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Aaaand there goes the summer. Wow. Now that I'm home again, I can't even begin to summarize everything that happened in Japan, everything that's happened in my life. So instead I'll look back by looking forward, and just do my acafannish thing.

One of the major reasons I went to Japan this summer was the chance to lecture at Wako University, in Ueno Toshiya's class on Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. I had free run of the massive tome, but it wasn't hard to pick a topic: I am fascinated by their theory of the Body without Organs, which is in short a surface or circulation of desire that is not yet fixed to a single object. I can't explain why, but this idea touches me deeply, like something I have always known and never been able to express. I felt a similar mysterious attraction to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku: the feeling of encountering a series of strangely impersonal yet deeply affecting images of an almost too-literal BwO. So, I decided to read one in the other, both through each, for the lecture. Based on the class' reaction, I think the example really worked to illustrate a difficult concept! To get all I can out of a topic I'm passionate about, I also proposed to expand the lecture through fan studies for presentation at the School Girls and Mobile Suits/Mechademia conference in September.

I'll be reworking the lecture for presentation in the next few weeks. So, I thought I'd post the presentation abstract here to get my brain -and this blog- started again. This, so far, is the idea:

"What Can a Vocaloid Do?: The Kyara as Body without Organs"

This paper explores the intersections between "kyara," desire, and fan production by reading the Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the "Body without Organs" (BwO).

The first section explains the elusive BwO through three keywords: desire, intensity, and (de)stratification. It shows how Deleuze and Guattari understand desire not as a lack but as an immanent creative force, generating freely-circulating intensities. In contrast to criticisms of the BwO as apolitical abstraction, however, I bring out the vital social implications that arise when the BwO is organized or stratified in embodied practice.

To illustrate a BwO in practice, I turn next to the example of the kyara or character in anime, manga, light novels and related media. Here I discuss the difference between the kyara of the media-mix industry and the traditional "I" of the Japanese "I-novel," comparing their modes of subjectivity and desire, their media temporalities, and the ways they build up or break down strata of identity and social hierarchy.

Finally, as a concrete case study, I consider the virtual idol singer Hatsune Miku and the uses she is put to by major corporations and fan collectives. In asking "What Can a Vocaloid Do?", my paper reformulates Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the BwO in light of today's media environment, and provides a more complex perspective on the Vocaloid phenomenon, beyond the easy celebrations of user empowerment touted by the media giants themselves.
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This week, my home university, Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy, is partnering with the University of Waterloo to host Canada's major humanities conference, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Basically, all the individual national scholarly organizations -like mine, the Film Studies Association of Canada- get together an hold their annual conferences at the same time in one place. We'll have over 7000 people this year, which is a massive conference by Canadian standards. (Though it makes me smile to realize what a small fraction of Comiket's 500,000 attendees that is!)

There will be a lot of live blogging and tweeting of this event, but I don't think I'll be one of the avid bloggers. Maybe I'll do a sum-up at the end, especially of the panel on "Anime/Comics: Appropriation and Adaptation." But since this is more an anime blog than an aca blog, I'll keep it low key.

That said, my presentation in a panel on post-cinematic adaptation is half about Satoshi Kon, so I have no problems posting my proposal/abstract here, for anyone who's interested!

Hugo and Paprika )
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Between job applications, research-assisting on a hellishly complex government grant application, and thesis writing, it's been a tough couple of weeks for me. So I'm really glad that my weekends have been full of a better kind of horror. You know, the fun kind.

Last weekend, I got a sneak peek at Cree playwright Tomson Highway's upcoming musical "The (Post) Mistress," featuring such wonderful cabaret-style numbers as "I Shot Him in the Head." Then, across town for a panel discussion/exhibit on Victorian image technologies and spirit photography, complete with working zoetrope and pictures of ectoplasm. Those Victorians really knew how to hold a seance.

This weekend is Central Canada Comic Con, where I'll have a chance to cosplay as Arrietty again, and a Halloween party which I will attend as a "geisha." Ok, actually I'll just wear the yukata I got for the O-bon festival I didn't have a chance to attend last summer. Since summertime is ghost-story time in Japan, in a way it works for Halloween. At any rate, dressing up! Eating candy! Buying comics! What can go wrong?

What indeed...? *cue eerie music*

Happy haunting, everyone!
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I love symposiums. Symposia. You know, those things where people present papers on esoteric topics and then debate over issues you never get to talk about normally, and other things you didn’t even know about before.

Case in point: the “Borderlessness and Youth Cultures in Modern Japan” symposium held in Montreal Oct. 15-16. There was a lot packed into a day and a half, from hikikomori to “precariat” literature to narrative consumption in marketing. What really struck me, though, were two papers following on each other by Livia Monnet and Mari Kotani, who took two different approaches to gender and sexuality in women’s media/performance.

Summaries and thoughts below the cut )
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I never thought when I decided to stay in school for the rest of my life that it would involve so much travelling. But if you like to travel, academia is a good place to be. Next week I'm heading to Germany to give a presentation at the University of Heidelberg's Exzellenzcluster on Asia and Europe in a Global Context. (I like the word "Exzellenzcluster" a lot. I like the people in the Exzellenzcluster even more!) Also invited is a scholar of East Asian pop culture, Dr. Chua Beng Huat, who will give a lecture and lead our workshop on soft power and media.

I hope this doesn't sound like boasting, but I'm really excited and a little astonished to be doing things like this. When I started studying anime, I thought I'd be pretty much on my own. But now I discover that there are all kinds of people studying all kinds of popular culture across the world. Sure, I always knew that in the abstract. But once you actually go meet people from countries that were only names on a map before, and find that you have some very different experiences but also some common points of changes things.

It's all so fresh to me, this global aca-fan community. It's both like and unlike non-academic fandom. I find in general that academic gatherings -even about pop culture- involve a lot more career-building maneuvering: what will look good on my cv? Can I get a publishing deal out of this? And so on. But in the end, academics are also a bunch of geeks who like to sit around and argue about everything from human rights and international relations to the relative popularity of Korean and Japanese idol singers. The difference is more in the certain kinds of language you have to use (fan and academic jargon) and also in the restrictions on who can join (because face it, university degrees cost a whole lotta money.)

Well, maybe I'll write more about my actual experiences in Germany when I get back. Or maybe not. I'm always unsure of what I should write about here. Professionalism is a difficult discourse to handle when it comes to new media. What is proper to blog about? What will hurt my prospects? How public or private is this writing? Well, I don't know. In the meantime, I hope I can make a worthwhile contribution at the workshop!
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What a difference a week makes! I've got everything I need for my study-in-Japan application, I finished the rough draft of a thesis chapter, and today is the day to live it up, geek style.

This year, I'm kicking it off with a con -the Central Canada Comic-Con, featuring (among other awesome guests) Adam West, Dirk Benedict, Julie Newmar, and Peter Mayhew. I'm hoping Adam West will dance, just because it would be both funny and scary. And that's what Halloween is all about.

Sadly, I don't think I'll be able to go in costume. My costume this year is a sort of Victorian riding outfit, and the train of the skirt is too long to wear in a crowd without getting stepped on. Also, I'm wearing it to a house party later so I don't want to be all sweaty and smelly by the time I get there. I am not that kind of otaku. ^^

Anyways, no review today. I just watched the first season of Genshiken, but I don't have my thoughts together on it yet. Next time, Gadget, next time! Til then, have a happy Halloween, everybody.


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April 2014

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