Resistance, reproduction, attachment : unsettling gender through cosplay
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Most stories told in popular culture can be understood as being embedded in martial politics, or as militarised; as violent, gendered narratives that invest and are invested in normalising traditional normative social orders. Cosplay – a portmanteau of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’ – is the act of dressing up as and imitating characters from popular culture, most commonly at fan conventions. The cosplayer becomes immersed in the narrative and the character. How, then, can we understand how the martial discourses of popular culture is enacted upon and by the body through cosplay? (How) can this enactment and embodiment be theorised as a form of resistance? What is the intersection between the desirability of these aesthetically gendered narratives, and the pleasure of the embodiment? These embodiments are often described as engendering a sense of liberation and empowerment in the cosplayer. I argue that the affective physicality of the performance of an-other, and the social legitimation of that performance, results in the cosplayer’s embodiment of those gendered aesthetics becoming a site of resistance. Furthermore, I argue that in this embodiment of an-other, the very notion of a stable self breaks apart, as the feeling-with the character engenders a reflexive dissonance that destabilises the dichotomy between self and other. In order to investigate this, I used autoethnography to observe the affects of this process on myself, as well as noting the behaviour and comments of others I encountered at fan conventions, and on online cosplay communities. I investigate this (re)appropriation of the hegemonic culturally produced desire for the gendered, militarised aesthetics by the core consumers of these aesthetic narratives, arguing that the cosplayer’s embodiment of militarised narratives becomes a form of what I term resistance within reproduction.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-08-13
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 13th August 2024
Description of related resourcesResistance, reproduction, attachment: unsettling gender through cosplay (thesis data) Birkedal, K.H.S., University of St Andrews. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17630/c3e330f5-a217-4660-ac4f-0cd57004a256
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