Skentelbery, Daniel (2023) Cosplay: Community, hierarchy, and the Acafan methodology. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Cosplay is the act of dressing and performing as a character from popular media and is typically associated with fan conventions. The academic study of gender-play cosplay (explicit play with gendered codes) has framed cosplay as a socially transformative act (Bainbridge and Norris, 2011; Gn, 2011; King 2014; Lamerichs, 2018). Engaging with these ideas, the linchpin of this thesis is an analysis of cosplayers relationships with their chosen characters, and how cosplayers use character to affirm, subvert, or play with one’s gendered identity (set within a North American and UK context). However, my combined textual analysis, autoethnography, and participant interviews revealed something more complex to say about the cosplay community, its related industries, and subsequent study. Drawing on these findings, I develop the concept of ‘networks of contradiction’ to characterize the complex cultural relationships that facilitate and structure costumed play.

The research is an examination of the audience-consumer paradigm which structures cosplay and cosplay communities. The thesis presents two distinct data sets, one which affirms the findings of contemporary Acafan cosplay scholarship which represents cosplayers as creative social agents. The second data set challenges current cosplay scholarship which I conceptualise by drawing on broader literature from critical theory, cultural studies, and postfeminist criticism. This second data set prompts an assessment of the Acafan methodology, bringing to light: ways in which fan industry and popular media encode meaning and tailor audience engagement, the industrial manipulation of fan creativity, and cases of abuse and harassment between cosplayers. From the analysis of these entangled oppositions emerges the proposition that the proposed networks of contradiction might even have larger applicability to popular fandom more broadly.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Contributors: Archer, N (Thesis advisor)
Giraud, EHS (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2023 12:20
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2023 09:37

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