One of the aspects I flesh out in my essay is the concept of “politics of viewing,” which I pose as a theoretical model for thinking about Black fans’ engagement with, reception and discussion of contemporary television in the age of digital and social media. I argue that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook afford Black fans’ spaces they can transform into Black counter-publics. Black counter-publics have been historically constituted within Black institutions such as Black churches, activist organizations, and press and their purpose has been to provide spaces in which to engage in everyday discussion of Black experience outside the purview of out-group members and serves as the foundation for the formation of Black political thought and collective identities. The critical difference between traditional Black counter-publics and the new ones that are facilitated by new media is that they are not hidden from view of non-Blacks. In the context of new media, I contend, Black fans carve out a Black counter-public in which they utilize the written word, images, and audio-visuals to express and make visible their pleasures and to engage in debates about and critiques of specific media texts and their consumers. It is a process whereby Black fans are cognizant of and attempt to negotiate their relationship to a given media text and reconcile that with perceptions of how others can potentially view the media text. The politics of viewing manifests as what Stuart Hall calls a “critical politics” that goes beyond an evaluation of whether a particular image is “positive” or “negative” and therefore either “good” or “bad” for Blacks.

Dayna Chatman in a conversation on the state of fandom studies.

Henry Jenkins is currently facilitating/hosting a whole bunch of these conversations on his blog. We’ll keep posting highlights, and they’re definitely worth checking out in their entirety if you want to know what’s happening in fandom studies right now.

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