Manga  does not easily attract scholarly interest as comics. In the name of manga, the critical focus is usually less on sequential art but rather a certain illustration style or character design, and closely related, fannish engagement in transformative or derivative creations (dōjinshi), up to and including cosplay. In many cases, scholars turn to manga as an entry point for research on girls’ (shōjo) culture and female consumers, gender and sexuality, the subcultures of fujoshi (self-designated “rotten girls” engaged in Boys’ Love, or yaoi) and otaku (geeks). Attempts at elucidating the peculiar role of the comics medium in that regard—for example, by focusing not only on “shōjo” but also “manga” when discussing shōjo manga  —remain a distinct minority whenever sociological and anthropological concerns prevail. Be it “fan culture,” “subculture” or “scene,” user communities are given preference over media specificity, texts and individual readings, at least outside of Japan. This applies especially to Japanese Studies, which is still the field yielding most manga research abroad. Here, manga is taken to represent, if not national culture in general, then Japanese popular culture, in the main understood as a youth culture with significant global impact and economic effects. Consequently, the utilization of manga as mere object appears to matter more than methodological diligence. Whether subjected to symptomatic readings of social issues or to sophisticated critical theory, media-specific contexts and manga-related expertise tend to be neglected. This is as much due to specific institutional requirements as it is indicative of a lack within the institution, that is, the absence of a respective field of research and criticism.
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Conference Review: The International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference by Matthew Screech
July 5-8 2011
Manchester Metropolitan University
The bande dessinée part of the joint conference took up the baton after two very stimulating days with GNAC and SIC. We too were pleased by the quantity and quality of papers and we ran parallel sessions. The morning of 7th July began with panels comprising two distinct strands: bandes dessinées and Francophone Africa, and BDs drawing upon the European Classics. The first strand began with Laurike in’t Veld’s insights into how the Rwandan genocide was represented in comics, and continued with Michel Bumatay’s study of Sub-Saharan African Francophone BDs. The focus on Africa continued with Mark Mckinney, who drew upon (post) colonial strips to argue that autobiography began in BDs earlier than is generally recognised. This was followed by Cathal Kilcline’s analysis of Boudjellal, who depicts an immigrant family in Toulon. The European Classics strand began with papers by Linda Rabea-Heyden and Matthew Screech on comic strip adaptations of canonical literary works: Goethe’s Faust and Voltaire’s Candide. Next came a re-examination of bande dessinée Classics with Bart Beaty, who closely scrutinised panels from Bravo’s re-make of the best-selling hero Spirou. Another strip to enter the pantheon of classics, Lieutenant Blueberry, was discussed by Martha Zan, who established its similarities with ss.