With the spread of manga and anime around the world, many have adopted the Japanese term ‘otaku’ to identify fans of such media. This course questions , however, the naturalization of ‘otaku’ by examining the historical contingency of the term.
Note: The content of this course has changed with the academic year 2021. See here.
The connection to manga and anime may seem straightforward, but, when taken for granted, often serves to obscure the debates within and around media fandom in Japan.
This course questions the naturalization and trivialization of ‘otaku’ by examining the historical contingency of the term as a way to identify and contain problematic youth, consumers and fan cultures in Japan. It explores key moments in the evolving discourse of ‘otaku’ in Japan. Rather than presenting a smooth, triumphant narrative of the transition of a subculture to the mainstream, the course repositions ‘otaku’ in specific historical, social and economic contexts, providing new insights into the significance of the ‘otaku’
phenomenon in Japan and the world and offering a new perspective in form of theories of labelling.
By going back to original Japanese documents and translated key contributions by Japanese scholars and seeking sustained analysis of these documents and scholars, the course provides students with alternative
histories of and approaches to ‘otaku’. In regard to contemporary Japan and the history of Japanese fan and consumer cultures, this course will be a foundation for understanding how ‘otaku’, at different places and times and to different people, is meaningful. As a new perspective for ‘otaku studies,’ students will learn the theoretical foundations and methodological application of a modified labelling approach. Lastly, they will practice the writing of book reviews.
Course Schedule and Evaluation
All students: Readings and presentation (60%), essays (20%), active participation (20%).
BA students: Book review (counting 30% of the overall grade). For a full seminar (8 ECTS): Book review plus in-depth review of one chapter (counting 30% of the overall grade).