The racial dynamics within Swan Queen fandom and the fault lines therein, as a case study, serve to highlight this contradiction between inclusion and everyday racial erasure that is part and parcel of fannish spaces. Certain fan practices, as we have underlined in our analysis, can constitute negotiations with such erasure—sometimes by reclaiming a favorite character as emphatically not white, through the creative reworking of canon in meta and fan works that engage explicitly with racial identity. Indeed, as the case of the Swan Queen fandom suggests, such negotiation and engagement makes for an integral part of fannish practice.

Pande, Rukmini and Swati Moitra. 2017. “Racial dynamics of online femslash fandoms.” In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24.

For anyone steeped in the social justice discourse of Tumblr, it comes as no surprise that fan communities talk about issues of race, both in mainstream media and within fandom itself. We get it right, we get it wrong, we call each other out, we get defensive, hopefully togther, over time, we get better. In this paper, Rukmini Pande and Swati Moitra bring these fannish activities and dynamics to the attention of fan studies scholars. Fan studies has long viewed fan fiction (and particularly slash) as resistant and subversive, mainly based on its engagement with gender and sexuality. It has paid little attention to fan fiction’s engagement with issues of race. Pande and Moitra argue that this is a gap in the field that needs to be addressed using an interserctional approach[1]. Using the case study of the SwanQueen pairing in Once Upon a Time fandom against a backdrop of the history of other femslash ships which have engaged with issues of race, they show how fans struggle with and negotiate issues of race, gender and sexuality in intersectional ways in their fiction and practices. The paper showcases a range of fannish voices, quoting extensively from meta, fic, and discussions.

[1] Intersectionality is the idea (first developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw) that different kinds of oppression combine to affect us in very specific ways. Racism and misogyny, for instance, exacerbate each other and affect women of colour in ways that aren’t reducible to just one or the other. Black women’s experience of the intersection of racism and misogyny is called misogynoir (first coined by Moya Bailey and developed further by Trudy of Gradient Lair). Similarly, trans women’s experience of the intersection of transphobia and misogyny is called transmisogyny (coined by Julia Serrano). (Apologies for the slight detour into Social Justice 101 here – feedback on whether it was useful would be very welcome.)

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