In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Fandom (Fan Studies)

  • Introduction
  • Foundational Texts
  • Media, Music, and Sports Fandoms
  • Edited Collections
  • Technology, Information Science, and Platformization
  • Transformative Fandoms, Play, and Materiality
  • Space and Place
  • Generational Fandoms
  • Race and Transcultural Fandoms
  • Activism, Policing, and Anti-Fandoms
  • Fandom and the Media Industry

Childhood Studies Fandom (Fan Studies)
Bertha Chin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0257


In 2020, K-pop fans were lauded for their social and political activism. Apart from managing to constantly create and maintain trending topics to raise the popularity of their favorite K-pop bands such as BTS; BTS’s fans, known as the Army, matched their idols’ donation to the Black Lives Matter fund through a very public fundraising campaign on social media. K-pop fans have also been credited for hijacking opposing social media hashtags that were attempting to drown out the Black Lives Matter movement, even going as far as to endorse Joe Biden for the US presidency during the American presidential elections. These fans’ ability to mobilize crowds in a short amount of time, especially their methodical approach to get topics trending on Twitter, have resulted in praise of K-pop fans from various media outlets and academic disciplines that do not often interact with fan studies scholars. This supposed public turn on fans and their practices have led many in the popular press to write about fans, often as a singular identity and a new phenomenon. While many of these opinion pieces are celebratory, some have also highlighted problems with racism and anti-Blackness within the K-pop fandoms. Fans are often credited for being early adopters of technology—explored through the works mentioned under Media, Music, and Sports Fandoms and Technology, Information Science, and Platformization—and in the context of the current digital era and facilitated by social media, fans’ voices appear amplified by these technologies. However, fandom is varied and global, and K-pop fandom, while extensive, incredibly organized, and publicly visible, is not the only incarnation of fandom. K-pop fans also share space and a range of cultural practices with those who are fans of film, TV and literary texts, sports, other musical genres, celebrities, popular cultural icons and the like. Fan studies is a field of research with roots in audience, media, literary, and cultural studies, and while its inception and the bulk of its research (and scholars) are American and British-centric, research, as well as scholars are also emerging from South, East, and Southeast Asia, often complicating assumptions and generalizations drawn in previous studies. In light of the field’s developments, it begs the question of what is fandom(s) and what are fan studies, and how do we begin to research this area.

Foundational Texts

Fan studies owes its theoretical roots to media, literary, and cultural studies, as these disciplines begin to take into account readers’ reading habits and motivations as Radway 1991 theorized; the audience’s pleasure in watching a foreign media text which Ang 1991 observed via Dutch audiences of the American soap, Dallas; and the ways in which symbolism in subcultures are used as modes of resistance as theorized by Hebdidge 1979. These groundbreaking works signals a move from the oft-assumed passive consumption of media texts to an active one, largely influenced by the work of Hall 1980 whose essay considered the role of the active audience when consuming media texts. This also leads to Abercrombie and Longhurst 1998 proposing a continuum that positions audiences from consumer to petty producer in the authors’ study.

  • Radway, Janice. Reading the Romance : Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

    Romance fiction is often derided by literary critics and scholars of mass culture, but Radway challenges these notions by arguing for an understanding of the popularity of the romance literary text in a social context. This study focuses on the agency of female readers by looking at their reading motivations and habits, leading Radway to suggest that female readers of the romance literary text are resisting the patriarchy through the choice of their reading materials.

  • Abercrombie, Nicholas, and Brian Longhurst. Audiences: A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination. London: SAGE, 1998.

    Abercrombie and Longhurst offered a typology of fans and audiences that exists on a continuum, ranging from consumer, fan, cultist, enthusiast, to the petty producer, depending on the level of involvement. While it is not often a definition that is used explicitly within fan studies, it presents an understanding of the fan as consumer and producer.

  • Ang, Ien. Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination. London: Routledge, 1991.

    Ang’s work is not fan studies per se, but marked a transition from looking at the audience as passive and as a mass to the audience taking hedonistic pleasure out of watching Dallas. The book also focused on Dutch audiences of an American television text, making it one of the earliest works on transnational audiences and texts.

  • Hebdidge, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routledge, 1979.

    Hebdidge’s work on subcultures as symbolic forms of resistance has been influential in a lot of early fan studies work, which posits fandom and the fan identity as modes of resistance. This book remains one of the most influential works on subcultures, which in turn influenced a cultural studies reading on fan studies.

  • Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding.” In Culture, Media, Language. Edited by Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe and Paul Willis, 128–138. London: Routledge, 1980.

    Hall’s seminal work took into account the audience’s active role in reading and interpreting a media text. The essay looked at how media texts were produced, distributed, and interpreted by an audience. Hall’s work influenced media studies to consider the audience’s role as active rather than just passively consuming media texts, and paved the way for the development of audience and fan studies.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.