There’s a certain propriety to the fact that I’m sitting in an apartment in Kyoto, Japan, as I write this post. Three and a half years ago, on a Fulbright Fellowship to Doshisha University in Kyoto, faced with a lot of free time and nothing in particular with which to fill it other than reading manga, biking around the city, and searching for interesting things on the internet, I fell (back) into fandom, and thence into the Organization for Transformative Works. I didn’t know it then, but that was a transformative moment for me.
But let me back up for a second. Greetings, salutations, and hello! 日本語が話す方に、初めまして！My name is Andrea Horbinski, and I am an academic in training, a historian, and a fan. I’m also a member of the OTW’s International Outreach committee, and I’m very excited to begin blogging for Transformative Works and Cultures‘ Symposium blog!
So, let me give you a bit of an extended self-introduction. At the moment I’m a Ph.D. student in modern Japanese history at the University of California, Berkeley, with hopes of writing a history of manga for my dissertation. Manga, you say? You mean Japanese comics? Yes and yes. Watching anime in high school–are there any Revolutionary Girl Utena or Outlaw Star fans around?–got me into Japanese language classes at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, where I eventually got my degree in both Classics and Asian Studies. My Fulbright Fellowship after college saw me researching hypernationalist manga in Doshisha’s media studies department, and I’m in the history department at Berkeley now, so as you can tell, I’m someone who believes passionately in the virtues of interdisciplinary approaches!
My fannish curriculum vitae, as it were, is also a patchwork. I’ve been watching and reading science fiction and fantasy since about the age of four, but despite putting a few toes into Star Wars fandom when the first of the prequel movies came out, anime was the first thing I self-defined as a fan of, in high school, followed by manga in college. I still think of myself as an anime and manga fan first, but over the past few years I’ve greatly enjoyed expanding my fannish interests beyond anime and manga back into book and media fandoms, and my fannish output beyond AMVs into fanfiction and vids. It would take too long to give you a full list of my abiding fannish obsessions, but I have to mention Star Trek as well as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings as well as Harry Potter and the Young Wizards, the manga of CLAMP and Urasawa Naoki and Arakawa Hiromu, just to give you a sense of my interests. Some of my current fannish obsessions are CLAMP’s new manga Gate 7, the Narnia books and movies, the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, Doctor Who and X-Men: First Class, and I’ve been watching the Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime in utter fascination.
For me, the passion of fandom is a necessary part of my academic work, and the insights I’ve gained through fandom into a wealth of topics and issues, including history and writing (about) history, are invaluable. I’ll be writing from Kyoto, where I’m studying classical Japanese, for the rest of the summer before heading back to California for another full year of reading, writing, watching and working. I don’t know what exactly I’ll write about yet, but I’m hoping to give back a little of the enriched perspective I’ve gained here on the blog, and I’m very much looking forward to the conversations that will undoubtedly arise from writing and reading here, both online and in person. So, until then!