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Research at St Andrews

Katarina Helene Skouveroe Birkedal


Research overview

Most stories told in popular culture can be understood as militarised narratives; 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, are militarised popular culture narratives experienced by those who embody them in cosplay? 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 Otherness, and the social legitimation of that performance, results in the cosplayer’s embodiment of those gendered aesthetics becoming a site of resistance. In order to investigate this, I used autoethnography to observed 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 reappropriation 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.

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