A PhD project exploring intersectionality through fan podcasts

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Bonus Episode – How Do We Learn?: Engaging with Alternate Communities of Knowledge and Culture

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Hi everyone! I’m back with a new episode after a very accidental hiatus that was definitely not supposed to last a year. I’ve just realised that the last episode I published on Marginally Fannish was a year ago. I recorded the episode you’re about to listen to way back in October 2020 and I’m only just publishing it in January 2022. You can blame the PhD/pandemic combination for all my plans being tossed out of the window.

Just a heads up, this bonus episode isn’t like the others on Marginally Fannish i.e. it doesn’t explore different aspects of intersectionality in media or fandom. Back in 2020, I chatted with Lata and Sayan for the Convivial Thinking website. The Convivial Thinking collective features a group of researchers who explore decolonisation in academia and scholarship in creative ways. You can find their ideas and work at convivialthinking.org.

This episode was originally only going to appear on their website. But there ended up being a bunch of connections between our conversation and the philosophy of this podcast. I began Marginally Fannish as a part of my PhD project because I passionately believe that fandom provides a really valuable space for collaboratively creating knowledge. I also think that it makes room for the kinds of diverse perspectives and experiences which you may not always encounter in formal educational contexts. Alternative forms of knowledge and the importance of dialogue with diverse groups of people is a recurring theme in this episode. So I decided to share the episode on this feed as well in case this topic interests any other fans out there.

If this isn’t your kind of thing, please feel free to skip this episode. I’ll be back with my regular programming soon – that is, if I’ve not forgotten how this whole podcasting thing works in the first place. You have 5 new episodes and conversations to look forward to, all of which were also recorded in 2020. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another year for me to figure out how to edit and publish the next episode. Now, on with the episode!

[Intro music]

The world we inhabit offers us several different learning opportunities. However, academic structures frequently end up valuing a limited kind of expertise. Whose cultures, languages, and experiences are considered the default? What kind of knowledge matters? How do you seek alternative communities of knowledge beyond the restrictions of the structure you work in?

Collaboratively engaging with knowledge and activism with a wide range of people both within and outside institutionalised academic spaces is crucial. Academics have the responsibility to make academic knowledge and theories more accessible and relevant to non-academic contexts. Going even further, academics can work with non-academics to create spaces which explore alternate expressions of knowledge and different approaches to knowledge-building. Conversations with diverse groups of people can challenge limited notions of one-way education and academic expertise by moving towards a more inclusive pedagogy. Encountering each other’s diverse – sometimes conflicting – experiences and perspectives in unconventional contexts can help us unlearn our colonised mindsets and discover what we don’t know. Both uncertainty and discomfort hold radically liberating possibilities when it comes to building knowledge, especially when combined with a sincere curiosity to learn from the world.

Find our conversations about all this and more in today’s episode!

[Intro music]

My name is Parinita Shetty and in this episode, I speak with Dr Lata Narayanaswamy and Dr Sayan Dey about unconventional ways of learning and new communities of knowledge and culture. Both Lata and Sayan are part of the Convivial Thinking collective thanks to which we’re exploring critical, collaborative, and creative forms of decolonisation in our conversation today.

Since 2001, Dr. Narayanaswamy has worked as a research practitioner, consultant, and most recently lecturer in international development in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research critically reflects on gendered/intersectional and post/decolonial dynamics of development knowledge and its perceived contribution to global development challenges. She is currently involved in applied, interdisciplinary research related to climate change, water security and decolonising development.

Sayan Dey grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal. He completed his studies from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and is currently working as Lecturer at the Yonphula Centenary College, Royal University of Bhutan. He is also the Senior Advisor of Quality Education Group, Center for Regional Research and Sustainability Studies, India.

I’m a third-year doctoral researcher in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. I’m really interested in exploring how fan podcasts – especially those featuring people from marginalised groups – use the framework of their favourite media texts to share their diverse perspectives and experiences. I’m also passionate about using digital media to make academic research accessible to non-academic audiences as well as to include a diverse range of non-academic voices in academic spaces.

Parinita: My name is Parinita Shetty and in this episode, I speak with Dr Lata Narayanaswamy and Dr Sayan Dey about unconventional ways of learning and new communities of knowledge and culture. Both Lata and Sayan are part of the Convivial Thinking collective thanks to which we’re exploring critical, collaborative, and creative forms of decolonisation in our conversation today.

Since 2001 Dr. Narayanaswamy has worked as a research practitioner, consultant and most recently lecturer in international development in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research critically reflects on gendered/intersectional and post/decolonial dynamics of development knowledge and its perceived contribution to global development challenges. She is currently involved in applied, interdisciplinary research related to climate change, water security and decolonising development.

Sayan Dey grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal. He completed his studies from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and is currently working as Lecturer at the Yonphula Centenary College, Royal University of Bhutan. He is also the Senior Advisor of Quality Education Group, Center for Regional Research and Sustainability Studies, India.

I’m a third-year doctoral researcher in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. I’m really interested in exploring how fan podcasts – especially those featuring people from marginalised groups – use the framework of their favourite media texts to share their diverse perspectives and experiences. I’m also passionate about using digital media to make academic research accessible to non-academic audiences as well as to include a diverse range of non-academic voices in academic spaces.

Parinita: Hello! It’s really nice to talk to people who are not just me and my boyfriend and my cat. [laughs] It’s nice to see other faces. I’m just going to start off because we have a lot to talk about. In terms of unconventional engagements with knowledge as well as culture in spaces that are beyond educational spaces or institutional spaces – I do a bit of that in my project, but I was really interested in how you have dealt with that in your own work or otherwise.

Lata: First thank you for inviting me into your podcast world. It’s very nice to be here. It’s difficult because I think it’s the kind of thing that as academics we don’t do enough of, for a start. I think we do tend to think about academic spaces in very narrow ways. Where and how we learn is conceptualised in very narrow ways, right? So you’re in a classroom or you’re in a building; you have to go somewhere. I suppose the most immediately obvious counterpoint in my own life has been just having children and thinking about learning in a much more dynamic way. And trying to instil in them that there’s never an opportunity not to learn from something that’s happening around you or something that you might observe or something that you might see on the news or hear on the radio or an interaction you might have with a friend. You can talk about issues or interesting things or relevant things or share lessons about the world on the walk to school or a picnic in the park. In terms of even more formal kinds of spaces … this was not formal, but another opportunity was during an election, right? Say you go along for a political party and you’re door-knocking. I did that in the last election in the UK – and less said about that, the better, in terms of the outcome. But certainly, in thinking about what it might mean to actually knock on somebody’s door and have a conversation about the things that matter to them and then finding that common ground. And seeing that as integral to shared learning or co-production and enriching myself. I don’t mean that in a selfish way; but I think it’s about approaching learning and academia as a two-way street. And I think there’s a tendency in lots of educational contexts to see education as a one-way street. In academia we’re particularly bad. And in higher education too, there is a framing of expertise: “I’m the person that knows stuff and I’m going to impart to you all this wisdom that I have.” And I’m very keen that we turn that on its head. I do think that’s possible within the classroom and we can have more dynamic and inclusive pedagogical approaches. But I really think it’s about trying to think through how we can not only create but also seek out those opportunities to have conversations in more diverse contexts and with a greater diversity of people.

Parinita: Um hmm.

Lata: I think as academics, we have a responsibility to do that, if I’m honest. And I don’t know that we have the tools or the language to do it. But it would be something that I’d want for us to be exploring more collectively. Even you and I being on a picket line; I mean that’s an opportunity to have a conversation. Not just about your cat or your breakfast – although we can have that conversation too. But how do we expand our educational engagements? And who do we bring into that space with us? How do we learn from it? They’re different questions. I don’t think we ask those questions enough in academia.

Parinita: Absolutely.

Sayan: Just to continue with where Lata stopped. As Lata also mentioned categorically, to balance the academic and the non-academic spaces I think we often talk about activism within and outside the academia. It’s easy to talk; it’s interesting to talk; it’s nice to quote theorists and show off how much we have read. But when it goes into the question of application, we see a whole lot of challenges. Personally, I think that there’s this process of engaging within and beyond academia at the same time, it’s not an “I” thing, it’s a very “we” thing. I alone can’t do anything. Alone I can sit and talk a lot, but if I have to do something, alone I can’t do anything. With respect to the things that Parinita and I were talking about just a few moments back before the recording started, you were sharing how did you meet Lata and then how did you take up your conversation. And that was a collective space. That was a collective space where you met, where you started engaging. And I think that engagement was not just an engagement of “hello” and “hi”. But it was that moment where you were creating knowledge; you were altogether weaving new dimensions of intellectual ideas outside the restricted academic space. Coming back to our personal engagements with everyday decoloniality, I usually engage with lots of people – with respect to podcasts, with respect to interactions, with respect to writings and readings and engaging – and Lata is an integral part of that. As an individual in relation to others, I try to understand how can I engage with decolonial practices in everyday life. Now let me give you very, very basic examples. So for instance, I have a problem in using a spoon and fork while eating. And that is a physical problem; it’s not an ideological problem. So basically, I’m not very comfortable, to be very honest and blunt. Now if someone is having bread and a cup of tea in a roadside restaurant in India, that person is not really concerned whether he is eating with one hand or two hands. But if that same person goes to a 5-star restaurant, that person is extremely concerned; that person is extremely aware and he’s trying to use the tea and fork thing when he’s not going to do the same thing in a roadside restaurant. But for me, I find it quite problematic; this practice is quite problematic. It’s a cultural problem, it’s a social problem, it’s a racial problem. It has its roots in the colonial ethics and morals that we still follow consciously or unconsciously. So wherever I go, whether it’s a roadside open shop or it’s a 5-star restaurant, I’m going to use my hands. And I really don’t care if people are shrugging, they’re sniggering, because that’s not my problem. I’ve gone to savour the food and I like the food and I just come back. It’s as simple as that. And I pay money for that so I’m not stealing. So that’s perfectly fine. So from all respects, I am safe there. This is one such example. The second thing I can tell you is with respect to the concept of languages. I don’t know if it is there in the UK, but in Indian schools, if you go to the English-medium schools in general – and I’m pretty sure Parinita also has that experience – you will see when the teachers teach us English, they have this tendency of imposing the typical UK-styled English or the US-styled English on the students. Let me give you another very basic example. If suppose in a parents-teachers meeting, parents ask the teachers, “I want to see my kid improving spoken English. What should I do?” The teacher will always say – usually, not always – that “Okay ask them to watch a BBC; ask them to watch a CNBC; ask them to watch a Star Movies; ask them to watch an ESPN.” I mean there are English-speaking channels in India as well. You have English-speaking news channels – sensible news channels are there as well, along with several non-sensible news channels. But there are places where people can learn. So why by default, consciously or unconsciously, we have to make a consistent reference to Western dimensions, Western parameters? So I think this process of questioning through action, not questioning just as questioning. Questioning through action living as examples, within and outside the academic space. Because these examples cannot only be set within the academic space. Obviously, we need to discuss, we need to theorise, we need to problematise, we need to unsettle. But also, we need to continue it beyond the academic space through making it as a part of practice of our daily existence, individually as well as collectively. And this is how I try to do that, and these are some of the things I would like to share.

Parinita: I totally connect with what both of you are saying. For me, I’ve grown up in Bombay and I went to one of those English-medium schools; a Catholic school actually, because there was the imposition of English in India. At least when I was growing up, the perception was that the nuns teach you better English. So as a part of social mobility, that’s where you go to learn better English. And because I’ve grown up in India and because most of the stuff I grew up reading was British children’s literature or American children’s literature and then American media, for me, it was this colonised mindset –that I’m still trying to unlearn – that English is better than other languages. And because you grow up in the space, nobody is disrupting that thinking and nobody is really questioning that. Because that’s the world that you live in as well, right? If you don’t have any social or financial capital or any sort of help there, you are reliant on employers who might then look at your English and decide that if you don’t speak good English, you’re not as intelligent as someone who speaks English. And for me, the framework of learning to think and unlearn this social conditioning has largely been online honestly, and specifically through fandom. The school that I went to, they didn’t teach you to think critically at all. They just taught you what to think and that’s what you write in your exam papers. And you don’t understand the context or you don’t understand enough to question. There’s no questioning at all; questioning is not allowed. And even though I was in Mumbai which is a fairly big city, you still have a small social bubble so you still have mostly people who are like you. And it’s only through fandom, Harry Potter fandom specifically, which is where my unlearning started. Because it’s such a globally popular text, the fans came from a wide range of backgrounds, and that’s where I learned things about decolonisation and queerness. Recently because of J. K. Rowling’s transphobia, there’s been more talk about that. And that’s a whole education in itself. You’re both marginalised and privileged in this space. As someone who’s grown up in India, you think fandom and everything happens in the West and then you see that oh there are other people like you. For me fan podcasts more recently have been such a fantastic way to learn and unlearn things. Because more and more people, especially fans who are from marginalised backgrounds, are using the fictional framework, are using this language of Harry Potter or Doctor Who or Marvel or whatever, which everybody knows, and then pushing against that. They love these texts – we love these texts – but we are unpacking the more problematic elements of it. I think that’s fantastic because in academia, I still don’t really see myself. I don’t really feel quite comfortable in academia because none of my parents went to university and onto higher education or a PhD or anything. So I still feel like I’m conning academia in a way; that I’m doing fan studies and intersectionality and podcasts. And I’m like, “Wait, they’re allowing me to do this?” And I don’t really see me being in academia at all after that. Even though I think there would be – there should be room for it. Like what you were saying, Lata, about what kind of language is acceptable and who has expertise and what kind of knowledge matters – I think that should be expanded. But I think academia is still a little hesitant to do that; not people within it but structurally, it is quite reluctant to do these things. The podcast that I’m doing for my PhD research – my supervisors, everyone, was super happy for me to do it as a research method. And they also suggested I present my PhD thesis as a podcast which they thought makes sense in terms of my focus on co-creating knowledge outside the academy and in online spaces. But then the university itself is not comfortable with that. And podcasts aren’t even this new-fangled technology; they’ve been around for a really long time. With the episodes so far, I’ve reached a fair amount of people. It’s not a huge number, but it’s much more than a journal article in traditional academic language and structured traditionally or a PhD thesis would have reached. It’s not just me saying my expertise, it’s me trying to learn from other perspectives as well. My podcast is a fan podcast, and we’re aiming an intersectional lens at both fandom and some of our favourite media. Since I tried to recruit co-participants online, it reached a fair amount of people. So I have people from diverse countries and they all have their own – our own individual social contexts and political contexts. So we do bring that in and we learn from each other. Which I think is really valuable. But I don’t think it’s as valued in the university, unfortunately. How do you try and seek this community, this community of knowledge, elsewhere if it isn’t being given space in the structure that you’re working in? How do you think you can do that or people can do that?

Sayan: I think one of the basic ways from where we can start and actually from where we are all starting, is collaboration. Because collaboration is something that always gives us the option to stay within academia, just within that space if we feel like; but at the same time to disentangle ourselves from those narrow restricted spaces of this academic system and indulge with people who are working right in the field as activists, performers scholars, musicians – whatever or whoever it is. To stay within and beyond at the same time. Nowadays, for example, whenever we have these academic events, amongst many institutions I am seeing changes which is actually making me feel very happy and also very optimistic of the transformations. Earlier there was this notion that a keynote speaker has to be the so-called seasoned academician with a fat CV and a huge number of publications and a massive resume. The bio note will be read for the first fifteen minutes and then the lecture starts. These kind of usual categorisations are getting broken. We see activists coming up. We see people who may not be very well-known – so-called “very well-known” in terms of publications and all – but have significant contributions to the ground-level towards their respective communities and societies. And they are coming up in that academic stage to share. And that is how now the direction is changing. Earlier there was this notion that activism travels from academia to the society, and not the other way round. Now because of this unidirectional dimension, till now what happened is that the battle of control remained in the hands of the academic system. And they have been acting not less than the colonial empire. And they have been regulating it in their own manner and using it for their self-centred needs. But now when it is happening the other way round, it is also dropping a strong message that sure, we are ready to learn from you, thank you so much, we need to learn from you. And you also need to learn from us. So this process is not a unidirectional journey. It’s an exchange as well. For instance, last year I think it at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa who started their first decolonial summer school. Now during the decolonial summer school, obviously they had lecturers from academicians like Professor Nelson Maldonaldo-Torres, Ramon Grosfoguel and several others who came up and delivered lectures; but that was not the end of the story. They also invited activists, local activists. They invited local dancers, they invited local musicians. And they were brought to the central academic space to make the people understand that how at the very basic social level, the process of decolonisation takes place. Because obviously we read a lot of theorists but when we go to the very ground level, it is impossible for us to exactly interpret or reflect on the theories in those exact terms and languages. We have to do it in a completely different manner so that it is relatable and connected to people as well. So I think one of the major ways through which we can do it is to build collaborations which actually gives us the opportunity that if academic space is not allowing us, it doesn’t mean that my all the doors are shut. I have other branches open, other channels open, where I can take out the activism there and channelise it among the folks.

Parinita: Based on what you said, I think sometimes academia tends to value and privilege theory too much without exploring how it is done by people, perhaps without using those terms, but people are still doing it. Intersectionality, for example, is something that I encountered online for the first time. I know that there’s this huge history of scholarship and activism in it as well. But thanks to the internet there’s more everyday engagement with it. And it might not be perfect, but it’s not like scholars are perfect, right? There’s always debates happening within journal articles and papers slamming each other’s ideas and theories and stuff. So that’s what’s happening online. But online there is no one person to say this is correct or this is wrong. You’ll get into fights and things but you’re still trying to form your own ideas about it. And it’s valuable even for someone like me, who’s largely a lurker. Apart from my PhD podcast now, I don’t really write long articles or anything about this. But I’m learning a lot from what other people are saying. During my master’s, there was this lecture about critical literacy and it was a term I’d never encountered before. It basically means unpacking the meanings in texts and all the multiple layers and questioning everything; questioning what’s written, questioning social norms, political norms. And I was like, I haven’t learned this myself in school, but I have seen fans doing this online. But they wouldn’t call it critical literacy. Similarly with intersectionality. Because I listen to a range of fan podcasts made by trans fans, gay fans, black fans … not Indian fans so much, it’s largely in the West still. But they are bringing their perspectives into it and into the text that they are analysing. They’re maybe not calling it intersectionality, but that’s still what they’re doing. And I think that also needs to be valued. Or maybe not valued; the fans don’t care if academics value them or not. But I think academia is losing out on not seeing these other cultures of knowledge and communities of knowledge.

Lata: I’m thinking about what you’re both saying. It’s just fascinating because to go back to the point you made about how do you create these spaces and what do we do, I’m actually struck by how in a way what you’re describing, Parinita, is about our academic responsibility to be speaking to people about those connections. And Sayan, everything you said is very relevant about bringing more people into that space, valuing different people, different types of knowledge; let’s not valourise expertise at the expense of this. I totally a hundred per cent agree with all of that. If you want to be what you might call an activist academic, or somebody who wants to bridge that gap, then we have a responsibility to try to create that bridge in our engagements. So, for instance, what you’re describing, Parinita, about people who might be doing critical … um what did you call it?

Parinita: Literacy.

Lata: Critical literacy. But actually, the responsibility we have as academics is to make things like theory accessible. I actually think we have a responsibility to do that. Even in my teaching, I always describe theories as, “This is fancy social science way of describing X, Y and Z.” I don’t believe that theory exists separately to the world that we live in. The best theory is absolutely grounded in the world; that’s what it is about. It’s about finding a way of explaining multiple things at the same time. That’s all theory is. And if the theory doesn’t do what we need it to do, then I need to either make up or find another theory. That for me is very important. It’s almost like having a platform and the power. It’s like having a power and wanting to use it for good, right? If I am given the platform as an academic to speak, then I have a responsibility to not only say things that bring people in, but actually to make space for more people. I have a responsibility. And I suppose it’s not just about being an academic, it’s anybody that has power. In my view, that power best exercised is about actually trying to make sure that more people have power, right? It’s not about consolidating it and keeping it to myself. Now obviously I use power very loosely. It’s not like I have a huge amount of power as an academic. But in whatever way I’m able to, I think, is a key responsibility. So Sayan what you’re describing is absolutely right. If I’m going to put together a conference or if I’m going to put together a workshop, then if I’m the organiser, I take on the responsibility of bringing more people into the space and making the argument for why they need to be there. If I have the power to do that, I need to use it. And I see the same thing about how we engage. I’ve had quite a few opportunities recently, it’s been wonderful. Obviously, the pandemic’s a disaster, there’s no two ways; I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. But if there’s been one ever-so-slightly silver lining, it has been that because everybody seems to be moving online it has facilitated my engagement in spaces that I probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do. Whether that’s because of work, I don’t have time to travel, I’ve got other responsibilities, so I can only do so many things. Now I’m at home and I’ve got my computer so suddenly I can be involved in all sorts of things. I can be in one event in the afternoon and another event in a completely different time zone in the evening. That’s actually been a really positive thing. And the result of that has been then again to think about how can I use that platform to try to make some of these arguments but make them accessible, inclusive. How do I bring people into this space and to make it seem as if it should matter to other people? So even those arguments around decoloniality, the thing that I find deeply frustrating is that – and I also work around gender – so whether it’s decoloniality or gender, it’s like, “Oh well if you’re white, decoloniality has nothing to do with you.” Or “Oh if you’re a man, gender has nothing to do with you.” And it’s about actually pushing back and saying okay, let’s have these debates. And my responsibility is at least partly to say, okay why did these issues or these theories or these activist voices – why did they matter to you? How do we bring you into that space in a way that you feel that this becomes your responsibility as well? And if I have any power to affect that kind of change, I actually think it is also then about bringing people into that dialogue who think that they shouldn’t be there. So for me, whether it’s around decoloniality theory to practice, I think as academics, if you’re going to be critical decolonial transformative academics, that is part of your job. You’re like a translator. In a way it goes back to the earlier part of our conversation, because I don’t think academia has any tools for us to do this. I feel like you’re just making it up on the fly. You do it out of a sense of commitment, you do it out of a sense of love even. But also a commitment to want to see the world work differently. But I would also agree that there is no roadmap. I mean it’s interesting, Parinita, what you describe about engaging with fan podcasts as a sort of learning journey for you. And it suggests again, like your original question, education doesn’t just happen in classrooms. Not that I’m saying we should make a roadmap. That suddenly we should turn around and try to turn that into expert knowledge. But certainly, an acknowledgement that the ways in which we might engage with these different pluriversal arguments or decoloniality or expanding our views on education – the pathways for that are not linear at all. And I suppose if I thought of myself as an activist academic, what I want is to be supportive of pluriversal approaches to education where we can acknowledge that learning and engagement and change happens in lots of different ways and through lots of different pathways with lots of different people. And it might be in unpredictable ways as well. We’ve just got to keep making the argument, keep trying to do this. And what might come of that is not predictable – and actually that’s okay. We have to learn to live with a little bit of uncertainty. And Sayan’s point about it’s not “I”, it’s “we”; that eventually the more people you bring in, the power of that collective, you will eventually be the change you want to see.

Parinita: Absolutely. I think that’s a fantastic point, what both of you brought up. Lata, what you were saying in terms of how you are now able to engage with more spaces online because of the pandemic, it’s the same with me; I’ve been able to do that as well. At the same time, I’ve also been following these conversations on Twitter that disabled academics and academics with caregiving responsibilities have been wanting these spaces so much for so long. And it had been completely possible to do it as well because the technology was there. The technology has been there, but the will wasn’t. Nobody really wanted to do it until there was no other option. And then suddenly, “Oh right, it’s the easiest thing to do to!” To stream these things online and to have it on YouTube and not just make it accessible to fellow academics but to people who don’t have access to academia. Because that’s also a privilege, right? Getting into a university, for whatever reasons isn’t available to everybody – your money, country, regional origin or other stuff. You may still want to learn but you’re unable to learn because you don’t have the money, because you have other responsibilities; and that’s such a shame. Which is why I totally resonate with making academic knowledge more accessible to people – both academics but also, more importantly, non-academics – in a way that also privileges their voices and their experiences as well. So it’s not just academics talking about this sub-group of people but actually, we are that group of people and we’re bringing that experience together. Both of you have very different ways that you’ve done that either through podcasting or even the blog Convivial Thinking. Do you want to talk about your projects or your work a little bit? And how you’ve tried to make that more accessible?

Sayan: Talking about my project. Obviously, it’s not just one project; I have been engaging in different types of projects. But in relation to what we have been talking about right now, what Lata and Parinita mentioned, in context to balancing, trying to create a bridge between the academic space and the non-academic space – the challenges and the possibilities. One thing I have been trying to do since last year, I use this podcast as a tool to do that, as you have been doing. In alignment with what Parinita just mentioned with how she has been able to position her understandings with respect to research and many things beyond that – not only within the constricted academic space but also outside as well, trying to compare them, balance them – the same thing happened for me. One of the central reasons why I wanted to do a podcast series on everyday decoloniality – which actually started with an idea of three podcasts and then it expanded to twelve to thirteen podcasts – the basic idea was actually to bring these ideas of coloniality to the common people and those who may not have read anything about decoloniality; who may not be acquainted with the term decoloniality. There can be some people who will just hear the term and will like to know what is decoloniality all about? And that person may not be an academician. That person can be a roadside vendor – what is wrong in that? A person can be a vegetable seller, a hotel person, someone who goes to the office and works, and someone who is driving the car and just wanted to listen – what is this buzz everyday decoloniality all about? So my central idea behind that podcast was that. And I started having researchers, I had academicians, I had activists, I had musicians, I had film actors, who just came in and talked from multiple dimensions of decoloniality. Multiple dimensions with respect to race, with respect to classroom, with respect to pedagogies, with respect to performance, with respect to music – different dimensions came into the conversation. In fact, I had a very interesting conversation on music with Professor Lewis Connell, (?) who writes a lot about blues and jazz, and we had a fantastic conversation on that. We had a fantastic conversation with Rosina Mark (?) from the UK. Apart from these academicians, we had several other people who were not exactly seasoned so-called academicians like professors and all; they are some researchers and performers. And the interesting part is – which I actually share with people with extreme happiness and pride – one of the biggest fans of my podcast was my dad, actually. Obviously one side of happiness is it’s my dad, but my dad has been a 9-to-5 banker and he likes to read a lot of books, he likes to read a lot of story books and newspapers, watches news channels, he analyses things good. But he has no connection with decoloniality, even with this term, in any way in his life till date. But he became a fan. And the best part was that every time he would listen to the podcast, he would give his interpretations, he will try to understand, and he was able to understand the essence of the podcast without me giving any background of that. And I felt that was somewhere a little bit I succeeded. Because an individual – I’m forgetting about the part that he’s my dad, I’m just taking him as an individual who has no connection with this notion of decoloniality to any extent and he could understand the essence of that particular thing. And he would ask questions and those questions were literally very critical questions. It’s not just random questions – “I did not understand” or something like that. And then he would also give his analysis with respect to his life experiences which he will start recovering from his childhood – which he never did that previously. So this is one example. Apart from that, it just touched so many people who have never been associated with this. I have one of my aunts who started listening to it; who has no, no, no connection with any kind of decoloniality. Now I’m not saying I have done a massive job, or I have done a revolutionary thing. But we start with drops of water and drops of water makes an ocean. And it gives me a lot of courage to see that somewhere somewhat even the common people are not only able to understand the essence of this podcast, but they can also unsettle themselves and self-realise that what they have been engaging with on various dimensions was not actually on their own. It was actually enforced by an external power. It encourages me to, as you say, you also want to do a Season 2, that encourages me to do a season 2 as well. Podcasting acts as a tool through engaging with ideas which are critical but at the same time that are also relatable to any layman who has no connection with it. So somewhere somewhat I feel that process of unsettling, the vision of unsettling, which I started with, it has started somewhere.

Lata: I admire Sayan for how much he gets done.

Parinita: [laughs]

Lata: We can only all wish to be as productive. And I’m not exactly tech-savvy. In fact, setting up this Zoom meeting is a superb accomplishment for me.

Parinita: [laughs]

Lata: For all the Zoom meetings I’ve been doing over the last six months, I only realised two weeks ago that I never set one up myself.

Parinita: And it’s really easy, right? Once you just sit down and do it, you’re like, oh yeah this is easy.

Lata: Yeah. It must be reasonably intuitive because I’m not … I’m comfortable talking online, talking to you both, wonderful, fine. But the actual nitty-gritty of setting it up. So anyway, the point is, my instinct is not to do this. Not because I don’t want to but I don’t have the skills. To go back to your question, my engagement with Sayan came through Convivial Thinking. And I wouldn’t want to take any credit for either conceiving of this space or curating it because I have only been an admiring bystander and just trying to be supportive of the principles. But I can’t claim any sort of authorship of design or drive because my head doesn’t work that way. But I admire it greatly. Having said that, obviously I am in the Convivial Thinking collective and obviously that’s how I’ve gotten to know Sayan which has been just a huge privilege. And engaging with people who are motivated that way is also really inspiring for me. Not so inspiring that I feel like I can get my head around web design. Right, there are limits.

Parinita: [laughs]

Lata: But inspiring enough that it’s really easy. I like to think of myself as the marketing. When I was actually going places, I had my pile of Convivial Thinking postcards and I would sit and chuck them out at people and go, “Oh by the way, I support this website.” And it’s great because I find it really easy to promote things that I admire and people I admire. That’s a lot easier than talking about anything to do with myself. It’s really easy to go, “Oh I have all these fantastic colleagues doing this brilliant website. Here, have this postcard!” That’s been one element of just trying to get the message out in terms of thinking that there’s an alternative space. One of the things that we’ve talked about – Sayan and Aftab and Julia and I – over email, queries will come up about things to do with the website. So the really positive thing about the website is actually the way it was established and the purpose of establishing it. It was very much driven by, “Okay, how do we create a space for alternative – not just alternative knowledges but alternative expressions of knowledge and debates about alternative expressions of knowledge?” There’s all these different things that are similar, not the same but they’re interacting – what it is but how you get it. Even what is alternative knowledge? Who gets to decide what alternative knowledge is? Or who gets to decide what knowledge is and then what the alternative is? The difficulty of the language. As soon as you talk about alternative knowledge, well that mainstreams a certain kind of knowledge – that’s the expert academic knowledge and you’re othering the rest of it. Trying to have these debates has been really amazing. And again, I can’t take any credit for the innovation at all, but the fact that Convivial Thinking now has a YouTube channel. So, Parinita, the kind of thing you’re saying about the internet creating these opportunities, and Sayan, you’re absolutely right; both of you are saying things which are super important in the sense that there are concerns around digital literacy, there’s different types of exclusion that we have to be aware of and I think we are. But the fact is we can diversify our audiences and reach people we couldn’t reach, right? That is and continues to be a motivation. And, in fact, I actually originally was connected to Julia through an online conference that I did in 2017. But I outsourced the tech end of it because I wasn’t going to manage it! And I didn’t have the license with the software anyway. But it was motivated by similar sorts of concerns and I think that’s what connected us and why she reached out to me in the way that she’s so fantastic at doing, and then connected me to Sayan and Aftab which has been amazing. And why actually, Parinita, when we met on the picket line, you were very much a kindred spirit. Because it was almost like these constellations of all these wonderful people coming together who have all these again, different approaches to knowledge building – which I don’t have but admire and want to promote. So for me, maybe actually what it is is I’m actually your fans.

Parinita: [laughs]

Lata: I’ve got my own little decolonial fandom. I know who I wanted to promote so that’s very much where I situate myself. With some exceptions; I’ve written the odd blog here and there and I’ve tried to support where I can. But I’m very much the fan or the admirer as opposed to curator of content. And I think that’s great. And in a way actually it’s a wonderful position to be in. Because even in my positionality as an academic, I quite like taking the time to reflect and to use that position, which I think is incredibly privileged; to actually reflect on what I don’t know and the messages that I can promote that aren’t mine. That’s actually a really nice thing. I don’t actually like talking about myself – what’s the fun in that? Whereas I can talk about all these other people that I know who are people doing fantastic work. Let’s talk about that! That’s going to be great. We did this online conference and similar sort of issues would come up and we did it as text-based thing, so you post stuff. But one of the things even in 2017, before we had a pandemic and this became a necessity, was again to try and reach people that might not be able to travel, might not be able to get a visa. So these debates are happening and you’re always trying to either curate or involve yourself try to build more dynamic spaces to include more people. But there are limitations. And I think that’s the thing with Convivial Thinking. We’re always trying to overcome and trying to be more nuanced in that. So obviously there’s the actual thing about inclusion/exclusion and around digital literacies; have I even got an internet connection? So we’re not going to get to everybody. And I think upfront we get that. Then there’s those layers that you’re trying to unpack that start to make the project in a way more important and also more interesting and more of a challenge, as some things you simply cannot overcome. The most immediate one that we talk about most often is obviously the absolute hegemony of the English language, right? So we had a colleague in Leeds, for instance, who wanted to write in a kind of mixture of Spanish and English. And we were like, yeah! Totally. Go for that, please do, that would be wonderful. Because that’s how she wants to express herself. And we’re like, yeah that sounds wonderful. So she did and that was amazing. Lauda (?) she did that and it was wonderful but it’s a limitation, right? It’s still text. So this podcast again offers a counterpoint to that, that’s wonderful. But again is there bandwidth to run audio files? There are other sorts of things that might come out of that. But things like performance, poetry, photography, video images … I mean there are still barriers. We have to be mindful of the fact that we are still creating different types of inclusions and exclusions. But I would say overall that it shouldn’t still stop us from exploring both alternative knowledges or different knowledges or pluriversal knowledges but also pluriversal approaches to knowledge-building. So it shouldn’t be a limitation. To go back to your original question, Parinita, actually being involved with Convivial Thinking in itself has been hugely enriching. Because the engagement – whether it was the online conference early on where you’re having to actively confront it but now with Convivial Thinking, in very much a support role – is still a fantastic education for me. The challenge has been how do I take that learning around inclusion/exclusion – the new dynamics that emerge – and then try to apply that in my own academic spaces; in the conversations that we’ve been having about how do we include more people or more views? And rehearsing that in a way has been hugely valuable because I think I am now thinking about things that, if I hadn’t been involved with Convivial Thinking, wouldn’t have even occurred to me. So again, selfishly maybe, it’s been hugely valuable – that engagement. And this kind of conversation even today, what a great learning opportunity, again, selfishly for me.

Parinita: But that’s brilliant. And that’s something that you said, Sayan, as well about it being collaborative. For me, that’s one thing that I sort of had a hint about when I launched my project properly in January but now I’m even more determined about this, that knowledge is so much more enriched when it’s co-created through dialogue because you don’t know what you don’t know. And you only learn these things when you’re talking to people. Like the blind-spots that you have, you don’t even know they’re blind-spots. And obviously it’s a lifelong process of unlearning and relearning and even identifying first of all that social conditioning and then undoing that. So Sayan, you used the term common people, which I thought was really interesting because I very much see myself as common people. I don’t see myself as an academic. I don’t know if that’s raging imposter syndrome – I’m sure it is. Because before I did my master’s, I’m a children’s book writer so I work with children’s books and young people in different ways. I’ve worked in a school, I’ve done activities, I’ve worked in bookshops. So for me, that was my engagement with knowledge as an adult, a newish adult, in the beginning – getting kids excited about books because they were so important to me. But with kids who are more reluctant, who didn’t already think books were awesome, I had to trick them into making it more fun; so I used to design these activities and have conversations with them. I did this reading programme in a school which was largely first-generation English-speakers. So how to make them connect to this picture book that I’m reading that’s set in France maybe or the US or the UK or different parts of India? I used to start off with asking them a question that was sort of related to the book, but then ask them to contextualise it in their own lives. Like what was your favourite breakfast, for example, or something like that. They had to buy into the book first and drawing connections from their own lives helped. I’ve done other activities as well in schools and outside, in bookshops and literature festivals. So when I came into academia – as you were saying, Lata, theory is important – but for me, theory is important in the lived experience of people rather than in just reading about it.

Lata: Yeah absolutely. I agree.

Parinita: So I’m reading about this in academia, but I’m always drawing connections to my experiences and through second-hand experiences as well. Which is why in the podcast, maybe that’s why I wanted to not privilege just my own voice; I’m not comfortable privileging my own voice because I don’t think I know too much. I know children’s books, but I don’t know so much. So like you said, selfishly, it’s me trying to learn through other people’s perspectives. I obviously have these ideas and theories, I have some level of knowledge; but it is very incomplete knowledge which other people help fill in. Especially people who come from different backgrounds. I think intersectionality includes decolonisation as well. It has its roots in Black feminism in the US so originally it looked at class and race and gender and sexuality – how they intersect and affect black women’s lives in the US. But now, in academia and, for me, online discussions have expanded it to look at other identities as well. So we’re talking about it in terms of how we’re both privileged and marginalised. You’re both. Even when you’re marginalised in spaces, you still have other levels of privilege. And they’re also very contextual. Like my identity in India is very different from my identity as a brown immigrant in the UK, for example. So we’ve been talking about all these things. I’m cisgender, I’m heterosexual – so for me, those are blind-spots as well. And I don’t have any identified disabilities. So for me, talking to people about their experiences is so much more valuable than … reading is important as well, obviously. I read theory in academia and things but they’re living in it. Their practice is informing their theory almost, which for me is hugely valuable. And what you were saying, Lata, about the exclusions and inclusions in digital literacy as well. I find that really fascinating because I’ve learned so much just by making a podcast. I’d never made a podcast before I jumped off the deep end of the pool like, “Oh yeah I’ll do this for my PhD!” And I’ve just learned so much. I’ve been a very online person since I was sixteen, I think. I’ve just grown up online. So I’m comfortable with online things; I like learning new things. But I think everybody has more skills than they give themselves credit for. Like for you, Lata, once you actually sat down to do Zoom, it was easy enough for you. So I’m sure you have more skills than you think you do.

Lata: I’m not sure about that. [laughs]

Parinita: [laughs] When you were talking about digital exclusion and inclusion, I think there’s more nuance to that as well. In a previous podcast episode for my podcast, we were talking about this newspaper called Khabar Lahariya, which is a rural newspaper in India. I don’t know how much you know about it but it was started by this woman to look at local news and rural news.

Lata: Yeah.

Parinita: And she had women as journalists and as distributors. And after a few years, they have transitioned online. So their news is now on Facebook, through WhatsApp, through Telegram. And they’ve done it so much better than a lot of bigger newspapers have managed to do. They are so with it. I think that disrupts these notions as well; maybe not of people who know about it, but even in India, in Indian cities, for example, we have these ideas about rural women. Like, “Oh these rural women are doing all this?! We didn’t know. Phones! What?! Digital literacies?!” So I think that’s really interesting. In terms of your own experiences, in terms of literacy, have you engaged with multiple kinds of literacies or multiple kinds of knowledges as well while doing these things we’ve been talking about?

Sayan: Well multiple forms of literacies … now this perspective makes me think about what other various ways we gain knowledge. And this process of gaining knowledge, to my best I try to be conscious to understand it away from that capitalistic concern of knowledge production. So when I say gain knowledge, I don’t mean that “knowledge production” thing. So I’m keeping that aside. If I again go back to my individualistic as well as collective practices of what I engage with everyday decolonial thinking and doing, I feel that what I read in the text and what I do in the context – somewhere somewhat I always try to relate that. So to give a very simple and a straightforward example, when I’m eating a particular food item, I’m getting my certain tastes in my tongue, for sure, and whether I’m liking or disliking the food. But it’s much beyond that. I am gaining a form of cultural knowledge even in my process of disliking that. Even if I’m disliking that, still I am gaining a kind of cultural knowledge and gaining a kind of social knowledge, a racial knowledge, a geographical knowledge and varieties and various dimensions of knowledge. So for me, that context is the text for me at that time. Like if I’m wearing a particular dress, on a particular occasion. Now for instance there are various ways of drinking alcohol in Bhutan which is actually absolutely very interesting. You don’t drink the same kind of alcohol in all the occasions. So, for example, the interesting part is that they drink alcohol on every occasion. So if you compare it with the Western concept, to be very specific about the colonial West, alcohol is an element of celebration. Some will interpret alcohol as an element of violence. But here, alcohol underlies every aspect. So if there is a birth, for example, when a child is born, the ritual is that the mother will take a clean cloth, will rub a bit of alcohol on the cloth and will rub it on the lip of the child. That’s a ritual. And that alcohol will have a very, very, very low alcoholic content actually so that it doesn’t harm the health of the child. It’s a ritual. Then the alcohol that is taken in the time of, for example, a big Buddhist festival is not going to be the same alcohol that is going to be consumed at the time of a marriage or at the time of someone’s death. So the point is, just with drinking different types of alcohol, before coming here, the typical vision that I had before coming here, or those set of notions about consumption of local alcohols or foreign liquors or whatever, completely transformed here. So, it is also a form of literacy for me. This alcohol is a form of language for me, this alcohol is a form of pedagogy for me – the drinking process, sitting in that collective, cultural space is a pedagogy for me. So through these examples, through these experiences of the daily life, I try to position this notion of literacy, or if I put it as collective literacy, through these daily life experiences.

Lata: Yeah that’s actually, that’s really, without wanting to make it sound like a pun, Sayan that’s given me food for thought. And I do mean that genuinely because I think that in answer to your question about engaging with different knowledges, the immediate response to that is no, because I am who I am and live where I live and so my starting point is that I don’t know stuff. And so I have to work really hard to keep finding out both the things I don’t know and the ways in which I don’t know them. But in a way that’s actually quite liberating. Because if we go back to the original thing about academic framings, there’s lots of pressure to be an expert and know everything. I actually find it quite nice to be able to start by acknowledging well actually, I only know this much about this much. I know this tiny little slice; and even then, I’m not going to claim that I know everything about this tiny little slice of stuff that’s happening here in this little part of the world where these sets of ideas interact and I know some aspect of that. Because when my starting point is I don’t know things, or I know things the way I know them but I would never ever want to assert that it’s the only way, actually that’s a really productive place to start without wanting to sound too commodifying. It’s a very productive place to start because what that allows me to do is say okay, how do I challenge myself? So I know it this way – this could be food cultures, it could be language, it could be ritual, it could be pedagogy in the classroom, it could be how I interact with my children, it could be watching the news, Twitter, whatever right? But if my starting point is okay, this is what I think I know and then something comes along, then it’s actually really nice because my first question is obviously okay well what do I learn from this? And is there a way for me to think about whether there’s another way to approach this issue or question? If I tried to get outside of my own head or if I put aside what I think I know about this, what might that teach me about how somebody else might be experiencing that? So, Parinita, your point about being heterosexual in a heteronormative world and not having a disability, this particular positionality that you hold interacting with people and actually that revealing lifeworlds that you don’t have access to, doesn’t mean that you can’t have solidarity, that you can’t learn, and that we can’t build collective wisdom or action, right? It’s actually really liberating because if my starting point is I don’t know, well then every interaction is a learning opportunity. And that’s brilliant. I don’t mean that in a kind of I figured it out. Sayan, the language of unsettling, it’s perfect. You’re constantly unsettling yourself. In a way the most successful academics are the ones that just think, I am fantastic and I know all of these things – they’re the most successful ones. I’m not interested in that. I mean I can imagine that might be fulfilling in its own way, right? You get promotion, you gain a platform notoriety, money, whatever and there may be something to that. But I think collectively what it feels like we’ve expressed is we’re all aiming for something bigger, right? There is actually something else that has to come out of all of this. Which isn’t even in itself an end or an outcome. But trying to embed different types of processes, validating different pluriversal experiences and knowledges that might actually reshape the world. Because ultimately, I think all of us are expressing a discomfort about the determinism of the world that we live in. That doesn’t even mean that we share the same vision. But actually, that discomfort I think is good. That’s important. Because who would want to live in exactly the same world? That’s a bit bleh. That’s a bit boring, right? The question is how do we all work towards that collectively, but still embrace the fact that we might all want different things out of that? What does that process look like? Embracing that uncertainty, allowing yourself to be unsettled, is the first step. But actually, having done it, I feel hugely liberated. Because then, I don’t have to have all the answers. And that’s great! [laughs] And then my job becomes something else. I say this to my students all the time that I’ve got the best job in the world. I get paid to think. I get paid to learn. Don’t tell my employers but I might do it for free, right? When I approach it like that, it is fantastic. But it is often unsettling, right? Because sometimes we do want answers or answers are being demanded of us. Parinita, you’re talking about imposter syndrome and there is an element of that, right? We are put in that position because we’re supposed to know stuff. So then when I don’t have an answer, your instinct is to go, “Oh my god. I don’t really belong here.” But it’s actually about living with that sense of discomfort and being unsettled. Sayan, I think you’re absolutely right. Which is then you want to be able to radiate that outwards. How do we unsettle? But not in ways that are meant to be about attacking or distrust. It’s about actually trying to understand what the purpose of that unsettling is. Why would I want to unsettle? It’s not because I want to upset you or because I’m trying to make you feel bad or because I think everything is horrible or anything like that. The unsettling is about, well, hang on a second, if I just step back and take a different perspective on this or I look at this ritual or that food or this custom or this language or this geographical place – what if I shifted the lens a little bit like this? Or I described it in this way? Is it possible that we can learn something? Is it possible that we would be better off from it somehow? That we might actually create a different world? And the possibilities of that are so exciting that the discomfort and the unsettling is worth it for me. But for me it’s very much about a learning process. And living with that is a challenge but it’s hugely rewarding. So the answer to your question – the short answer is no, I don’t. But I want more. So I’ll just keep looking for it. [laughs]

Parinita: I love that. This conversation was so brain set abuzz and brain set alight.  Because sometimes it feels very isolating because not everyone within academia seems to want to question these things or seems to want to know about these things or is interested or whatever. So it’s nice to talk to people who do think about these things and who are doing things.

Sayan: Somewhere somewhat I feel that because the title of this umbrella podcast is fandom and I think also through these interactions, we create a mutual fandom that dissects from the usual dimension of hero worship. We don’t create pedestals; we are breaking pedestals. And we are basically acknowledging each other, critiquing each other, trying to understand each other’s differences. I once read an article by obviously a very famous Portuguese thinker Boaventura de Sousa Santos and he talks about this concept of depolarised pluralities. That is, not only do we require a form of plurality, but it should be depolarised as well. So I think this very podcast interaction made me feel in the same manner. That it’s not necessary we are all agreeing with each other, we critiqued each other, we acknowledged each other, we appreciated each other but also this consistent process brought so many new thoughts and dimensions to engage with in the future. Which I think is the most important thing. It’s not about shutting down and getting the record and sharing on Facebook and WhatsApp. Yeah we need to do that, we need to spread that. But what after that? And that opens up the gateways for more interactions, more weavings in the future. And for that personally I really thank Parinita for inviting me and inviting us and creating this us thing altogether today.

Parinita: Oh, it was totally Lata. Lata is the one who’s helped poke me when I fell into my PhD research pandemic hole. I’m so glad as well, Lata, that you brought us together. This was such a good conversation. More than ever now after talking to everybody here as well, I wish academia did more to talk to people who are not academics. Even in spaces like this, in Convivial Thinking or a podcast or just within academia in a classroom or whatever. Maybe talk to the students in a way that’s not talking to them but talking with them. And having them contribute their knowledge and intelligence which will again disrupt your own thinking because you don’t know. And that’s good pedagogy, right? That’s what we do in primary schools. I mean not in my school, we had 67 children in a classroom [laughs] but in other schools which have more room and resources to do this. You come together and you share knowledge and you have the skills that you exchange and learn from each other. Why don’t we do that in higher education? Why is it that the older that you get, there’s only one or two people who know. And even in terms of research, not just researching a group of people but having them be a part of the design as well. Not just you’re going in there as a researcher and then going away, like you were saying, Sayan, just going away and doing this research and then sharing the research in the academic version of Facebook and WhatsApp which is journal articles that are very expensive to access. But just creating this knowledge with the people and then also sharing it in a way that makes sense to them and that’s relevant to them. So yeah, that was apparently a very long final thought that I had. But thank you so much – this was fantastic. This was a great conversation.

Lata: No thank you for bringing us together which has been fantastic.

Sayan: Absolutely.

Lata: And I’m glad that we got to talk to each other.

Sayan: Absolutely.

Lata: It’s been so nice to talk to both of you today.

Sayan: It was fantastic interacting. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned and so many things to talk about again.

Parinita: I know.

Sayan: That makes me so happy actually.

Lata: Yeah.

Parinita: We need to have a second part of this episode. [laughs]

Sayan: Sure why not.

Parinita: Maybe in a post-pandemic world.

Sayan: [laughs]

[Outro music]

Thanks so much for listening! As both Lata and Sayan brought up throughout the episode, creating knowledge is such a collaborative effort and I absolutely have to agree. I learned so much from our conversation which I’m so excited to incorporate into my own work and thinking. Thank you both for taking the time to do this and for being so patient throughout this episode’s long journey out into the world. And thank you, Jack, for finding the time to edit this episode.

Episode 5 It’s Like She’s Not Even There: Misogyny, Masculinity, and Different Cultures

Episode Resources: 

For this episode we looked at the following texts:

Essay – Ron Weasley Vs Ron Weasley

Essay – Ginny Weasley, The Girl Who Deserved More

Essay – Strong Female Characters: Ginny Weasley

Essay – Supernatural: A History of Violence Against Women

Academic paper – Greek Mythology in English Literature Harry Potter’s Greek Connection

Academic paper – A study on usage of Greek Mythology in the Harry Potter’s series

Fan podcast – Alohomora Folkore & Mythology: A Whole New World

Fan podcast – Witch, Please Episode 9.5: Witch, Please; Live & Unruly

Fan podcast – Imaginary Worlds Heroines

Fan podcast – Women of Harry Potter Cho Chang With Kathy Tu

Fan podcast – Women of Harry Potter Molly Weasley with Dr. Chloe Angyal

Fan podcast – Witch, Please Episode 13 C Hallows and Goodbyes

Fan podcast – Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Masculinity: Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (Book 4, Chapter 5)

Fan podcast – Reading, Writing, Rowling Amy H. Sturgis: Fantasy, Imagination and Indigenous Futurism

Episode Transcript: 

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. If you would prefer the original, unedited version, please let me know!

Text on black background. Text says: fandom

[Intro music]

Welcome to Marginally Fannish, a show where we aim an intersectional lens at some of our favourite media and their fandoms.

[Intro music]

My name is Parinita Shetty and you’re listening to the fifth episode of Marginally Fannish. In this episode, Anna Raymondou and I talk about representations of gender in the Harry Potter book and movie series and in the TV show Supernatural. We discuss the impact that movie adaptations have on how characters and relationships are portrayed in popular media. We also chat about the different depictions of masculinity and misogyny in both Supernatural and Harry Potter. We discuss social conditioning and women’s internalised misogyny (Fleur Delacour deserved better!) as well as the gendered labour of the resistance (Molly Weasley also deserved better except when she was being horrible to Fleur!).

As Harry Potter fangirls, we like how the series provides us with a new mythology, folklore and culture. Anna discusses the Greek mythological inspirations in the books. We love how the Potterverse can be read through diverse cultural lenses and has room for multiple mythological interpretations. At the same time, fandom has educated us both about the problematic portrayals of other cultures in the Potterverse – specifically the anti-Semitic undertones and the appropriation of Native American beliefs. We talk about the responsibility that creators with a wide audience have in portraying marginalised cultures and learning from their missteps. Finally, Anna chats about the role of fandom in finding a supportive community and how it can make an active difference on people’s mental well-being.

Happy listening!

[Intro music]

Parinita: “Whether a story is made for pure entertainment value or made to convey a specific issue or struggle, all art contributes to people’s understanding of the universe. All media has an impact on the people who engage with it – intentional and unintentional. Scrutiny of sexist, racist, heteronormative, ageist, ableist and other biased or discriminatory themes within a work is both necessary and important, especially when the show itself fails to contextualise it. By unquestioningly accepting these story aspects, we can end up perpetuating the societal issues they represent.” This quote is from the essay “Supernatural: A History of Violence Against Women” on The Geekiary written by Exorcising Emily. It’s one of the texts that we looked at for this episode and you can find it on the project website marginallyfannish.org. For every episode on Marginally Fannish, my guests and I, we look at a whole bunch of texts which we use as discussion prompts. And all of them are up on the website accompanying the transcripts. This week I’m joined by Anna Raymondou who describes herself as an obsessive fangirl with an extended, deep and what some may consider useless knowledge about everything concerning her favourite fandoms and stories. I wish I could apply this description to myself but my memory is too atrocious to hold much room for deep knowledge really.

Anna: [laughs]

Parinita: About any of my favourite media. So this week, we’re talking about gender in Harry Potter and Supernatural and media in general. As well as depictions of different cultures in Harry Potter and media at large. So Anna, she’s twenty-two and she’s from Greece. So we both have very different contexts that we come from, looking at media that’s largely produced in the US and the UK. So Anna, do you want to start us off by talking about your own experiences with gender and culture as a fan?

Anna: I’ve always been watching stuff from the US and the UK. It was always on our TV and for many years, I thought that was the normal. And what I was experiencing was kind of different. Because you know at school we didn’t have these dances, and we didn’t have boys asking you out or doing the prom thing with the big you know like, “Do you want to be my prom date?” Or –

Parinita: [laughs] Yeah.

Anna: You know any kind of depiction. Like whatever cultural thing I saw was not very similar to mine. So when I realised that oh! Other people may not experience it, what we see on TV, it’s like [gasps].

Parinita: No, I’m the same way. Because in India, as well – I grew up in Mumbai, so it’s a pretty big city. And most of my media engagement has been American TV shows and movies and some British things. So my idea about the US and the UK has largely been shaped by the movies that I see and just exactly like you, it’s so different from my own life in India. So it almost starts to feel like we are missing out on something by not having these experiences.

Anna: Yeah!

Parinita: Whereas these experiences may not even be that common to people in the US as well. The media perpetuates such a very single experience that is the norm. Which is really interesting. That’s why I love fandom conversations because I think if we just saw these TV shows without any contexts –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Without hearing responses from other fans, we’d be thinking that we’re the sort of odd ducks who don’t quite fit in. Whereas in fandom, everyone is like, “No, this doesn’t really … this doesn’t represent my life either.” So you find community in fandom which is pretty cool.

Anna: Yeah and it’s great when they say that, “Oh, it’s not what you see.” Like “Not all of us drive a car at sixteen or have like [sighs] uniforms that require skirts and high heels.” Who wears high heels in school?

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: I can barely make it out of my PJs and wear proper clothes like –

Parinita: [laughs]

Anna: I’m not saying that someone may not wear these, but I think maybe –

Parinita: But there’s room for different representations, right? Like there’s room for different –

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: Experiences of … anything in media.

Anna: Yeah. Exactly.

Parinita: Which is why I think as I said, for me, fandom was so important. But fandom also allowed me to be okay with critiquing the media –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: That I love like Harry Potter, for example.

Anna: Yes.

Parinita: I started reading it since I was ten and now it’s been twenty years that I’ve been a die-hard Harry Potter fan. But it’s only much later that I realised that oh wait, it’s not all perfect and it’s not all – there are things that definitely can be better.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And I love that fandom allows you to call out the problematic elements and I don’t think that this diminishes my love of the media.

Anna: Yeah, no I completely agree. And it took me a while to be able to criticise the things I loved and obsessed about because I thought that I had to like everything that I read or I saw. And take what I’m seeing as something that’s right. And eventually I got to a point of accepting and understanding why other people are calling things out that are not okay. And I think I’m growing as a person from that experience alone you know.

Parinita: Yeah for sure. Because you’re still twenty-two and you seem much more with it than I was when I was twenty-two. Because it’s only been very recently – I’ve been in fandom more or less since I was thirteen. But earlier it was much more the squee part of fandom which is like I’m excited about everything, I want to only hear good things. Whereas now I love the critical commentary. I love the people who come together, who sort of expand the texts and expand my mind a little bit more.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Just by inserting their own voices and perspectives. Which is one of my favourite things.

Anna: I agree completely. As long as everyone is respectful with each other, it can bring so much – like a different light into your whole perspective about what you’ve grown to love. And I think it broadens your mind in a way.

Parinita: Yeah, for sure. And what we were talking about, about the cultural elements as well, coming from Greece and India.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: For me it’s this whole process of decolonising my mind. Because when I’ve grown up, we read a lot of British literature, so children’s books. And now I watch a lot of American TV shows and movies. And that really makes me think about my own country in a different way. Whereas now these conversations, they’re making me see the problematic bits of Western media and culture as well. It helps me see both the West and India in a different way, if that makes sense.

Anna: Yeah, totally. I agree.

Parinita: So I know you had some thoughts about how the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter series really butchered some characters and misrepresented others –

Anna: [sighs]

Parinita: Through problematic portrayals?

Anna: Um hmm. I have some very strong thoughts on that.

Parinita: [laughs]

Anna: And I’m glad you agreed with me because I love the Harry Potter movies. It’s one of my favourite movie series and I will never stop watching it and re-watching and re-watching.

Parinita: [laughs]

Anna: But oh my god the characters! You miss out so much only by the story because there’s so many books and there’s so many story-lines you cannot convey in a two-hour movie. So you’re like okay maybe they’ll do justice to the characters if not the story. And then you have someone like Ginny Weasley and [sighs] Ginny Weasley in the books is amazing. And she’s such a fierce and strong young woman. And then in the movies, it’s like she’s not even there. And I’m not saying it for the actress or anything because I don’t think it’s her fault.

Parinita: No absolutely. You know I think it’s like in one of the Witch, Please episodes that we listened to

Anna: Um hmm

Parinita: They said that it’s a political choice on how you choose to portray characters in movie adaptations. And they also mentioned Ginny Weasley because like you said that she’s portrayed to be just a romantic interest of Harry Potter in the movies. Which, in the books, she is more her own person. Even though we see her as, just like we see everything else, through Harry’s perspective.

Anna: Um hmm

Parinita: Ginny does seem to be much more independent and has her own life and has her own convictions and she does her own thing. Which is why I wonder – I know in fandom, there are some really strong reactions either for or against Ginny.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And I wonder if this is to do with whether the movies have influenced their beliefs or the books have influenced their beliefs.

Anna: Yeah, I think it’s a bit of both. Because I watched the movies first and then I read the books. Not all of the movies. But I watched the first two I think, or three, before I started reading the books.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: And I didn’t instantly connect who Ginny was because she was so … I’m not going to say a mediocre character, but she was not given the time to shine that she did eventually in the books. And you said that they use her as a romantic interest in the movies. But I think that didn’t even work well.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: You barely see her after The Chamber of Secrets. And suddenly in the sixth movie, Harry finds himself liking her. And that didn’t escalate in any way correctly. You know?

Parinita: Yeah because we don’t see her grow as a person. We see her obviously in Chamber of Secrets where she undergoes this really traumatic experience. But even that we’re not shown in as much detail as the books.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But then we don’t see how she gets over that trauma and how she stands up to her brothers’ teasing and bullying and goes along with it. And the pranks that she plays and all the dating that she does as well. She’s not just hung up on Harry forever. She’s doing these other things. As well as she stands up to Ron’s slut-shaming of her in Half-Blood Prince which was born out of his own insecurities. So she’s –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: She’s very secure in her own person. She doesn’t need – she’s not just Harry’s crutch.

Anna: I think that one thing that the movies are missing out is that sure you cannot add many things and obviously the story is about Harry. But Ginny is a part of his friend group. She’s his best friend’s sister. So Harry sees her often, he goes to the Weasley house. And why would you take out something so easily adapted. Just have her be around. Make her more visible. Why are you burying her like that? And I think that one of the reasons why they did it is also because they wanted to have one strong female character which was Hermione.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: And for some reason they cannot have more room for another great woman you know.

Parinita: Absolutely. There’s just room for one, right? And yeah, one of the essays that we read as well, it said how a lot of Ron’s lines were given to Hermione which diminished Ron’s character as well in the movies. Which reminded me of this other Witch, Please episode that I’d listened to which talked about how in the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione had also received some of Dumbledore’s lines. And it almost seems to portray Hermione as this perfect can-do-no-wrong aspirational character in the movies that you know she’s someone that we should all want to be. Which I also think is a little bit of a disservice because I like Hermione’s flaws and her –

Anna: Hmm.

Parinita: Her authenticity. I would like room for all kinds of representations of female characters. Not just we are only allowed one.

Anna: Yeah. And I think that they tried to put all the great stuff – not great, like the funny quotes or the ideas that someone had and put them on Hermione to make her shine. But the good thing is that even through her flaws, she was a great character in the books.

Parinita: Absolutely.

Anna: So why did they feel the need to add extra stuff when she was already a great, empowered woman in the Harry Potter world. And why did you feel the need to take from someone else? Like okay Dumbledore, he was amazing anyway; he was smart, he was witty and he had great quotes anyway so it’s not like many things were taken away from him. But Ron! I think that the movies – I love Ron anyway but I think the movies butchered him as well. Like many people don’t like movie Ron. And when I say he’s one of my favourite characters and they ask me why, I’m like he has done so many great things in the books. And he’s such a loyal friend. Yeah sure, he has his flaws. But he had a story-line, a character arc, through the books that you do not see in the movies. It’s actually the opposite. He almost goes from a great friend to an awful friend in the movies.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: Which is not who he really was. And all that just so you can make Hermione even greater than she already is.

Parinita: Yeah. And I think this strive to perfection is so unnecessary because it’s not like we’re going to – well maybe some people might dislike Hermione because of one flaw. But then those kind of people are probably not liking Hermione for – they just like her for very superficial reasons anyway. But otherwise I mean I think that’s what media needs more of. And in a movie like Harry Potter which has such a wide reach, having more complex and nuanced characters – there was such an opportunity for that and it was really missed unfortunately.

Anna: Yeah, I agree. It would have been great if they could use every single thing from the books but you know if you have so much information to work from, why not put a little more effort to the other characters? Because yeah, Harry is your hero but no story is great with only one character, one hero. You know the rest of the characters –

Parinita: Oh no! Yeah I for sure think that there are –

Anna: [laughs]

Parinita: Like Harry was great and all but no. He would be nowhere – first of all, without Hermione. He would be nowhere without Hermione.

Anna: Yeah!

Parinita: But also just his friendships. And adults as well as young people – I don’t think anything would have been possible without his friendships. And also I think one of the essays mentioned, the female friendships have been completely erased in the movies as well. Like between Ginny and Hermione and Luna and Ginny.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: There’s no really examples of those.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: So we’ve largely talked about the female characters in Harry Potter. What about the ways in which masculinity is represented, not just in Harry Potter but also in Supernatural. You did mention that you had good things to say about how men’s emotions are showed in Supernatural.

Anna: I think Supernatural is a very masculine show in the way that you know you have these dudes who drink beer, they will listen to rock music, and they have a great car and they kick ass. And I love that. But it’s not very often that you see men expressing their feelings. And sure, they struggle a lot and they hide a lot of things from each other. But there has been, in my opinion, many great moments that they have let themselves be truthful and vulnerable and share what they feel.

Parinita: Hmm.

Anna: And I think that’s something you don’t really see. And, of course, it’s a show with fifteen seasons. So you do have that kind of time to see that evolving. But it is something that is present in the first seasons as well. And I don’t know, it surprised me a lot when I first watched it. It still does.

Parinita: No, you’re so right because – so I’ve been watching Supernatural since I was sixteen so it’s been with me for a really long part of my life. I haven’t watched the last two seasons. But it’s been something that I’ve been a fan of for a very long time. But I didn’t think about just the emotional life that we see of Sam and Dean because it’s just something … I don’t know. That’s why again, fandom for me is just helpful for me to be able to articulate these things that maybe I knew about in the back of my head or thought about vaguely. But it’s something that gives me the vocabulary to actually actively talk about. Which is, for me, very helpful. So when I was doing my master’s degree, I also studied fan communities. And I studied Harry Potter and Percy Jackson – two Facebook fan pages. And I’d encountered this video called “The Fantastic Masculinity of Newt Scamander”.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: From the Fantastic Beasts movie. And it subjected Newt to this really detailed analysis which concluded that Newt is emotional and empathetic and he offers this positive representation of masculinity in mainstream culture which, like you said, is otherwise populated with really brash and violent fantasy heroes.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: So Supernatural is perhaps one example and Newt as well because you see a very specific kind of hero in most of the media that we consume. So it’s not just with women’s representations, it’s with men’s representations as well. There’s just one way to be a man, I guess. Or a heroic figure.

Anna: Yeah. I agree. And I love Newt. He’s a great character. And as you said, he’s empathetic and I think his love of animals is something that’s helped him to be that. But we shouldn’t have to be surprised when movies and TV series make men seem vulnerable.

Parinita: No, absolutely. Even with women’s representations, right? Like I watched Wonder Woman and I was in tears because I was – that was I think the first time I’d seen a movie like that which centred women’s experiences. It wasn’t male gazey and it was just placing us in the centre in a way that makes you feel so empowered.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And like I was telling my friends in a previous episode, this is what men feel like all the time!

Anna: I know! Didn’t you feel like you wanted to get a lasso and try to grab someone from the street?

Parinita: Absolutely!

Anna: [laughs]

Parinita: It makes you feel so emotional. It shouldn’t be something that needs to be commented on but unfortunately it is because there’s such a dearth of these characters and these stories that place people who’ve – including women – who’ve been on the margins of mainstream media and culture for so long.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: I do see things getting better now so I’m glad that diversity, even if it’s for really commercial reasons, they just want money, I’m fine with that. If it starts that way and then becomes because they actually want diversity and value diversity –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: That’s totally okay for me. So one of the other things that we listened to, the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text episode on masculinity, that was really interesting because it analysed the Weasleys and how – because it’s like what seven brothers? Is it seven brothers?

Anna: It’s six brothers and one sister.

Parinita: Oh six brothers! Yeah see the memory, it’s just like one thing goes in from one side of the brain and leaks out of the other.

Anna: [laughs] I mean there’s many kids okay like you can forget.

Parinita: Yeah I can’t keep a track of all of them! They come, they go. But they talked about the different ways in which the Weasley boys, they signaled their masculinity. And Bill and Charlie they’re pretty traditionally masculine. So adventurers and treasure hunters and dragon riders and whatever. And Fred and George, they pointed out how they accrue social power through humour and then obviously they have their business as well. So they’re really good businessmen or business wizards whatever. And Percy achieves political status and power. And Ron – so I mean that’s what made me start thinking that yeah Ron is super insecure in the first book when we see in the Mirror of Erised

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: He wants to be better than his brothers and he wants to you know outshine all of them. Which is understandable. But he takes this out on the women in his life. He takes this out on Hermione, he takes this out on Ginny.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: When Ginny points out that he’s only jealous of her and Hermione because he’s never had any sort of romantic or sexual experience. And out of revenge or whatever, he starts dating Lavender as well who he doesn’t really seem to like too much.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And that’s really unfair on Lavender too. Like she’s just having a relationship whereas he’s like having a revenge relationship or what? I don’t know.

Anna: Yeah it’s sad to think. Because on the one hand you want to – I feel bad for Ron because he has this legacy of brothers before him; that the two of them are doing their thing away from home and they are, as you said, like the traditional masculine types that have dragons and they work in banks and one of them scored the pretty girl. And then you have Percy who is like the how do we call it um the – the Prefect?

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: Yeah and he’s very smart and he has a girlfriend. And then you have Fred and George who are very popular and they do all these pranks. So there is a lot of weight on him because he’s not the greatest student, he’s not the prankster or anything. And he’s like before his sister, who apparently Molly really wanted a daughter. So then she went full on on Ginny and everything. So I understand. But then again, you have to work on your problems and yourself and you cannot – just because you feel bad, it doesn’t mean you have to take it out on others.

Parinita: I mean to be fair, he was also a teenage boy. I think I was a pretty – I mean I was not as terrible a teenager, but then again, I didn’t have –

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: Voldemort threatening to take over the wizarding world.

Anna: True.

Parinita: Although now you see fascism everywhere so I guess teenagers have more to deal with than we did.

Anna: True!

Parinita: Yeah but it’s also how you see in just feminist discourse that the patriarchy harms men as well. It’s not just women.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Obviously women are much more affected. But Ron’s insecurity seems to stem from just this singular narrative of what makes a successful and popular man. Like having a girlfriend and being successful at sports –

Anna: Um hmm

Parinita: And being successful at school. Whereas there are more ways to be successful and I mean there’s no one right way to be a man. Unless you’re terrible in which case, yeah that’s the wrong way to be a man!

Anna: [laughs]

Parinita: But you know to be a good man, you don’t need to … yeah there just need to be more role models which, in the magical world, in the real world, unfortunately there’s totally a lack of.

Anna: Yeah. But I think what’s a great thing concerning Ron is that he had people who stood up to him. Like Ginny when, as you said he had an attitude about her going out with boys and everything. And she set him straight. And Hermione, when he was, “Oh you’re a girl!” She was like “Yeah thanks for noticing. Goodbye now, I already have a date.”

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: I think that having someone – and obviously women because he had a few issues about them – stand up and not let that kind of behaviour go on further, I think it’s very beneficial and I think that’s why eventually his relationship with Ginny got better when she dated Harry because he was like, “Okay, you’re dating my best friend. But you’re free to do whatever because you know I trust you.” And I think that wouldn’t happen if Ginny hadn’t put her foot down and was like, “I’ll do what I want and you have to deal with it.”

Parinita: You’re so right! I wonder because you see Ron’s behaviour in this fictional world, you see it replicated in the real world now. I wonder if you know just with these internet forums and things,

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Where groups of men congregate. So I just wonder if Ginny and Hermione hadn’t been there, would Ron have been like a wizarding incel? Would he have been all like, “I hate all women because I get no girlfriends” and “Women are the worst!” and “Down with women!”

Anna: I mean dude with that kind of behaviour, of course you’re not going to get any women.

Parinita: Yeah, I’m glad well whatever his problematic misogynistic incel-adjacent behaviour, he grew out of.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: And he grew up. So that’s good. But there are other examples of misogyny in the Harry Potter series as well which again, isn’t something that I had considered myself when I read the series when I was younger.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: I’m slowly reading the books again and watching the movies again. And I wonder if it’ll be more noticeable to me now because I think about these things in my real world. So I wonder if I’ll notice it more in the fictional world. But currently it’s all the fan podcasts that I’ve been listening to which have pointed this out. So, of course Ron and the misogyny towards Ginny but then also Ginny, Hermione and Molly’s attitude against Fleur. And this is something because you read it from this limited Harry Potter perspective, I was like oh yeah Fleur is this silly little girl who you know whatever. But now when you look back at it, she is obviously this really smart, capable witch. Because she went into the Triwizard Tournament and she did all these cool things. And she’s also you know she’s kind and loyal. Like she sticks with Bill even though his family is horrible to her.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And she looks after Harry and the rest when they come into her cottage and just barge in.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: I think in the Witch, Please episode, was it, that they pointed out the gendered labour of the resistance where she’s relegated to the kitchen and making casseroles for the resistance rather than –

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: You know using her skills and capabilities and being in the front-line of Dumbledore’s Army [I meant Order of the Phoenix].

Screenshot of Tumblr post by siriusblaque. Text says: fleur delacour is so important i can't even put it into words badass girl whose "most previous" was her sister, who despite what anyone might think of her (cough molly cough ron cough hermione cough) looks past any aesthetic unpleasantries because she is completely and irrevocably in love with bill, who willingly risks her life for harry (the seven harrys, anyone???), who manages to create a spot of brightness in the middle of war (wedding!!!), who is feminine and badass at the same time, who opens her home to an entitled goblin and multiple refugees/runaways, who doesn't sacrifice one bit of her integrity or character despite the looming threat of war

A fan text I encountered while researching my master’s dissertation

Anna: Um hmm I agree. Well about the first things you said, about Ginny and Hermione and Mrs. Weasley I didn’t think of it at first but I never liked how they treated Fleur in the books.

Parinita: Hmm.

Anna: But I think that they all got so defensive because obviously she was so beautiful and Harry kind of liked her and Ron was very into her for some time. So everyone started getting protective about their people. Ginny, I think, because her brother was so – her brothers – with Bill and Ron watching her and saying oh how beautiful she was. And I think Hermione maybe with Ron because perhaps something was going on. And Mrs. Weasley because she’s like, “Oh that’s my son, where is she going to take him? And where did she come from?” And everything. So I think part of that was because they started feeling very protective over their people and their relationships they had with them. But –

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: When in the books, when she stayed with Bill even though his face was like you know because of that fight and Fenrir I think it was – that werewolf –

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: Scratched his face and she’s like, “He’s beautiful to me and I’m not leaving his side whatever you say.” I think that was such a beautiful like “in your face!” moment for Mrs. Weasley and Ginny and Hermione because I think they believed she was very superficial even – because she was a bit of a snob but that was just her personality. Like one of her personality traits–

Parinita: And also she was this person who was in a new country

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: And she’s in this house and family where everyone else seems to be treating her pretty poorly. So I might have been a bit of a snob in her position as well. I’m like yeah if you don’t take me seriously. And I think you make a very good point because when this happens, I think Hermione, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, they do soften up to her.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But there’s also so much to unpack just about our own social conditioning and how we have misogynistic tendencies as well against other women. Just pitting women in competition with each other because you’re beautiful or whatever and you know you’re jealous or you’re competitive about the other people. So yeah there’s more I think to unpack there. But I’m glad again that she was – although she was still stuck in the kitchen.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: But then, Mrs. Weasley has been stuck in the kitchen through all seven books of the series.

Anna: I know. I’m so conflicted about Mrs. Weasley because I think her like maternal instincts and everything was something that really helped Harry because he never had something like that.

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: So I’m glad that he found someone that would take care of him in the way a mother does – make him food and ask him if he’s okay, if he’s hungry, tell him to wash behind your ear and don’t forget something.

Parinita: [laughs]

Anna: You know that’s a thing I never heard that in real life. I’ve only read that in books.

Parinita: Me neither. And it has never made me want to wash behind my ears. I’m just like oh this is a thing fictional characters don’t seem to do or people in the West don’t seem to want to do.

Anna: [laughs] I know! But then you know she’s clearly a very talented witch because first of all, she can handle five children so that makes her a hero already in my eyes.

Parinita: [laughs] Absolutely.

Anna: And later on she has that amazing scene. I cried when I watched that in the movies. “Not my daughter, you bitch!” was one of the greatest lines in the book and I’m so glad they made it in the movies. And I was like if that’s what happens when she’s angry right now because one of her children were in danger, like all of her children were but you know with Ginny. Like imagine what else she could have done or how useful she could have been in a battle and not stuck behind making I don’t know sausages and whatever she was making all the time.

Parinita: But even if she didn’t want to be a part of the battle, for whatever reason,

Anna: Um hmm

Parinita: I think that her duties, whatever she did, was still very important in the resistance. I think it was the Women of Harry Potter Molly Weasley episode that pointed it out.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: That she provides both food-based nourishment so she’s literally cooking for the resistance.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: And she also provides mental and emotional nourishment for both the young people and for the adults. And her labour of nourishing the resistance in such different ways is completely overlooked. Her worries are dismissed. Her hobbies are dismissed as well. She likes reading Witch Weekly, she likes listening to Celestina Warbeck I think is the name?

Anna: Yes.

Parinita: I’m very confident that this is the name but I always have a misplaced sense of confidence.

Anna: Yeah I think – I think that’s it.

Parinita: Yeah and they make fun of her worries and they make fun of her being snappy about just because her stress-born snappiness. And I feel like she deserves so much more respect because it’s so similar in the real world, right? Like women in that position are just taken for granted. And –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Even in the resistance, there are different kinds of activism. It’s not just – like in India, currently, we have protests going on which the Coronavirus has sort of put a halt to at the moment. And there’s this group of women – of Muslim women and children who have congregated at this place in Delhi called Shaheen Bagh. And they are basically there just to hold the government to account. They’ve just been sitting there I think for two months. And they’ve been cooking there and having events and things. And these are women from really deprived backgrounds as well.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: It’s not like they are these elite activists who can take the time off work or whatever. But they’re just like if we don’t do this, nobody’s going to do this. And fortunately in India, they have inspired the entire country and there has been more such activism by deprived Muslim women and children in different parts of the country. But yeah I think that is a more stark example. But there are so many more examples like this just in the real world but whose work is just dismissed.

Anna: Yeah and that’s so sad because as you said, you can choose not to go to the battle-front or whatever like Mrs. Weasley stayed back. But don’t dismiss her and not appreciate what she does just because it’s something that she will do every day for you because she’s your mum or your wife or whoever. Like say thank you and don’t be – because I cannot remember like precise examples right now but there has been times you know Ron or someone will be snappy towards Mrs. Weasley because she’s being herself and she is watching out for her kids. They’re like, “Oh we have more important things to do.” Yeah right. If you don’t eat, I’d like to see you try do any of those things you know.

Parinita: I mean you literally had a tantrum in the forest and then left Harry and Hermione because you were hungry, because you’d gotten used to your mother’s really good food and taken it for granted! I know we spoke about Harry Potter a lot but I also wanted to make sure that we touched on the more – much more overt misogyny in Supernatural.

Anna: Oh my god.

Parinita: Which almost seems to act as this structural framework of the show much more than it is in Harry Potter. Because like I said, I’ve been watching it for a very long time. But I’d largely blocked out the uncomfortable history of violence against women. Maybe because of my bad memory – probably because of my bad memory.

Anna: [laughs]

Parinita: But you know that essay that we read, “Supernatural: A History of Violence Against Women”. Oh my god it made me so uncomfortable.

Anna: I know!

Parinita: But in a really good way. Just because it laid out all the different examples of the way that it had treated its female characters.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And there aren’t that many female characters who survive anyway. But yeah the way that they had been treated, and the way that they had been insulted in a very gendered way.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Yeah it was really uncomfortable.

Anna: I know. It makes me so angry because when I watched Supernatural, it was like a year ago I started. And I binged it like all the way through to now. And it was so much information at once that I didn’t have time to like analyse what I was seeing properly.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: Then I did a re-watch like a month or so later. And usually I don’t analyse things and movies and TV series, apart from Harry Potter because that’s the one thing that I know so much about and because it has the books. But usually I don’t analyse stuff very much. But then I started seeing this pattern of how women were treated. I’m not saying that it’s that they died in the show, because everyone dies. The main characters have died like a thousand times. So that’s not my issue. It’s the way they die every time. Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t caught up, I’m sorry, but you know Eileen [sighs] Eileen is one of my favourite characters and the way she was killed in … I don’t remember was season twelve or yeah – yeah season twelve. It was so brutal and so awful because she’s deaf – a deaf hunter. And by mistake, she kills someone. And they send a hellhound after her. A hellhound is like a dog from hell that you cannot see, you can only hear. And what you send something that cannot be seen to a deaf woman who cannot hear it to like take her apart. And it was like a ten second death scene. You didn’t even see it. That made me so angry. Or with Charlie like the second favourite character

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: Who got a death in a freaking bathtub full of blood. You didn’t even see her fight. Like she was so amazing. She survived at Oz with Dorothy and whoever it was. She killed so many people, she was so skillful. And then suddenly she dies in a bathtub and we didn’t even see her fight! And what for?! There was no reason for her to die. Absolutely no reason.

Parinita: Yeah and it’s like what that essay pointed out. That it’s the way in which violence against women is used to just further the stories of male characters. It’s almost like that’s what they’ve been created for.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Which is similar to arguments about characters of colour which are killed off for white characters and queer characters versus cisgender and heterosexual characters as well as characters with disabilities versus non-disabled characters. Where everybody who seems to be on the margin is just this sort of prop to be there just to be discarded when you want to heighten emotions. And there are even examples of this in Harry Potter as well. Which again, something I hadn’t considered but Witch, Please a podcast that I love and that everyone should go listen to.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: They spoke about Ariana Dumbledore, the implied violence against her. So the Muggle children, the Muggle boys, they were violent towards her when she was younger. But there was also this implied sexual connotation to that which I hadn’t picked up on and I want to now go back and re-read that extract.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But that is what caused Dumbledore to turn against Grindelwald. Not that exactly, but that sort of led to that huge thing.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: To make Dumbledore – to give him this tragic backstory. And then there’s Helena Ravenclaw who is murdered by the Bloody Baron because she refused to date him? Like I don’t know. And then she’s forced to haunt this castle with him like she’s not even rid of him in death. With Lily Potter and Snape as well.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Like that’s really troubling.

Anna: [sighs] I never liked Snape even after his arc. I’m like oh okay you were a great spy but I still didn’t like him and I don’t understand how people forgive him so easily because he was a Death Eater and he believed in everything that Voldemort or everyone was on about. And he had no problem admitting it. And I think that Lily felt she had to be his friend because you know he was the one she met back then when she didn’t know exactly what was going on and he helped her. But like he made some awful choices. And he treated her so badly. And that’s one of the things that I think is very common that when someone is  say bullying you, they’re like, “Oh my god, he likes you, that’s why he’s mean to you.” So what kind of excuse is that? Like oh okay I’m going to leave this person and let him be awful to me because he likes me? So I think that that was thing that I noticed with Snape and with Lily that because he liked her, he bullied her.

Parinita: So I love the character of Snape just because the way that the character is created has so many complexities and so many flaws and just like the character arc, I love it.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But the character of Snape that is his interactions and his relationships, he’s a pretty shitty character.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: And you know it’s like with Lily, it’s not her job to reform him. Like if he can’t work on himself and be better there’s no reason for her to put up with it. So in one of the essays that we read about Ginny Weasley, one of the comments, somebody had said that they were upset with Ginny because she didn’t show remorse for what she had done. And the example that they presented was that when Ron was going through a really tough time, Ginny hadn’t supported him and hadn’t been nice to him. And I was like uh it is not Ginny’s job to be nice to her brother who is being a bit of an asshole. So I’m glad Lily and Ginny stood up to these terrible, terrible men.

Anna: Um hmm, I agree. And I think it’s a refreshing thing to see that eventually – even though she tried, you know she didn’t let’s say abandon her friend instantly with the first difficult thing between them – she stood up for herself after he called her a Mudblood. I think she cut ties with him if I remember correctly

Parinita: Yeah and because he wouldn’t give up his Death Eater friends and Death Eater beliefs.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: So if she is the only exceptional – if he hates all that she stands for but he only likes her because she is the exception to the rule –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Why should she put up with it? This is just like in real life where you know in terms of racism, in terms of homophobia whatever. You need to respect the entire community, you can’t just respect one person from that community. And I think these conversations are so important especially because of the huge role that popular media plays in influencing our attitudes and behaviours. As some people pointed out in the Alohomora podcast as well as some of the other texts that we read, Harry Potter as well as other media – but Harry Potter especially provides this new form of mythology and folklore.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: Which people are using to make sense of the world.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: I was just thinking of it in terms of protests that we’ve seen. So I mentioned the protests happening in India. But also protests that are happening in the US as well as some of the climate crisis protests where you see a lot of Harry Potter themed signs there which I love.

Anna: Um hmm.

Photo of a teenager holding a protest sign which reads: We grew up on Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Marvel and Star Wars. Of course w'ere fighting back.

A photo from the March For Our Lives protest in the US

Photo of a young girl holding up a protest sign which reads: When Voldemort is President we need a nation of Hermiones

A photo from the Women’s March in the US

Parinita: Which I know a lot of people make fun of because they’re like, “Oh this is not the Harry Potter world, it’s the real world.” But in terms of religion, for example.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: People use religious texts so much to try and figure out the real world; to draw parallels between the religious texts and the real world.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And with Harry Potter, I think a lot of people do the same. Because it was such a powerful part of many people’s childhoods or adulthoods and it’s just something that – you use stories that play a huge role in your life. And you use them to make sense of everything else in your life. That’s definitely something that I do. And I see that a lot in my generation and other generations have done that as well.

Anna: Um hmm. And I’ve read somewhere that there was a study of some sort that said that people who read Harry Potter are usually more accepting and they will stand up to things they believe are unfair. And I think that’s a great thing that just proves the point. When you see signs like, “Dumbledore would never let that happen” or something like that. It’s like yeah, these books and not just Harry Potter but everything that you can get that you know broadens your horizon, doesn’t get you stuck in a specific mindset. It’s wonderful and great to see that from such a small thing like a kids’ book that you – because many people would call it that because it has magic and it’s not in the real world and apparently we can never read anything else because it’s magical. I don’t know but –

Photo from a protest highlighting a sign which reads: Dumbledore wouldn't let this happen

Another fan text I encountered while researching my master’s dissertation

Parinita: [laughs] Well, as someone who thinks both children’s literature and fantasy are very, very important, I would have to disagree with all these people.

Anna: Yeah, thank you!

Parinita: [laughs] Yeah. I know a lot of people talked about how Harry Potter has created its own mythology and rituals.

Anna: Um hmm

Parinita: Not only in the fictional world but also in the real world. But you pointed out that Harry Potter has drawn a lot of inspiration from Greek mythology as well.

Anna: Um hmm. Yeah that was one of the first things that made me go like oh wow, I recognise that thing. Because there are many names from Greek mythology or the constellations that are – people are named after that in the Harry Potter world. And you know that’s not something you see. I certainly don’t see that very often in any kind of American or British – English text. That’s not something you see very often. And I was very surprised because they were like hidden gems and everything that that were very interesting. I think there’s a constellation that’s called Orion. I’m not sure if I’m saying that correctly.

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: And one of the stars in the constellation is called Draco. So I think – don’t one hundred per cent quote me on that – I’m going to check it. But –

Parinita: No, I know there is a constellation [I meant star] named Draco. I don’t know which belt it lies in. But yeah. Sirius as well is a constellation [I meant star again]. The dog star.

Anna: Oh! I think that’s the – yeah, you’re right. So Orion is a constellation and Sirius is a star in this constellation. And Sirius’s dad was named Orion.

Parinita: Hmm.

Anna: So like Sirius is part of this … you know how it goes.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: And there is so many things like that. Mandragora – mandrakes and the sphinx and the –

Parinita: Yeah the creatures like unicorns, griffins, the centaurs, the phoenix as well.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: Yeah. And also the name I think Sybil Trelawney whose ancestor was Cassandra Trelawney?

Anna: Cassandra.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: Yeah, yeah, yeah. She was a very powerful witch. She wasn’t a witch – wait. I think that was … oh she was meant to be –

Parinita: A seer? Like a prophet? She gave prophecies?

Anna: Yeah well … hmm … I think I may … no I think I’m like ninety per cent sure. She was a woman who was cursed by a god to have visions of things but people would never believe her.

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: And she was in Troy – the Trojan War something. She was ugh I should know that! That’s so embarrassing.

Parinita: No, you know this happens with me with Indian mythology as well. Just because I seem to know more about like Christian mythology – Christian beliefs and Christian things more because that’s such a part of Western media. And I also went to a Catholic school so it’s something that I grew up with. But yeah this happens to me all the time. I’m like, “I don’t know details about my own mythology!”

Anna: Oh yes, she was – she was the daughter of the queen of Troy. Yeah.

Parinita: Ah right.

Anna: And she was sister to Paris, yeah. Yeah, yeah I knew that, okay. I knew that.

Parinita: And there’s Fluffy as well who is the –

Anna: Yeah Cerberus!

Parinita: The dog that guards the gates to hell. But what I also found interesting. So in one of the papers that we read, she compared the mythology of the Hogwarts founders to Greek gods and goddesses as well as houses being like the god and goddess cults of ancient Greek society. Whereas me and my friends, we were talking about how to us, the four house systems remind us of the Hindu caste system. Which is you know there’s like different segregation that happens based on birth and you are – once you’re in that particular caste, you can’t intermingle with other castes. Like traditionally. And you can only stick to the people in that community and you can do the same kind of job and you can’t be more than what your birth entailed.

Anna: Oh okay.

Parinita: So what I found really interesting is that the Harry Potter world is so full of potential to be read from multiple mythological lenses. If I read it through Hindu mythology or Indian mythology whereas if you read it from Greek mythology, we could still come up with many different things and they would be both valid because there’s room for multiple interpretations. Just like in fandom. Which I thought was pretty cool. So, some of the fan podcasts, I don’t know if you’ve thought about this – I hadn’t. Just because the context is so Western. But some of the fan podcasts did point out the more problematic representations of different cultures in the Potterverse.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: So specifically, they spoke about goblins and how the goblins – like there’s a lack of Jewish characters in the Harry Potter books. I think there’s one – Anthony Goldstein. Which the Witch, Please episode pointed out. They’re both Jewish co-hosts in Witch, Please so they look at it through a Jewish lens. And they think that the goblins are a really anti-Semitic representation of what Orthodox Jewish people are supposed to be. And this is not something that I thought of growing up in India because we don’t have these cultural contexts that we think about.

Anna: Yeah, same here.

Parinita: Yeah. And centaurs as well. So the other episode that we listened to which talked about just indigenous people in the US, so like Native American cultures and you know their beliefs. Witch, Please also codes centaurs as indigenous people – all the tropes and stereotypes that are used about centaurs, which I’ll link to in the transcript – the episode. But I found that really interesting because it’s so contextual. Like you know the things that are written in a context that is not yours, you don’t know these things. But then just hearing discussions of things from people within those contexts, it’s just like this informal school on the internet. Which I love.

Anna: Yeah. Um hmm I agree because for many years, I didn’t even know what anti-Semitic means because I’m sure it happens here but that’s not something I ever encountered or even discussed with anyone. So when you mentioned and when I listened to the podcast and you know through many things that I’ve read you know through the years I was so shocked. I’m like that’s so – that’s offensive!

Parinita: Yeah! No, absolutely. And me too! I had not thought of this. I only discovered this within the last couple of years, I think. You know all these stereotypes that apparently people here – because now I’m currently in the UK. So there are apparently a lot of stereotypes about Jewish people.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But for me, I don’t even know what the stereotypes are. Because it’s not something that I’ve ever come across in India. So you know when there is something that people say is anti-Semitic because it perpetuates these stereotypes, I’m like, “Oh! I didn’t even know this was a stereotype about Jewish people!” Like I would have never made that connection.

Anna: Yeah. I only know one stereotype about them like with the money and something but I don’t even know the stereotype. It’s something I’ve heard maybe once or twice or I’ve seen on TV or something. And that blew my mind away. I was like oh my god – how is that even allowed to be a thing?! Like I don’t –

Parinita: That’s the thing. I think with J. K. Rowling, as you said, you know about the study that I’ve read as well, reading Harry Potter makes people like according to the study, more empathetic and respectful of different experiences. But I think that’s what the readers have taken from it. And what some of the readers have taken from it. Because now obviously fans are also calling out J. K. Rowling –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: For being unfair and unjust. Like you said, you know, fans stand up to injustice. The most recent ones of course have been about transphobia.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: But before that, on Pottermore, where she’d written about magic in North America. And the Reading, Writing, Rowling episode that we heard about “Fantasy, Imagination and Indigenous Futurism”.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: And that episode was so good because it was such a good encapsulation of all the arguments against Native appropriation that J. K. Rowling has done and she’s never apologized for it. She’s never even addressed the critiques. Because you would think when you have that much power and that much influence –

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: You do acknowledge your mistakes. Because obviously everybody makes mistakes. I think she can hire a research assistant. She has enough money to hire a research assistant and do the work for her.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: But she obviously just wants to write it all herself. But then she doesn’t put in the work, she doesn’t research the cultures that she’s talking about.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: So she just has this token diversity – like she’ll just have this mention of a diverse community or a diverse person but not actually go in-depth about anything. And anything that she does include is stereotypical. And is offensive.

Anna: Um hmm I agree. I think she used to put more work when – I’m not going to say that the fame got to her head, but maybe it did. What’s the quote? “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Parinita: [laughs]

Anna: Is that from Spider-man?

Parinita: Yeah.

Anna: I think.

Parinita: Yeah, yeah.

Anna: So you have so many people following you and loving your work and you know when you’ve done something wrong or even if you didn’t realise – when people are telling you that you know this is wrong, you shouldn’t be saying – don’t try to cover it up by adding something that does not follow up with what you’ve done already. Just to say that oh you know I fixed it. Just say you’re sorry and actually try to search in-depth what it is that people are telling you you’re doing wrong. And learn from it!

Parinita: And it’s not that difficult now. Like I understand when you were in the nineties and when she was writing these books, and there wasn’t this mainstream conversation about diversity. There wasn’t really the internet and social media where people from these marginalised backgrounds could talk back to creators and could insert their own opinions and perspectives. Which is what a lot of Native American fans from a lot of different Native American cultures have been calling her out. And obviously a lot of trans fans and trans allies have been calling her out for her really problematic views and what she’s said. But she doesn’t take stock of any of this. And she doesn’t acknowledge that, exactly as you said, that she has so much of a responsibility especially because I think like the Witch, Please episode pointed out, that the Harry Potter fandom seems to attract all these people who are on the margins of society in some way or the other. So a lot of queer fans, a lot of fans of colour, a lot of fans with disabilities and things. And if they except more from you because Harry Potter has played such an important part in their lives, I think you need to take that trust so seriously. You need to be accountable to them. Just because you are now this powerful person, that gives you more of a responsibility like you said. Now that you’re famous and so influential, you have to be more careful.

Anna: Yeah. And it’s heartbreaking because you know she created this beautiful world and she has an amazing imagination. And she’s brought so many people together. And now she’s doing all these things and it breaks my heart because you know I looked up to her because I love writing and I love creating things in my head and you know I was like oh that’s great. And she’s done all this charity. And now she’s [sighs] she’s letting go of all this because she’s not willing to study. And she doesn’t take into consideration what people are telling her.

Parinita: Yes, this absolutely shows, I think, just a lack of empathy.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: And just a failure of imagination to think about people who are not as privileged as you, how their lives are. Like I know she’s had a difficult life as a single mother and things. But there are people who are still having as and much more difficult lives that they are going through. And she’s not making it better.

Anna: Yeah.

Parinita: She’s making their lives inherently worse.

Anna: You manage – not you – like her – managed to get out of this difficult life she was living and now she has a voice. Why can’t she help other people? She’s done charity and everything but … ugh give your voice to the people who don’t have one. So when they tell you you’re doing something wrong, don’t beat around the bush. Just listen to what they say and just try to be better. Because you have the ability to do so. If you say you know oh I have made this mistake and I’m fixing it, because of who you are, people will listen. And that’s not something that happens very often.

Parinita: Some people listening to us and indeed this entire podcast may think, why do we hate the things we’re talking about so much?! All we do is critique them. But we’ve both talked about the positive impacts of fandom. And for me this podcast and like I said, just critiquing the things that I love, is very much a part of the love of the thing itself. What is the positive stuff that you’ve received from fandom?

Anna: Oh my god there’s so many. I have met some of my best friends because of fandom and the online community and social media thank god. I have met some great friends that I’ve met in real life as well. But one thing that I can say for sure, I’m gonna speak about Supernatural mostly.

Parinita: Um hmm.

Anna: Because of how great the family behind it is you know both cast, crew but also the online family. They got me into volunteering for a great organisation. It’s called I’m Alive. And it’s a crisis intervention hotline. But it’s mostly online and I got sponsored by Random Acts which is the nonprofit organization from one of the actors that play on Supernatural. And they paid for my training and now I’m volunteering every week online. And I think what’s great is that you can make a difference, you know actively make a difference. Because speaking and talking and you know preaching maybe is – is awesome and it can be very inspiring. But it’s not very often that you see people actively doing something and I think that even if it doesn’t come from the cast or the people who create the show, the actual community behind it can do so much good. So if there is a fandom or something that you love and you have found people behind it that you go along with then you’ve made friendships, try to do some good because there’s so many people behind a family and a fandom. It’s not just you. You all can make a difference. We all can make difference in this world and god knows, we need it.

Parinita: Absolutely. And that just sounds so amazing, the work that you do and the family that you’ve found through fandom. It’s something that I think I’ve read a lot about as well and it just makes me really so emotional

Anna: I know.

Parinita: Because for me just the internet and just being a part of the fandom has given me a lot in terms of how I think about things myself. And just you know expanded my mind in all these different ways. But then hearing stories like yours, and then there’s also I think John Green and Hank Green’s Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

Anna: Um hmm.

Parinita: They have a super awesome community as well who do a lot of volunteering and educational things. And I think there’s a Harry Potter group as well. Is it called Imagine Better?

Anna: No – I don’t know.

Parinita: I will have to look up the group which I’ll add to the text [it’s called The Harry Potter Alliance]. But I’m glad that just fandom brings all these people from such different backgrounds together to do things you would never have imagined yourself doing otherwise.

Anna: Yeah and it’s not just actively volunteering. Like the community itself can help people. You don’t have to pay money to do something. So you know Jared Padalecki who plays on Supernatural, he did this campaign a few years back. The Always Keep Fighting campaign. And I’m very sad I wasn’t around for it. But that phrase has helped so many people and it’s something that’s going around every day. Because I’m very involved in the fandom and I speak with people from it daily and we’ve made good friendships. But it’s not just the cast or the crew or whoever is creating this. It’s the people behind. And to see that you don’t have to pay money, you can just talk to someone because you both believe that you can always keep fighting and being strong and knowing that you’re not alone is so important. And you know just – keeping that in mind is a thing that’s very helpful and says a lot about the people behind the fandoms.

Parinita: I’m so glad I got a chance to talk to you about all the things but especially about just fandom and what it’s meant for you. Because to me, it just makes me so happy that there are so many different ways that you get joy and pleasure out of just being a fan online and things that wouldn’t have been possible without the internet and without discovering this community. Thank you so much Anna for being a part of this project and for talking to me about your experiences.

Anna: Thank you for having me!

[Outro music]

You’ve been listening to our episode on representations of gender and unfamiliar cultures. For anybody wondering, the non-profit group inspired by J. K. Rowling’s world that I was talking about but had forgotten the name of is called The Harry Potter Alliance. You can listen to the first four episodes of Marginally Fannish wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks again Anna for being such a fantastic person to talk to about some of my favourite things. And, as always, thank you Jack for taking care of the editing.

[Outro music]

You can now listen to Marginally Fannish on Spotify, Apple, Google, or SoundCloud. I’d love to hear from you and talk to you – so any feedback, comments or critiques are very welcome! Get in touch with me on social media, leave a comment on my blog, or email me at edps@leeds.ac.uk. If you’d like to follow the podcast or the PhD project, visit my website marginallyfannish.org where you’ll find both the podcast episodes and the blog. You can also receive updates on Facebook or Instagram at Marginally Fannish or on Twitter where I’m @MarginalFannish. If you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with anyone you think will enjoy it too.

Thanks for listening! Tune in again next time for all things fannish and intersectional!

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