Saturday, June 11, 2011

CFP - POPULAR MUSIC FANDOM, special issue of Popular Music and Society

Guest editor, Mark Duffett

Popular Music and Society invites article proposals for a new special issue. Fandom is both a personal expression of emotional conviction and a complex, changing, multi-faceted social phenomenon that now encompasses both online and offline activity.

The study of fandom is a scholarly niche that exists at the intersection of a wide range of interests and connections. It can be contextualized by wider media research (theory by scholars such as Henry Jenkins and Matt Hills; reception analysis; celebrity studies; ethnography; subcultural theory) and by direct research into popular music culture (ethnomusicology; research on listening; live music audiences; studies of music in everyday life).

We invite papers with themes that may include, but are not limited to:

· Fans as musicians / musicians as fans

· The consumer marketplace, perceptions of the music industry

· Collecting, listening, and other fan practices

· Live music, local scenes, and fandom as living culture

· Stereotyping, self-awareness, media representation, lit and fiction

· Fandom and social identities (such as gender, age, disability, race)

· Methodology, research practice, cultural theory

· Histories, critiques of fandom as a response to mass culture

· Taste, cultural capital, and the canon

· Online participatory cultures

· Case studies and ethnographies; personal narratives, memories, and investments

· Stardom and celebrity; identification, reading, and textuality

· Legacies of key representations (e.g., Fred Vermorel and Judy Vermorel's book Starlust)

· Modernity, religion, pathology, and the "cult" analogy

· Differing fandoms / specific music genres

· The fan community: insiders, outsiders, and the "ordinary" audience

· Fan culture and the paradigm of performance

· The uses of fandom: political activism, heritage, and tourism

· Fandom, the family, and / or the life cycle

Send proposals of up to 500 words in the first instance.

Contributions will be peer-reviewed for potential inclusion in the main section of the journal. Polemical papers will also be considered for inclusion in the Forum section. Indicate the name under which you would wish to be published, your professional/academic affiliations, a postal address, and preferred email contact.

Deadline for submission of proposals is October 31, 2011. We would hope to commission articles by December 31, 2011, and deadline for submission of the articles will be July 31, 2012.

Please email proposals to guest editor Mark Duffett at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Things Whole Again - Take That Reunion Events

My friends Anja Lobert and Dr Tim Wise were busy last week putting on a double-header exhibition and conference on Take That, designed to coincide with the band's triumphant home run of several reunion dates at the Manchester City football stadium.

For American readers who don't know them so well, Take That were a boyband from the North of England who had phenomenal success before splitting in 1996. In their heyday they had a string of chart-topping singles in the UK, but only one hit in the USA. After the break-up, all went their separate ways. The incomparable Robbie Williams went on to have a successful solo career. Gary Barlow became a credible singer-songwriter with a career in his own right. Some of the others - who were called Mark, Jason and Howard - released albums of their own. Then about four or five years ago they reformed as a four-piece without Robbie. Last year he rejoined for a carefully controlled reunion that extended the band's reach to encompass the quality press, giving the Take That reunion mass phenomenon status.

As might be imagined, the Making Things Whole Again conference was rife with discussions of fandom and gender, generational memory, and Take That's in-group masculine dramaturgy. My own contribution explored how we constantly frame boybands and their followers with four interlocking discourses - youth, exploitation, gender and fandom - that collectively function to allay anxieties about us loving music that is undeniably created for the process of commercial marketing. Even in the liberate age of social media, boybands still come in for a kind of mass culture critique.

Anja's exhibition, called Take That Fandom before the Internet is also fascinating. I never realized the extent to which she was a 1990s Take That fan herself. Held in the Northern Quarter, Anja's installation is based on her research contact with around 500 fans. What it shows is that the girls who loved Take That formed a living social culture. They sent each other penpal letters, traded stickers and candid photos of band members, and some made "FBs". Many of the girls would receive pen pal letters on a daily basis.

The "FB" (or "friendship book" to give it the full title) is a hand-made compilation of fans' addresses, circulated between enthusiasts. FBs were often just a few sheets of paper folded or stapled together. Yet they were chocked full of mini-appeals in felt-tip squiggles for girls seeking new pen pals - the one page or less ads frequently featured text-speak teen acronyms for things like which bandmember the girl liked and whether she would accept corresponds from other countries. FBs also contained pictures, doodles, stickers and the like. As Anja shows, there were three types: Slams (get-to-know-yous that feature repeated answers to the same set of questions), Crams (that cram in lots of addresses) and Decos (ornate, heavily decorated lists - in effect, homemade portable "shrines" to the band).

Beyond the FBs and their ephemeral culture of performed self-representation, the currency of the fan community included real life amateur photos of the boys in the band, taken by girls who waited by stage doors or followed them round the country. While presenting a less glossy image that Take That's publicity stills, in effect these candids offered a vicarious back-stage pass to anyone who wanted to see what the boys were like in ordinary life. For most girls, the photos were the only evidence that the Take That boys were "real" lads who goofed around off-duty. Sometimes the photos were also evidence that the pen pal you were corresponding with had actually met a band member and could claim to have got nearer and known about them. Girls would write "no copies" on the back of the pictures to stop others copying them into oblivion as the pictures circulated through the fan community. Take That Fandom before the Internet shows that the 1990s were an eventual, social time in the lives of adolescent female fans from different countries. Before the days of Facebook there was indeed a communicative, living culture of active, producerly Take That fans invigorated through their engagement with what might have appeared to be, on the face of it, the glossy yet glossed over end of teen pop culture.

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