Fan Studies Network Statement on FSN2019 and the Whiteness of Fan Studies

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Academic Commentary
Title: #FSN2019
Commentator:
Date(s): February 11, 2019
Medium: online
Fandom:
External Links: Tweet, FSN statement, archived
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The Fan Studies Network statement on #FSN2019 and the whiteness of fan studies was a statement published on February 11, 2019 by the Fan Studies Network board in response to conversations which had unfolded on Twitter in the days previous. It concerned issues of structural whiteness in the field of fan studies, which had been thrown into sharp relief by a Twitter thread by fan studies scholar Rukmini Pande, and the response to it by Nicolle Lamerichs, who was at that time slated to give a keynote speech at Fan Studies Network Conference 2019.

Background

On February 8, 2019, scholar Rukmini Pande tweeted a thread on the whiteness of fan studies:[1]

[Rukmini Pande]

Sometimes the utter whiteness of #fanstudies exhausts me... Like a real, bone-deep exahustion... Because what is the point of objecting to really problematic scholarship and risking professional networks when nothing changes 😣

Critiquing a field for structural whiteness is not disrespectful. I am not disrespectful.

I engage with this field in good faith. I do peer review, try and build networks, and put together resources and bibliographies so that we can produce better scholarship.

I also express my exhaustion and frustration when I see structural patterns repeating themselves. If this makes you uncomfortable you are free to not engage with me/my work.

I really did not think I was going to have to re-establish the whiteness of fan studies in 2019...

Please do read some critique of the field...there's a lot of it!!

And if that doesn't convince you my tweets certainly will not so like *shrug*

Nicolle Lamerichs, an academic and senior lecturer at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, replied to Pande's tweets on February 8:[2][3]

[Nicolle Lamerichs]

Not sure if I agree. Our field has explored different minorities for many years, and also has many transcultural studies. For some, the focus is not so much on critical differences (e.g. gender, race) than others, but different perspectives are important.

Fandom and fans are the objects of our research but this field has very diverse people from very different fields in it. You do good work, but please respect the other scholars and their contributions, pls. :) Or approach those personally, whose research you find problematic?

Lamerichs was slated to keynote the upcoming 2019 Fan Studies Network conference. Lamerichs' response to Pande's tweets was criticized by other fan studies scholars on Twitter:

[Samira Nadkarni]

I've just been staring at this series of tweets by @Setsuna_C in response to @RukminiPande's VERY REAL concerns about her field and like... is this a joke? Is this parody? Because this is literally white supremacist academia in action. THIS IS WHO WILL KEYNOTE #FSN2019?!

1) It's tone policing. It claims speaking about racism in fan studies is somehow disrespectful. Who do we even owe this "respect" to, do tell?

3) All problems have to be dealt with on an individual level, not a structural level. Because it can't be a larger issue, oh no. #FSN2019

3) IT IS THE WHITEST RESPONSE TO THIS TWEET THAT COULD HAVE EXISTED. HONESTLY, IS THIS SATIRE?! An Indian academic tweeting about being exhausted with structural racism literally manifested a white person to tweet her about civilised behaviour, it HAS TO BE A JOKE. #FSN2019

The framing of "different minorities" here gives away the game. If talking about race is talking about "minorities," then whiteness is being allowed to stand as default, which seems to me to be Rukmini's point… [4]
I think there's a significant disconnect between "the utter whiteness of #fanstudies exhausts me" & the response "our field has explored different minorities for many years." I'd encourage you to take some time to consider the differences between these before responding further.[5]

Lamerichs tweeted a response on February 10, 2019:[6]

[Nicolle Lamerichs]

Sorry for my late response on #fanstudies -I needed some time to digest it all. I deeply apologize for my ignorance and acknowledge that my privilege shaped my responses. @RukminiPande did not deserve this - no one did. At the time she adressed her concerns I walzed over them 1/2

It's good that so many of you responded the right way and I agree we have a systematic problem. We - especially I - can do better. I am looking into what I can do to make amends #FSN2019 #fanstudies 2/2

Pande retweeted Lamerichs' February 10 tweets, adding:

[Rukmini Pande]

Thanks for acknowledging that this was problematic. I would encourage you to reflect on the larger critique made by @SamiraNadkarni (which also taxed her emotions/labor) as she pointed out the structural implications of these attitudes towards ALL race/poc scholars in #fanstudies[7]

[Nicolle Lamerichs]

Dear @RukminiPande and @SamiraNadkarni Thank you for your generous response. I read the extensive discussion and will take it to heart. I'm sorry that this was so draining for both of you and that I caused this. It was not my intent. I will learn to do better.[8]

Other Responses

Additional responses stemmed from Pande's initial thread on Twitter.

Absolutely agree, I’ve been feeling the same very often lately. It also doesn’t help that the fandoms we study have their own glaring issues with white privilege.[9]
I hear you. It seems every conference I go to I hear at least one horror story about a paper that should never have happened, or a presentation that had clearly not ever been seen by a person of colour before.[10]
It’s almost astonishing how many academics in this discussion are reducing the idea of structural power to the petty level of “you saying this to me makes me feel bad”. Some (many) discussions aren’t about individuals at all. They’re about far larger patterns.[11]
The idea that every time someone writes about race means they need to establish that, yknow, racism exists (or that someone could 'prove' racism doesn't exist in fan spaces) is such an intellectual failing of the discipline.[12]

Fan Studies Network Statement

The Fan Studies Network board's statement begins with the acknowledgement "Fan studies is a discipline overrun with whiteness."

The board also announced that Lori Morimoto would be the sole keynote speaker of the 2019 conference, and that the other keynote slot would be filled with a roundtable discussion on representation and diversity.

The statement detailed the Fan Studies Network's commitment to critically reconsidering their role within the field and as conference organizers with respect to diversity, inclusion, and the whiteness of fan studies:

With this in mind, for the last few years the board has essentially seen itself as a conference organisation committee. What we did not consider, however, was how the decisions we make with our conference could have wider implications and ramifications. We now recognise that although we quite casually (albeit in good faith) began FSN to promote networking in the field, it has grown into something that warrants more considered formalisation. This is an opportunity to recognise that the board would benefit from new voices, and we are considering ways to take this forward.

Challenging the structural whiteness of our discipline is going to take more than just sticking plasters and tokenistic gestures. It will require all of us – individuals, institutions, committees, publishers, editorial boards, SIGs, research centres and beyond – to work together over the coming months and years to make fan studies a welcoming space for marginalised scholars. The six of us on the FSN board cannot and do not claim to know the answers, but we do have a platform and a presence within the field that we would like to put to good use. Please help us to do that.[13]

Responses to the statement

Rukmini Pande retweeted Fan Studies Network's statement, adding:[14]

[Rukmini Pande]

Thank you for this statement. I would encourage everyone who has a stake in #fanstudies to respond to the proposed consultation and for other conferences such as @FSNNorthAmerica @FSNAusAsia @Fantastic_Next (tag those you know!) in the field to re-examine their practices

Also, while I know the instinct is for white scholars to not participate, please don't put the burden on change only on POC scholars. This concerns the field as a whole, including the scholarship you produce!

Other scholars also responded with suggestions:

[dr elmyra]

Thank you for this, I am grateful for the reflection that's clearly gone into it.

One suggestion: would you consider focusing the roundtable specifically on structural whiteness rather than "representation and diversity"? (I can explain why if you like.)[15]

[Elise Vist]

I'll email as we, but +1: language of 'diversity' can often erect walls institutionally.[16]

[CarrieLynn D. Reinhard]

Would there be a way to stream and/or record this roundtable discussion and make it available for everyone who cannot attend but want to participate (synchronously or asynchronously) with this conversation?[17]

Blog Post by Samira Nadkarni on Stitch's Media Mix

In response to the statement made by Fan Studies Network, Samira Nadkarni published a guest blog to Stitch's Media Mix entitled “A discipline overrun with whiteness”: #FSN2019 and Making a Statement. In this post, she recounted her experiences of being part of a roundtable on Race and Racism in Fandom and Fan Studies at PCA/ACA 2019 in Washington DC, at which she unpacked the statement given by Fan Studies Network and illustrated its shortcomings. She also highlighted many of the other persistent problems with the responses by white academics to academics of colour who highlight issues of racism in their field, and with the way that those issues are addressed (or not).

See Also

References

  1. Tweets by Rukmini Pande. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  2. Tweet by Nicolle Lamerichs. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  3. Tweet by Nicolle Lamerichs. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  4. Tweet by Benjamin Woo. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on June 30, 2019.
  5. Tweet by K. Morrissey. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  6. Tweets by Nicolle Lamerichs. Posted on February 10, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  7. Tweet by Rukmini Pande. Posted on February 10, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  8. Tweet by Nicolle Lamerichs. Posted on February 10, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  9. Tweet by Miranda Larsen. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on June 30, 2019.
  10. Tweet by Evan Hayles Gledhill. Posted on February 8, 2019. Accessed on June 30, 2019.
  11. Tweet by Will Brooker. Posted on February 10, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  12. Tweet by Benjamin Litherland. Posted on February 10, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  13. #FSN2019. Fan Studies Network. Published on February 11, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019. (Archived version).
  14. Tweets by Rukmini Pande. Posted on February 12, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  15. Tweet by Milena Popova. Posted on February 11, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.
  16. Tweet by Elise Vist. Posted on February 12, 2019. Accessed on June 30, 2019.
  17. Tweet by CarrieLynn D. Reinhard. Posted on February 11, 2019. Accessed on February 12, 2019.