People can be a fan of just about anything, and students at Ohio State are looking to figure out why.
The Fan Studies Student Association at OSU is a student organization dedicated to studying and discussing fandom. Fandom is a subculture composed of fans that feel a passion and common interest toward a movie, book or book series, television show, celebrity or other subjects. This passion is commonly expressed through fan fiction, role-playing, fan videos, languages and other mediums.
The organization is only a few months old, going hand in hand with the topic of fan studies, an area of research that has only recently been explored.
“It’s still so new. As far as being able to point to an existing discipline called ‘fan studies,’ that’s only been possible for a couple of decades,” said Marisa Wieneke, a fourth-year in comparative studies and a member of the organization.
Members come from different majors and backgrounds, some interested in studying fandom but all with the common thread of being fans themselves.
“We try to do activities that are specifically geared toward researchers in fan studies and also stuff that is of interest to people that may consider themselves more fans than fan studies scholars, but are interested in talking about fan culture,” said Caroline Toy, a graduate student in comparative studies and president of the organization.
Currently, the group is preparing for an upcoming reading group facilitated via Skype by Lori Morimoto, an OSU alumna. The group sessions will discuss essays on fan studies, works by fans about fandoms and related readings, Toy said.
Wieneke’s research will be featured in an upcoming fan foods event on April 9, where the club will discuss and sample foods from certain fandoms. An example of this would be butterbeer from Harry Potter.
“We’re kind of using my thesis work to explore fandom and food and how people create foods, whether they exist in their (fan) universe or just remind them of the universe that they really like; really how they make them and interact with them and using food to interact with their fandom,” Wieneke said.
Looking ahead, the organization has set goals for what it would like to accomplish in the future.
“We would like to do more low-key events, like eventually getting together to watch a movie and then discuss reaction to it,” Toy said. “We won’t be a movie-watching club per se, but we watch the movie and then we talk about all the stuff that’s been going on around social media about the movie.”
The organization plans to reach out to other groups with similar interests.
“We’ve also talked about the potential to co-sponsor events with or reach out in various ways to other fan-ish student organizations,” said Sarah Dunlap, a graduate student in English and the organization’s treasurer. “There’s a bunch of different student organizations, like the anime club, the board games club, the sci fi club; there’s all these different groups that we think it would be really cool to connect with.”
The organization also hopes to compile a list of courses offered by the university that relate to fandom, along with a list of professors that consider themselves fans, Dunlap said.
“There wasn’t anything like a home base for fan studies here, so we started this group to try and provide something like that,” Dunlap said.
More information on the Fan Studies Student Association can be found on its Tumblr and Facebook page.