As a professor, I often supervise undergraduates who are interested in fan studies topics, often as independent studies or senior theses. Some of these students want to go on to do graduate work in fan studies–but that can be complicated, because fan studies is such an interdisciplinary subject. So I ask them: do they just want to continue studying fandom in an organized way, or are they considering grad school because they actually want to get a job / earn a living as a scholar or teacher? Let’s ignore the state of the market in higher ed (many ugh, much gross) for the moment, and talk purely about the intellectual issues involved in studying fandom.

Like, for instance, there really aren’t fan studies departments per se (and few institutions even have television studies) and hiring is still overwhelmingly a departmental thing. (That’s changing, but academia isn’t known for its lightning-fast pivots.)  So what department would you looking to be hired into?  Students often don’t know–they like literary study, they like media and communications, they like television and film, they like anthropology.  So I ask them the question another way: if you got hired as a professor, what introductory courses do you think you’d enjoy teaching? Are your bread and butter courses going to be, say, Intro to British Literature I and II or Media and Society? Or maybe it would be Intro to Anthropology or Intro to Film Studies. Maybe it would be some form of Rhetoric and Composition.  It might also be Intro to Marketing–some of the people most interested in fandom studies are business or economics professors, looking to better understand consumer behavior.  

But the larger point is: few professors get to teach their exact areas of specialization all the time, and most professors teach one or more of their department’s intro courses. (You might also end up teaching high school: how does your fan studies interest overlap with a high school’s curricular needs?) So don’t just think about your research interest when you’re considering graduate schools and departments: think about how your research interests fit into and overlap with the broad knowledge base that you’ll need for a degree and a career. 

–Francesca Coppa, Fanhackers volunteer

Back to school edition: “So you want to be a Fan Studies scholar?” (aka “My 2¢, YMMV”)