Marginally Fannish: Fan Podcasts As Sites of Public Pedagogy, Intersectionality, and Critical Literacy

Marginally Fannish is a PhD project which aims an intersectional lens at online fandom.

My project seeks to explore how fan podcasts act as sites of public pedagogy by providing a social learning context in informal digital spaces. I want to investigate the ways in which fans use the fictional framework of their favourite media texts to raise awareness about intersectionality as well as enable the development of critical literacies. Critical literacy requires people to be active readers of texts rather than passive consumers of ideas. It encourages people to question received knowledge, immediate experience, and established social, cultural and political norms and values. Intersectionality investigates how multiple and complex social inequalities interact with each other. It analyses the ways in which a person’s life is significantly better or worse based on where they live and on their social categories (gender, race, class, sexual orientation etc.). My research draws from the fields of education, children’s literature, fan studies, culture studies, and feminist theory.

Advances in digital technology allow fans from groups which are marginalised or misrepresented in mainstream media and culture to create their own audio podcasts. Fans share their podcasts online to communicate their interpretations and opinions about their favourite fictional worlds and characters. Fans can also use these podcasts to challenge dominant representations and raise critical questions and reflections. These podcasts use the fictional framework to discuss real-world issues which are otherwise erased in mainstream discourse. I will use a selection of Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan podcasts as sources of literature.

For my primary data, I will draw on my dual identities as fan and researcher by creating my own fan podcast to develop a participatory, collective, and dialogic research methodology. This is inspired by the ethos of fandom and aims to encourage a democratic dialogue between me and my co-participants. My podcast will discuss fandom through an intersectional lens, and collaboratively explore knowledge production, critical literacy, and intersectionality with my co-hosts and guests. My experiences as an Indian fan and researcher living in the UK will be complemented by discussions with a diverse group of fans from India and abroad who have different interpretations of intersectionality. Most scholarship about intersectionality, fan studies, critical literacy, and public pedagogy is situated within a Western context, largely emerging from the U.S. and Europe. Through these methods, I seek to diversify this discourse within both fandom and academia.

My project will examine the alternative spaces of online fan podcasts to explore the ways in which fans from both marginalised and dominant groups adapt their favourite texts to place their concerns at the forefront and whether this access to diverse perspectives leads to empathy and respect for different experiences. As Walidah Imarisha declares:

“The decolonization of the imagination is the most dangerous and subversive form there is: for it is where all other forms of decolonization are born. Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless.”

(Imarisha, 2015: p. 3-5)

To read my review of the literature, my research questions, my proposed methodology and research design, you can navigate your way around the blog in any order you choose. Alternatively, you can follow my suggested ordering of posts. You can find this order at the bottom of every page.

[All the images included in the blog have alt text enabled with written descriptions for your screen readers to capture and read aloud if required. Although I’ve tried to credit all the fan text images used on this blog, some of them are from unknown authors. If you’re the creator of a particular image and would like me to take it down, please leave a comment.]