Fandom Without Borders: The Liminal Spaces for Identity Construction Online
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The digital world is no locus of conviviality. When thinking of the potential of the Internet as a global space, the fallacy of conviviality is often enacted. The last 20 years, particularly after the expansion of social media platforms in the early 2000s, started to cement the perception of hyper-connectivity. Hyper-connectivity, in what could transcend socio-cultural markers, was seen as exemplary of Internet’s capabilities for improvement of 21st century societies. Lisa Nakamura, already argued against this idea of digital utopia and has proven in several of her works that national borders, racial systems and sexual normativity, as identity categories, are very much present online. This utopia, as a fallacy, presented itself in the duality of, on the one hand, the view of the Internet as not only stripped from identity categories but also as an space separated from and unmediated by the offline context; and in the imagination of the incarnation of Haraway’s cyborg in contemporary Internet users. A more functional perspective, however, is to think of the Internet as a liminal space between the offline context and the need for superation. In this liminality social categories and conditions are reinterpreted within the discourses and practices of the communities online. That means that categories as race or sexuality are still present but in forms that serve better Internet users. The purpose of this project touches on several interrelated processes: online borders, liminality and online identity. The aim here is to analyze how online community borders, liminal spaces and identity on the Internet work collaboratively into creating the conditions that perform sexual identity online. I want to start with the idea of diffused borders between analog and virtual realities. I will argue that they do not exist on the side or opposed to one another, but that that they continually communicate and construct each other. Particularly, I will be interested in the formation of the identity of fans through the work of @perseopy in Anti-heroe JK!. In this webcomic the identity of the fan and the identity of the queer commute into the practices of the fan within their community, in this case, that of imposing a non-normative identity upon BTS band members Jeon Jungkook and Park Jimin. I will be drawing from Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities as well as Howard Rheingold work on online communities to construct this analysis. Within these communities, moreover, identity categories are re-signified and users agentively construct their personas. They still use the same markers of race, nationality or sexuality to present themselves, but within the nuance of their activity online and what serves best the purpose of their Internet activities. I draw from Judith Butler’s work on performativity as well as post-humanist theory (primarily Hayles, Haraway and Sedgwick) into understanding the connection of the online hidden body and the identity performativity into constructing online identities.