiosyncratic, but can be used to explore more general features o f a cultural m o m e n t ' ( 1 9 9 5 : 2 8 ) , Wolff still preserves a privileged status for the cultural moment of her Cochran fandom. She focuses on the 'role of culture in the

autoethnography can chart h o w multiple fandoms are linked through the individual^ realisation o f a self-identity. These multiple fandoms and interests in different media forms may cohere in intriguing ways. Particular discourses might be shared across what, at first glance, appear to be very different objeets o f fndom. O f course, different fandoms may also not clearly relate to one

80

81

BfciWfcfciN

L i U l i -

A M U

J U S 1 1 f 1 C A 1 1 U JN '

BETWEEN

'KNOWLEDGE'

AND

'JUSTIFICATION'

another, allowing different aspeets and dimensions o f self-idenrity to be realised through various cultural materiais. Autoethnography offers one possible soluton to the problem identified by Nick Couldry, namely, the problem of 'too many texts', and o f h o w we, as media consumers and fans, construct a sense of those texts that are relevant and meaningful to us. C o u l d r y rightly observes that V e should k n o w more about what individuais' "textual fields" are like - how do people select from the myriad texts around them, what c o m m o n patterns are there in what they select? Yct this is an area where cultural studies has done very litdc rescarch' ( C o u l d r y 2 0 0 0 b : 73). Beginning an autoethnography, it is pragmatcally useful to attempt to chart ali one's objeets o f fandom, both past and present. This allows the autoethnographer to get a sense o f the variety and possible coherence o f their fn objeets, as well as asking the question: why do various fandoms become relevant and evant based to cultural identity); identity irrelFigure 3.2 at specific times? These could be moments in a in the construction of age-based identities
E o

30 25 20 " 15
I Doctor Who Horror Fiction Star Trek Toto

I f

10 5 0

life-story (leaving h o m e but using fandom to remain connected with a familymoments ('childytcenageryyouth'/'adult'); moments when different cultural identities or moments w h i c h emerge

Significant fandoms over time, w i t h subjective sense o f variable intensity

diagrams is w h a t he o r she is prepared t o c o u n t as a ' f a n d o m ' . I w o u l d suggest t a k i n g as b r o a d a v i e w o f ' f a n d o m ' as possible, and i n c l u d i n g any d e v o t e d media c o n s u m p t i o n as w e l l as non-media-based quickly become overly-simplified, but an passions, enthusiasms the or part hobbies of the w h i c h may have l e d t o specialist media c o n s u m p t i o n . These diagrams can very awareness o n autoethnographer o f w h a t is being left o u t , a n d w h a t is b e i n g f i t t e d i n , can p r o v i d e the basis f o r later discussion. These diagrams can be analysed a u t o e t h n o g r a p h i c a l l y i n a variety o f ways. First, what common discourses are shared by my objeets of fandom? 'Britishness' seems t o be i m p o r t a n t : Doctor Who is o f t e n favourably contrasted

and contexts become dominam ('fan'/'acadcmic');

through the popular construction of cultural history ('the 1970s', 'the 1980s'). I would also suggest charting one's fandoms by subject matter, indicating where there are intertextual or generic links, and then over time, indicating when fandoms became less or more significant. Although this type o f selfreporting cannot be assumed to be infallible or 'correct', this is not really a problem sinec we will return to the issue o f self-reflexivity to examine how the autoethnographer construets a certain sense of self in their own account. M y own 3.1, autoethnographic diagrams of my fandom are presented below (Figures

3.2). Clearly an issue the autoethnographer confronts when drawing up these Horror ficton Stephen Gallagher Christopher Fowler Mark Morris Stephen Laws -<) Cult TV Doctor Who Blake's 7 Star Trek and ST:TNG The X-Files -< Gillian Anderson < Cult TV celebrities Tom Baker

w i t h 'US'-style telefantasy by its fans, c a r r y i n g positive values o f ' s t o r y / i n t e l lect/eccentricity' versus ' p r o d u c t i o n v a l u e s / a c t i o n / f o r m u l a ' (see T u l l o c h and Jenkins 1 9 9 5 ) . Equally, the type o f h o r r o r f i c t i o n t h a t I became interested i n d u r i n g m y teens was, a l t h o u g h this was n o t a calculated decision at the t i m e , B r i t i s h h o r r o r . T h e writers whose w o r k I f o l l o w e d ali t e n d e d t o use E n g l i s h settings ( n o r t h e r n E n g l a n d i n the case o f Gallagher and L a w s ; L o n d o n as a focus i n Fowler's w o r k ) . I seem t o have avoided obviously 'bestselling', ' m a i n stream' and A m e r i c a n h o r r o r writers, h a v i n g little interest i n Stephen K i n g , and never f o l l o w i n g the w o r k o f James H e r b e r t and Clive Barker w i t h the same energy that I d e v o t e d t o reading Gallagher, James, Laws, M o r r i s et al. A n o t h e r discourse w h i c h is shared by ali m y objeets o f f a n d o m , even t h o u g h there are n o o b v i o u s i n t e r t e x t u a l links b e t w e e n m y music a n d television fiction

Pop Music (Groups)

Music (Solo/Session Playing)

fandoms, is t h a t o f 'cultishness', by w h i c h I mean a m a r g i n a l i t y c o n s t r u c t e d against the tastes a n d practices o f the ' m a i n s t r e a m ' . M y tastes i n music, a n d television share a c o m m o n t h r e a d : I t e n d t o value bands and p r o g r a m m e s w h i c h lack obvious ' c r e d i b i l i t y ' b u t w h i c h nevertheless appeal t o h i g h l y insular fan cognoscenti. L e v e i 4 2 , w h i l e typically b e i n g m o c k e d as a p r o d u c t o f 1980s p o p by non-fans, w e r e and are valued by t h e i r fans t h r o u g h discourses o f musicianship, w i t h band m e m b e r M a r k K i n g b e i n g referred t o as one o f the wor!d's

Toto Levei 42 Figure 3.1

-<> -<>-

Steve Lukather Mark King, Allan Holdsworth

Fandoms grouped by subject matter, intertextual links indicated.


i 82

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BETWEEN

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'JUSTIFICATION'

BETWEEN ' K N O W L E D G E ' AND 'JUSTIFICATION* cultshness (i.e. 'discerning' consumption/musicianship/not obvious best-

best bass playcrs i n nichc magazines such as Guitarist h a v i n g featured i n the ' m u s o s ' magazine, Making

and Bassist, as w e l l as K i n g ' s p l a y i n g was

Music.

sellcrs/ecccntricity), masculinity (the virtuoso/the

underdog/intellect/agency)

deliberately showy, b u t this was o n an i n s t r u m e n t usually considered t o be the w o r k h o r s e o f a p o p / r o c k b a n d rather t h a n a solo i n s t r u m e n t . I n o t h e r w o r d s , his showiness was revalued by fans t h r o u g h concepts o f the ' u n d e r d o g ' ; the bass player, w h o w o u l d usually be i n the shadows, here takes centre-stage. T o t o , a l t h o u g h an A m e r i c a n A O R / M O R b a n d , are largely i g n o r e d i n t hei r h o m e m a r k e t ; their fan c u l t u r e is predominanty E u r o p e a n and Japanesc. ( T h i s also places t h e m w i t h i n an ' a n t i - A m e r i c a n ' discourse even w h i l e they c a n n o t be a l i g n e d w i t h ' p r o - B r i t i s h ' discourses.) A l s o , T o t o are again valued by t h e i r fans through discourses of musicianship, w i t h guitarist Steve Lukather being t h o u g h t o f as a v i r t u o s o player w h o retains an i n d i v i d u a l playing style even i n sessions. L u k a t h e r , u n l i k e o t h e r gui t ar heroes, is n o t l i n k e d w i t h values o f speed a n d o b v i o u s l y 'flash' p l a y i n g ; instead his style is discussed as a m a t t e r o f chameleonic skill w h i c h never surrenders its individuality. A l o n g s i d e p r o - B r i t i s h , a n t i - A m e r i c a n and ' c u l t ' discourses w h i c h are shared across m y objeets o f f a n d o m , i t is also w o r t h n o t i n g that m y fan tastes are almost u n r e m i t t i n g l y masculine, d e v e l o p i n g a r o u n d male h o r r o r writers and male guitarists. A n d this despite, or perhaps because of, m y lack o f any real s p o r t i n g f a n d o m . M y fan objeets therefore a l l o w m e , rather anxiously, t o c o n s t r u c t a sense o f masculine p o w e r and agency, since I actively seek o u t value against the perceived ' n o r m s ' o f the mainstream a n d , equally, against the n o r m s o f s u b c u l t u r a l credibility. I c o u l d , at the age o f fifteen, and later w h i l e I was at university, have i m m e r s e d m y s e l f i n the credible bands o f the t i m e . I nst ead I steadfastly refused t o fali i n t o w h a t I viewed as the ' f a s h i o n ' o f the m o m e n t , r e m a i n i n g interested i n T o t and Levei 4 2 . T h e r e is therefore also a constant sense o f seeking ( m o r e o r less consciously) n o t t o fit i n t o expected patterns o f media c o n s u m p t i o n a n d expected patterns o f taste. I n d e e d , this type of u n t h i n k i n g o p p o s i t i o n t o the ' c o n v e n t i o n a l ' is i t sel f a set o f conventons, as is clear f r o m the cultural discourses w h i c h structure ali m y fandoms. T h i s taste f o r the ' o p p o s i t i o n a P may also have f o l l o w e d me i n t o m y academic career. I n o w c o n s t r u c t a sense o f self-identity at least partially t h r o u g h i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h critics whose w o r k I value ( A d o r n o , W i n n i c o t t , Bollas), r e t a i n i n g the same structural o p p o s i t i o n t o theorists whose w o r k is deemed t o o ' o b v i o u s ' o r t o o ' m a i n s t r e a m ' (e.g. F o u c a u l t and M e l a n i e K l e i n ) . A n d w h e n the theorist's w o r k I value threatens t o go m a i n s t r e a m , as has C h r i s t o p h e r Bollas's since I first w r o t e a b o u t this i n m y P h D , t h e n I feel a sense o f loss. As Scott B u k a t m a n reports: 'there's m y i r r a t i o n a l fear o f l o s i n g m y self by j o i n i n g a c o m m u n i t y (any community)' ( 1 9 9 4 : 1 2 6 ) . T h e theor is t is n o l o n g e r m y c u l t possession; their w o r k is, instead, p a r t o f a c u l t u r a l cnon, and p a r t o f a wider ' m o v e m e n t ' or m o m e n t i n t h o u g h t . Despite having excluded academic theorists f r o m m y aut oet hnography, by analysing the c o m m o n aspeets o f m y declared fandoms I have been able t o perceive links w i t h these o t h e r reas. I have suggested, t h r o u g h self-analysis, t h a t certain aspeets o f m y c u l t u r a l i d e n t i t y are p r o d u c e d by and t h r o u g h m y f a n d o m s :

and Britishness (typically rcalised against the ' b a d ' other o f America). However, what does this account leave out? First, I present myself as a cultural agent, as somebody w h o actively makes use o f his media fandoms. T h i s reinforces a sense o f my cultural power and, as a narrative o f self, can certainly be challenged. Second, I have not discussed my class position, my ethnicity and my sexuality, leaving these as unspoken and invisible categories. T h i s absence can also be challenged. T h i r d , I have constructed what seems to be an overly coherent account of my 'unified' subjectivity: do m y fandoms really ali line up so tidily along certain axes, or have I excluded more problematic and disruptive fandoms? So fr, I have not focused o n the temporal shifts i n my fandoms. O p e n i n g up this topic cah allow for a less 'active' and heroic view o f my media consumption. F o r example, a major shift i n my fandoms oceurred at around the age o f fifteen. As m y interest in Doctor Who waned then new fan objeets started to become band T o t o became Who seemed to be transferred, via the important to me. T h e music o f American A O R / M O R important, and my interest in Doctor

mediating intertextual link provided by Stephen Gallagher's work, into British horror. Although my interest in Gallagher's writing initally depended o n my Doctor Who fandom, this became less important as I started to read other horror writers. B u t why this shift in fandoms? W h y did I start to move away Doctor cannot present myself as an active cultural agent. M y fandoms here from were Who, only to return to this fndom in my mid-twenties? I n this case, I

subjected to the pressures o f cultural context. I drifted away from Who fndom because o f a tcenage estimation that i f I continued with this all-consuming passion I would never, in a million years, have any chance o f getting a girifriend. Now, whcther or not this was true, the fct that this decision made cultural sense to me indicates the operation o f one aspect o f a cultural system o f value whereby media fndom is/was linked to a sense o f 'filed' or inadequate masculinity. L i v i n g within this dimension o f cultural value, I was not able simply to pursue my fndom. Like Wise, I felt under pressure to reject it, even if I cannot recall any direct challenge to my sense o f masculinity. M y sensed need to alter my fndom, possibly also linked to an.urgent tcenage need to separate my identity from that of the 'child', therefore produced a shift from T V sf fandom to horror fandom. Hor r or , in this case, provided a clearer sense o f 'enduring' masculinity and an imagined 'toughness' through whic h my cultural identity could be rcconstructcd. I f I used horror to perfrm a different type o f masculinity, I also used more marginal forms o f horror literature rather than 'mainstream' film, retaining a sense o f unease with 'good' masculinity and tempering this w i t h an 'ant-mainstream' cultshness and an 'anti-physical' bookishness that I possess in an exaggerated and 'vocatonal' (i.e. profssionally legitimated) frm today. What are the other problems with my autoethnographic considered how my self-identity remains account? I have albeit via an highly gendered,

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'JUSTIFICATION'

'intellectual' and masochistc masculinity. T h e cultural resources which I have used to construct my sense o f self cannot be separated from m y class position; as a middle-class academic, I bid for alternatve cultural capital i n precisely the way that Bourdieu's ( 1 9 8 4 ) model describes the dominated bourgeoisie. However, unlike I . Q . H u n t e r (2000: 1 9 7 ) , I am not particularly distressed at being reduced to my class position, or at having my fan 'authenticities' recontextualised as part o f a system o f value. T h i s shuttling between experience and theory illustrates h o w well theory can sometimes fit with our experiences, making a new form o f sense out o f untheorised life. However, it is also vitally important not to lose sight o f the ways in which 'theory' fils to fit w i t h 'experience'. As Wolff rightly observes: 'cultural studies is not just about texts or theories: it deals with lived experiences, and with the intersections o f social structures, systems o f representation, and subjectivities ... H e r e it does matter i f the [theoretical] interpretation does not fit experience' ( 1 9 9 5 : 35; see also Milcs 2001: 165). Although through autoethnography we can never entirely 'disprove' a theory, we can suggest that the ideal-types of theory possess a limited s c o p c i n the face o f our own inhabitations o f culture. F o r example, I was both a Star Trek fan and a Doctor Who fan up until about the age o f twclve, w h e n Doctor Who became far more important to me. (Why this should have been so, I am unable to recount.) Theoretical accounts have tended to emphasise hostilities between these two fandoms (Tulloch and Jenkins 1 9 9 5 ) . A n d although my Star Trek fandom has not been greatly active since my childhood, I still retain an affection for the programme, having been a Doctor Who fan and a Star Trek 'followcr' at the same time (see also Tulloch and Jenkins 1 9 9 5 ) . Theoretical accounts have tended to emphasise singular fandoms (where horror fans arcn't also fans o f guitarists, or where Doctor Who fans aren't also fans o f D . W . Winnicott's writing, and so on), and my o w n autoethnography has sought to expose the limitations of studies which focus on single fandoms. T h i s autoethnography tionally aligned, also opens up a further challenge to 'fan to attend conventons or take part in studies': how can we theorise the cultural activities of fans who are not instituand who refuse 'stereotypical' fn activities? I would describe myself as always having existed on the fringes o f organised fndom: whenever it seemed that I was close to properly entering an organised fandom, somehow or other I recoiled from this possibility. Whethcr this was writing fan fiction for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society or reviewing for the horror fan magazine Samhain, the threat of being 'absorbed' into an organised community was always sufficient to send me scurrying back under cover as a solitary fan, or at best as a fan w h o shared his knowledge and enthusiasm only with a highly localised and limited set of fellow fans (see Bacon-Smith 1992). Organised fndom, conventons and ali, always seemed like a bridge too far. O f course, this statement is a type of selflegitimation w h i c h fails in the very moment o f its performative claim. ' F m not one o f those sad fns w h o hangs out at conventons' this claim attempts to announce, trying to ward off pathologising fan stercotypes by constructing a

s e l P / ' o t h e r ' split. B u t this a t t e m p t at self-legitimation simultaneously reveals

that I cannot sustain this m o r a l d u a l i s m : I am far inside the fan stereotype (given m y self-construction as ' b o o k i s h ' , as ' d i f f e r e n t ' , as ' i n t e l l e c t u a l ' , as inadequately 'masculine') w h e t h e r I like i t o r n o t , a n d w h e t h e r I argue m y case o r n o t . I n s h o r t , I c a n ' t rationally dispel t h e force o f this fan stereotype, o r the possibility o f i t b e i n g applied t o m e , s i m p l y by w i s h i n g i t away o r by creating m o r a l dualisms t o d o this w o r k f o r m e magically. W h a t o t h e r lapses have I u n c o v e r e d i n m y account? I n terms o f m y ethnicity, m y whiteness has largely been m i r r o r e d back t o me t h r o u g h t h e texts that I have been a fan o f , f o r m i n g a shared c u l t u r a l discourse. T h i s type o f reflection may seem t o o c r u d e l y fixed at the levei o f 'observable' e t h n i c i t y , b u t i t nevertheless serves t o emphasise h o w c u l t u r a l discourses have a p o w e r f u l effect o n o u r j u d g e m e n t s o f w h e t h e r media texts are relevant t o us. Clearly fans can i d e n tify across ethnicity, b u t o f t e n o n l y t h e basis o f a shared a u t h e n t i c i t y such as a celebratory ' a n t i - m a i n s t t e a m ' stance ( w h i c h takes me back t o m y p o i n t a b o u t relative h o m o l o g y at the e n d o f chapter 1 ) . W i t h regards t o sexuality, m y objeets o f f a n d o m have n o t always clearly m i r r o r e d m y o w n lived heterosexuality. Doctor Who, as C o r n e l l ( 1 9 9 7 ) notes, has always h a d a sizeable gay f o l l o w i n g . A n d h o r r o r f i c t i o n , m y a t t e m p t at bolstering m y masculinity, is hardly alien t o concepts o f ' p o l y m o r p h o u s perversity' o r t o transgressions o f t h e codes o f heterosexuality. A l t h o u g h I have i n c l u d e d Gillian A n d e r s o n as one o f m y fan 'objeets', I have refrained f r o m discussing this u n t i l n o w , perhaps t h r o u g h a class-based sense that issues o f sexuality are n o t a ' p r o p e r ' t o p i c o f discussion. I r e m a i n h i g h l y uneasy a b o u t professing that any element o f sexual attraction enters i n t o m y appreciation o f female c u l t celebrities. This unease may stem from an i n v e s t m e n t i n a broadly f e m i n i s t academic p o s i t i o n w h i c h disagrees theoretically w i t h the o b j e c t i f i c a t i o n o f w o m e n w h i l e c o n t i n u i n g t o participate practically i n these ' b a d ' cultural mechanisms. I t may w e l l be the case t h a t w h a t I w o u l d prefer t o pass over i n silence is an aspect o f m y cultural i d e n t i t y w h i c h begins t o problematise m y ' u n i f i e d ' self, t h r e a t e n i n g t o fragment the self i n t o a series o f c o n t r a d i c t o r y investments a n d attachments. Despite m y criticisms o f Fiske a n d B u k a t m a n above, I also f i n d family. upon rereading this a c c o u n t that I , t o o , have p r o d u c e d a s t r u c t u r i n g absence: m y
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I have c o m p l e t e l y failed t o address the h o u s e h o l d a n d o t h e r cultural

contexts i n w h i c h m y early fandoms w e r e f o r m e d . ' C o m m o n sense' cultural categories - markers o f 'privacy' - therefore i n t r u d e m u l t i p a l l y o n this account, since I have absented b o t h m y sexuality a n d m y family, p r e s u m a b l y feeling these are t o o close t o h o m e t o be subjected t o 'analysis'. B u t , u n l i k e W o l f f (1995), I m u s t seek t o avoid d r a w i n g arbitrary lines b e t w e e n naturalised ' i m m e d i a c y ' a n d m e d i a t e d 'cultural systems'. I w o u l d never have e m b a r k e d u p o n t h e life o f a f a n , n o r that o f an academic, had i t n o t been f o r t h e e n c o u r a g e m e n t , indulgence a n d tacit l e g i t i m a t i o n offered by m y family. T h i s h o u s e h o l d c o n t e x t d i d n o t simply enable certain fan meanings o r interpretations, instead i t a l l o w e d t h e significance o f m y f a n d o m t o

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BETWEEN

'KNOWLEDGE* AND 'JUSTIFICATION'

BETWEEN

'KNOWLEDGE* AND 'JUSTIFICATION'

be preserved and t r u s t e d , n o matter w h a t . M y media c o n s u m p t i o n was regulated by m y parents w h e n I was a y o u n g c h i l d , b u t regardlcss o f the (then c u l t u r a l l y acceptable) use o f c o r p o r a l p u n i s h m e n t , a n d the o f t e n used threat o f b e i n g sent to m y r o o m , I was never banned f r o m w a t c h i n g m y favourite T V p r o g r a m m e s and objeets o f f a n d o m . M y f a n d o m was respected by m y parents, a n d f o r m e d part o f m y distinctive i d e n t i t y i n the family: I was the Doctor fan. T h i s defined m y 'uniqueness' i n the family. T h i s familial idealisation raises the question o f the ' o r i g i n s ' p f m y Doctor Who f a n d o m . Was this, like N i c k H o r n b y ' s account o f his Arsenal f a n d o m , a way o f c o m m u n i c a t i n g w i t h m y father w h i c h t h e n became m y o w n private 'possession'? T h e beginnings o f f a n d o m can semetimes seem very clear t o us; we become fans o f s o m e t h i n g because o u r friends are, or because o u r brothers a n d sisters are. B u t this associative ' c o n t a g i o n ' o f fandom's attachments and affeets - either t h r o u g h social networks o r t h r o u g h intertextual networks - also poses a challenge t o cultural theories o f f a n d o m . H o w can such intense fan experiences o f subjective ' o w n e r s h i p ' and 'possession' o f the t e x t emerge t h r o u g h ' c u l t u r a l systems'? H o w does the c o n t i n g e n c y o f this c u l t u r a l system (i.e. a d i f f e r e n t associative l i n k c o u l d have been made f r o m t e x t t o t e x t or f r o m o t h e r t o self) become transformed i n t o the fan's insistence o n the necessity o f this t e x t o r this icon? B o t h fan-ethnographies and autoethnographies have a h i g h l y U m i t e d purchase o n these questions, and o n h o w fan desire becomes stuck i n the f o r m o f a n e n d u r i n g media attachment c u l t u r a l contexts and stages o f life. G i v e n the q u e s t i o n i n g s p i r i t o f autoethnography, I w a n t t o r o u n d u p w i t h a f u r t h e r q u e s t i o n . Does m y academic discourse c o n s t r u c t a sense o f the c o n t e m porary T excellence: as knowledgeable i n comparison t o m y past fan self? M y account so the assumption t h a t i l l u m i n a t i n g theoretical eyes can perecive the far seems t o assume just such a d i v i s i o n . H e r e is the academic m o r a l d u a l i s m par c u l t u r a l o r d e r w h i c h is otherwise b u r i e d i n the u n t h o u g h t routines o f everyday life. B u t I have already suggested that self-reflexivity cannot f o r m the u l t i m a t e legitimation o f autoethnography. Taking this p o i n t seriously, even while b e c o m i n g caught u p i n a performative c o n t r a d i c t i o n , I am m e t h o d o l o g i c a l l y a n d theoretically o b l i g e d t o concede that m y account o f m y o w n fandoms arrives at a p o i n t o f narcissistic and narrative closure w h i c h privileges (present) academic reflection o n the non-academic (past) self. T h e o n l y possible way t o d i s r u p t this narrative closure may be t o i n t e r p r e t fan culture (and the self) t h r o u g h alternative theoretical positions, e m p l o y i n g psychoanalysis rather than c u l t u r a l studies. I w i l l address this i n the next chapter. w h i c h persists over time and i n d i f f e r e n t Who

t h a t they have played o u t i n terms o f ' p a i n e d ' fan-victims ( B a c o n - S m i t h 1 9 9 2 ) versus ' p o a c h i n g ' fn-victors (Jenkins 1 9 9 2 a ) . Fan-ethnographies have focused o n fans o f single texts o r n a r r o w intertext u a l networks, t r e a t i n g these fans as n a t u r a l l y - o c c u r r i n g ( a n d spcctacular) c o m m u n i t i e s . T h i s tends t o close d o w n t h e investigation o f h o w w e may, as subjeets, negotiate o u r w a y t h r o u g h m u l t i p l e f a n d o m s o f v a r y i n g intensities at different times. Fan-ethnographies have assumed that b o t h fans and academics can fully account discursively f o r t h e i r c u l t u r a l practices. T h e fans' discursive m a n t r a w h i c h works t o justify thir f a n d o m is therefore accepted at face value. So is the acadcmic's discursive mantra w h i c h w o r k s t o justify academia: n o t i o n o f ' c r i t i c a i ' o r 'self-reflcxive' t h o u g h t . T h e t u r n t o a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y has s o u g h t t o address some o f these p r o b lems. I have examined four autoethnographies o f different fandoms. I T h r o u g h this process I arrived at f o u r key aspeets o f a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y . t h e n applied these ideas i n m y o w n a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y . the

Summary
Fan-ethnographies have been l i m i t e d by a n u m b e r o f r e c u r r i n g p r o b l e m s such as the narrative structures that they have used, and the m o r a l dualisms

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