[PCA 2021 Presentation] “What Are You Even Doing Here?”: Unpacking The Motivations & Experiences of Black Women & Femme K-pop Fans

I had to change some things because of the YouTube copyright crap – so there’s no music in this version and so I can’t include the edits, challenge, or song I included when presenting this live. But aside from the things that had to be changed to avoid a copyright strike and messing up my video, this is the presentation I gave for PCA 2021.

Thank you all to everyone who filled out my survey or did video or text interviews a few months ago (okay so like… in May) and who supported me as I tried to put this together. Being in fandom has been super hard and very upsetting at times, but actually one way I was able to cope with what I’ve been going through from other fandoms… has been to engage deeply with ARMY (BTS is my primary fannish interest) and fandoms for other Korean artists.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about a fandom space I’m in and to share insights about the communities I’m in and that other people like me are in!

I will NOT be going anywhere with this presentation beyond this post (like in terms of a long-form write up). Any future writing about Black k-pop fan experiences will get a new survey, no interviews outside of experts in these spaces, and a closer look at my direct experiences in these fandom spaces. I just wanted to do celebratory fandom piece for once – one that didn’t ignore that there are VERY valid criticisms to be had on the way there.

Below the cut is the abstract I used when applying for the conference! Thanks again for participating and watching and supporting me! And thanks A TON for your patience with me actually remembering to post this publicly!

When most people in the US try to put together an image of the default K-pop fan, their first attempt revolves around a young white woman screaming at the barricades as a good looking artist walks by. Their second attempt is likely to be an Asian American fan (often but not exclusively Korean-American). Still screaming, however. Following the events of late May and early June 2020 – when Korean idol fans flooded the iWatch Dallas app with edits/fancams to stop the force from collecting information on protestors, following BTS and other idols’ statements about and donations to BLM, and BTS’ ARMY matched the million-dollar donation – this image didn’t change. However, it should have inspired a shift in focus towards an under-represented and under-researched population in K-pop fandom coverage: the Black women/girls who make up a large portion of the international fandom.

This paper will analyze the experiences of Black women in K-pop fandoms focusing on the familiar sounds of the music/visuals, what Black women fans create in these fandom spaces, their connections with other fans (both other Black fans and non-Black fans), conflicts within these fandoms (usually about anti/Blackness), and the(ir parasocial) relationships with the idols themselves. Utilizing interviews with Black women fans and referencing the idea of “the fandom killjoy” (Pande 2018) and Black women’s fandom experiences in popular media fandoms (Warner 2018), this paper seeks to complicate the idea of what a K-pop fan is/should be and provide a brief but nuanced look at English-language K-pop fandoms and what Black women/girls have found in these spaces that appeal to or – at times – repulse them.


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