Praxis

Rhetorical moves in disclosing fan identity in fandom scholarship

Adrienne E. Raw

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

[0.1] Abstract—The position of the acafan in fan studies remains under negotiation, and authors must make choices about if and how identities as fans are disclosed within scholarship. An analysis of sixty-nine articles published in Transformative Works and Cultures identified the rhetorical moves made when disclosing fan identities and assessed the trends in these disclosures that are present across a sample of fan studies scholarship. These moves of disclosure facilitate rhetorical identification between author and audience, enable negotiation of overlapping fan and scholar identities, and demonstrate a valuing of fan identities in scholarship. The question of disclosing fannish identity reflects the ongoing evolutions of the role of acafandom and questions about the intersections of identity and scholarship. Making choices and practices explicit and visible will help acafans continue to examine the dual position of fan and scholar and will help better reflect the balance between the two.

[0.2] Keywords—Acafandom; Consubstantiality; Identification; Methodology

Raw, Adrienne E. 2020. "Rhetorical Moves in Disclosing Fan Identity in Fandom Scholarship." In "Fan Studies Methodologies," edited by Julia E. Largent, Milena Popova, and Elise Vist, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 33. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2020.1731.

1. Introduction

[1.1] I am a participant in online fandom, and I have been since elementary school: I read and write fan fiction, maintain a fannish Tumblr, and frequently reblog meta about my favorite fandoms. But I am also becoming a fan studies scholar, and that has required a rethinking of my relationships with both fandom and scholarship. As part of this process, I asked myself the question that I investigate in this article: How do acafans, as fans and as scholars, negotiate talking about our fan identities in our scholarship about fandom?

[1.2] To form my own practice of disclosing and discussing my fan identity in my scholarship, I turned to the fan studies scholars who had come before me and their approaches to this question of disclosure. This article shares the results of that research. In the first section, I explore the complicated relationship between fandom, fan studies scholarship, and acafandom that has served as the exigence for my research. Next, I briefly outline my study of fan scholars' practices of disclosure of fan identities and the theoretical framework of my analysis for this project. In my first sections of analysis, I consider in greater depth four rhetorical moves that fan studies scholars make when we explicitly disclose our identities as fans within our research: (1) claiming an identity as a fan, (2) elaborating on particular activity as a fan, (3) delimiting fan identity, and (4) constructing research methods and conclusions. In my final section of analysis, I share some broader trends in the disclosure of fan identity across my sample and speculate on the implications of these trends. Uniting these analyses, I argue that disclosures of fan identity facilitate rhetorical identification, in the Burkean model, between author and audience, which both enables negotiation of fan and scholar identities and functions persuasively within the texts.

[1.3] While I cannot and do not claim to know what individual scholars intend in their choices around disclosing identities as fans, I argue that trends in these disclosures can help us understand the nature and boundaries of identities as academic fans and the ways we value those identities in scholarship. Personally, knowing both the options and trends within this scholarly community helps me determine how I will disclose my own fan identity in my scholarship.

2. Fandom, fan studies, and acafandom

[2.1] The choices scholars make about our disclosures of fan identity are rooted, in part, in the history of fan studies as a field and in the field's relationship with the objects, people, and communities we study. Fandom has a complicated relationship with fan studies, driven in part by several notable and criticized forays into fandom on the part of academia. Despite the open access of many online fan archives, fans continue to see their spaces as private ones inhabited solely by fans. Tensions arise when outsiders, often academics, are seen to infringe on these spaces. A notable example is 2009's SurveyFail when a pair of researchers began a project to study fannish practices around arousal and erotica as a way to discuss the differences between male and female brains (Fanlore 2018b). Fans almost universally condemned the endeavor as intrusive, offensive, and ethically problematic. More recently, in 2015, controversy sparked when a fan fiction author discovered that one of their stories had been put on a class syllabus along with stories from several other authors and that students were required to comment on fic as part of the class. Authors of these stories only learned of the class when they began receiving comments atypical of normal fannish conventions—comments some authors characterized as insulting, upsetting, or trollish (Fanlore 2018c; Kelley 2016). In both cases, fans were troubled by the work of academia opening up what they saw as the closed fan community to outsider critique—what Marwick and boyd (2010) would call "context collapse" wherein a person's work becomes visible to audiences they didn't intend and couldn't imagine.

[2.2] Insider research seems like an apt solution to the problems highlighted in an outsider approach to fandom scholarship, though the insider/outsider binary itself is more complex, interconnected, and fluid than the terms imply (for example, Narayan 1993). However, the academic/scholar fan, often shortened to acafan, is the subject of its own debate within fan studies scholarship (Fanlore 2018a). The term itself is the subject of negotiation (see approaches by Baym 2000; Hills 2002; Jenkins 2013), though it is generally agreed that acafans have relationships to our texts and fandom communities of study outside of our research, complicating the insider/outsider binary by acknowledging both positions within a single individual. Over the decades, both fans and scholars have negotiated the concept of acafandom. Fans have raised the ever-present specter of misinterpretation and exploitation and have critiqued acafandom for attempting to generalize singular or limited experiences to the broader fandom context or develop a truth that applies to all of fandom (Fanlore 2018a; Ingram-Waters 2010). Scholars have similarly debated the ethics of acafandom, its potential to obscure personal motivations influencing the research, who the label includes and excludes, and the potential homogenizing effects of attaching a label to a spectrum of perspectives and experiences (see Jenkins 2011 blog series "Aca-Fandom and Beyond" for perspectives from over thirty fan studies scholars). Recent scholarship has also considered the ways other identities, such as pregnancy (Ingram-Waters 2010) and race (Wanzo 2015), are implicated in conversations about and practices within acafandom.

[2.3] As the call for this issue highlights, fan studies remains an interdisciplinary field characterized by scholars and approaches that come from diverse fields, from media studies and library science to law and classical studies. Each of these fields has their own approaches to the role of the researcher and the ethics of researcher positionality, all of which might inflect the work scholars do when we write about fandom. As recent conversations suggest, fan studies has become increasingly interested in the role this interdisciplinarity might play in the "undisciplined" (Ford 2014, 54) nature of our discipline. These recent conversations include discussion of the ethics of researching in fan spaces and the question of disclosure of an identity as a researcher when working with fans (Cristofari and Guitton 2017; Kelley 2016; Musiani 2011). I believe it is equally important to consider the other side of this equation: if and how we disclose our identities as fans when doing scholarship.

[2.4] The position of the acafan in fan studies remains one under negotiation. As we continue this negotiation as a scholarly community, and as individual scholars negotiate our own approaches to disclosing fan identities within our research, it is necessary to examine current trends around these disclosures and consider what those trends might imply about the role of the acafan in fan studies scholarship. I argue that making explicit our practices around disclosing fan identities will highlight (1) the ways in which these identities are rhetorically leveraged in our scholarship and (2) the ongoing uncertainty around whether and how we negotiate identities as both fans and scholars.

3. Identification and consubstantiality

[3.1] Kenneth Burke's theory of rhetoric as identification offers useful insight into this confluence of the acafan as an identity (or identities) and its rhetorical expression in fan studies scholarship. The theory, outlined in A Rhetoric of Motives (1969), argues that the success of persuasive appeals requires some degree of consubstantiality between the speaker/writer and the audience: they must be both "joined and separate" (21) in that they share or are persuaded that they share interests, yet remain unique individuals. This consubstantiality facilitates identification between the speaker/writer and their audience, which serves persuasive function by establishing lines of commonality and division. As I argue in this article, scholars' disclosures of their identities as fans have rhetorical purpose, establishing consubstantial relationships between acafans and readers that identify shared interests as fans and both delineate and bring together identities as fan and scholar. The intertwined nature of identification and division is key to Burke's theory of rhetoric as identification, and in a fan studies context with a history of tension between fandom and academia, this frame helps deconstruct the rhetorical negotiation of acafan disclosures.

4. Methods

[4.1] For this study, I collected sixty-nine articles from eight volumes of Transformative Works and Cultures published between 2016 and 2018. To identify places where authors might have made statements about their identities as fans, I searched each article for uses of personal pronouns (I, me, my, mine, us, we, our, ours). In each instance, I examined the sentence where the pronoun occurred to determine whether it constituted a disclosure of fan identity (note 1). For each statement of disclosure, I coded the statement for the rhetorical purpose it seemed to serve within the author's text, using approaches of discourse analysis that attend to both the linguistic features of the text and its social structuring and context (Fairclough 2003). Using an initial pool of coded articles from a single volume of Transformative Works and Cultures, I categorized the statements into four rhetorical moves that authors make when disclosing their identity as fans: (1) claiming an identity as a fan, (2) elaborating on particular activity as a fan, (3) delimiting fan identity, and (4) constructing research methods and conclusions. This codebook was the basis for coding articles from an additional seven volumes of the journal; the four rhetorical moves were further refined and defined during this coding process, particularly as statements blurred the boundaries between the categories. When coding such statements that might serve multiple purposes, I coded for the primary purpose of the statement. For example, a statement might elaborate on the author's participation as a fan, but if the purpose of the elaboration was to provide a personal example that supported an author's central argument, I coded that statement as constructing research methods and conclusions rather than specifying particular activity as a fan. Though I have coded for the primary rhetorical move being made with each statement to create the quantitative analysis in section 9, I do acknowledge that many statements might be argued to serve multiple purposes, and I take this as a demonstration that fan identities and disclosures of those identities do not work independently of the article in which they occur or of other statements made within an argument. In selecting quotes to exemplify each rhetorical move, I also acknowledge that some examples blur the boundaries between two categories; their inclusion in one category or another does not imply that they might not also function rhetorically in ways that are not represented in the category in which they are presented as examples.

[4.2] In the following sections I examine each rhetorical move in greater detail and identify the purpose each move might serve within a text through close reading of several examples.

[4.3] Before I do so, I acknowledge here that not all fans will disclose their fan identities in scholarship; indeed, the work of many fan studies scholars implies at least some measure of identity as participants in fandom, even if just as lurkers, through the authors' familiarity with fandom and its conventions. In this article, I focus specifically on explicit identifications as a fan or member of the fan community in order to consider the rhetorical purposes of such claims to a fan identity (which are more evident in explicit statements) and because I argue that trends in the use or foregoing of such statements is evidence of fan studies scholars' stances toward acafandom. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider the ways in which fan identities might be implied in scholarship or the ways such identities might influence scholarship even though not explicitly stated; however, such a study would, I believe, be a fruitful complement to the work I present here.

5. Move: Claiming identity

[5.1] The first rhetorical move I identify in statements of disclosure is a straightforward claim to an identity as a fan. In these typically short statements, authors disclose their identity as fans or participants within a fan community; statements are often generic and without any other elaboration. The following are three examples of this type of disclosure from three different articles in my sample:

[5.2] In my time spent playing, three different players have held the peak score: MJFHMATT, who left the game in October 2015 (https://www.reddit.com/r/starwarstrader/comments/3pui62/a_hero_has_left/); GEBEAU31, who purchased MJFHMATT's account and transferred most of its contents (note 2); and PARMTHEPOM, who emerged as an extraordinarily heavy spender in late 2015 and took over the top score on December 29 (https://www.reddit.com/r/starwarstrader/comments/3yobbm/a_new_100/). (Groskopf 2016, ¶2.4, emphasis added)

[5.3] Writing from my position as a fan, I will identify general trends in how fans are appropriating and queering Monster High, and how Mattel has responded to these fan practices. (Austin 2016, ¶ 2.1, emphasis added)

[5.4] In the spirit of Brittany Kelley's (2016) recent work on cultivating goodwill through online research, I hope to stress my presence as a participant in the Tumblr community and not simply a lurker mining data for publications. (Howard 2017, ¶ 3.1, emphasis added)

[5.5] In each of these examples, the authors use short, simple statements to claim identities as fans. Austin's claim—"writing from my position as a fan" (2016, ¶2.1)—and Howard's—"my presence as a participant in the Tumblr community"(2017, ¶3.1)—are more direct, but Groskopf's disclosure—"in my time spent playing" (2016, ¶2.4)—serves a similar function. These statements allow each author to explicitly claim an identity as a fan. The disclosures foster identification between an audience interested in fandom and an author who speaks from a position within the community. The audience is invited to share in the author's fan identity through the explicit recognition of that identity, positioning the author and the audience within a shared group of fandom members. The brevity of such statements may not create a strong identification; however, these disclosures do facilitate a nascent consubstantial relationship, even in articles where the author's fan identity is not heavily leveraged in the work. Establishing these identifications and relationships must thus be important to the persuasive work of these articles, perhaps because of the necessity to draw together disparate groups within fan studies scholarship and to bridge between fandom and academia.

[5.6] These statements may also function to establish an author's initial authority to be writing in and making arguments about fan spaces. These statements position the author as a member of the fan community about which they are writing and thereby imply that the claim the author makes is afforded additional support because of a fannish insider identity in addition to a scholarly identity. In linking her claim to fan identity with the overview of her argument, Austin's (2016) statement, for example, implies to other scholars that her identifications of trends in the Monster High fandom and her conclusions about those trends come from a place of experience and expertise. This expertise might lend additional authority to her arguments among her scholarly audience.

[5.7] Howard's (2017) statement makes a similar move in explicitly claiming an identity as fan, and her statement also speaks to the persuasive potential of the interrelation of identification and authority. Howard invokes Kelley's (2016) call for an ethic of goodwill in doing scholarship in online fan communities, and by claiming an identity as a fan within her community of study, Howard simultaneously signals her support for this call as a scholar and an authority to speak about fandom that comes from an identity as a fan. Her statements thus facilitate identification on the dimensions of scholarly and fan commonalities, drawing together communities that might be otherwise divided.

[5.8] As these statements show, the rhetorical move of claiming an identity as a fan facilitates identification between the author and their audience, establishing a space of shared interest in fandom community membership. By highlighting a fan identity within a scholarly space, these disclosures create consubstantial relationships that acknowledge both the fan and scholarly audiences of the article by explicitly calling out commonalities with both dimensions of acafandom while acknowledging the divisions that might exist between these identities. This identification may also allow fan studies scholars to claim the ethical space of an insider position within fandom and imply an added level of expertise that that position might grant to our arguments and conclusions. The relationship between an author's claim to identity and their argument can also be made more explicitly, as I discuss in section 8. The claiming of any fan identity, as authors do in these examples and in the examples in the rest of this article, signals that fans and their experiences and voices are valued in scholarship and that, as a scholarly community, we value fans as both community members and scholars.

6. Move: Elaborating on fan activity

[6.1] A second rhetorical move made in statements disclosing fan identity elaborates on that identity with descriptions of the author's participation in a fannish activity. These descriptions offer further, often specific, detail about online activities such as the creation of fan works such as fan fiction or fan vids and offline activities such as attendance at fan conferences. The following are two examples of this type of statement from my sample:

[6.2] As a teenaged white lesbian fan who fell hard for Sailor Moon (1995–2000) after an accidental Cartoon Network viewing on a family vacation in the late 1990s, American otakudom of this time is where I wrote and read my first slash, or yaoi, fiction, watched untold numbers of anime music videos (AMVs), reclaimed childhood sewing skills for use in cosplay, and met a great number of good friends. (Close 2016, ¶1.5)

[6.3] When trading, I have been exposed to both the good and bad citizens of the game. In my first encounter with a young man who wanted to trade, he purposely exchanged a common card with me for a rare card before I was aware of the meaning of the symbols. He then did the same with another group of new sorcerers. His mother looked on and seemed pleased by his duplicitous behavior; no doubt, fandom is made of people, with "all their imperfections as well as their strengths" (Coppa 2014, 77). (Baker 2016, ¶4.2)

[6.4] In some cases these statements serve as the only disclosure of a fan identity, while in others they serve to establish deeper consubstantial relationships and more nuanced identifications than the simpler claims discussed in section 5. Close's (2016) statement, for example, gives readers details of her fandom experiences—the show she watched, the fiction she wrote, the cosplay she participated in—which both establishes an identity as a participant in fandom and demonstrates her particular expertise with the otakudom that is the subject of her research. Her statement thus establishes a strong identification with not only fandom in general but with the particular fandom of Sailor Moon. The details of Close's fannish activities invite readers into her experiences, enabling both identification with her identity as a fan and the persuasive use of that identity to establish her authority to comment on this fandom.

[6.5] Baker (2016) similarly demonstrates expertise by narrating a specific experience within the trading card fandoms. This experience of not knowing the rules of the fandom—an experience that is common to newcomers in any fandom—enables readers to identify with Baker as a new fan and calls to mind their own experiences as newcomers to fandom. Whether coming to fandom as a fan or as a scholar seeking to study the communities, the experience of learning the rules is a shared one that can be leveraged to enable identification. Both narrations of specific experiences, as Baker does, and more general declarations of activity, as Close (2016) does, are present as moves of elaborating on fan activity within my sample. These statements identify the author as an active participant in fan spaces and, by allowing readers to see inside the authors' fan experiences, thus facilitate a deeper identification than simpler claims to fan identity. Like claims to fan identity, they facilitate consubstantial relationships that highlight commonalities in shared fan identities and experiences, demonstrate knowledge about this particular fan community to enhance the authority of an author's arguments, and establish the necessary scholarly expertise in the space to offer critique and commentary.

7. Move: Delimiting fan identity

[7.1] Disclosing and elaborating on a fan identity can also be done in such a way as to put clear boundaries around authors' experiences—to create the divisions inherent in rhetorical identification. Such delimiting moves can include, for example, referencing the number of years an author has been a fan, identifying specific fandoms or fan spaces from which their experience is drawn, and defining their fan identity within particular geographic boundaries. Though both elaborating and delimiting moves similarly enable identification, they emphasize different dimensions of this rhetorical function. Where elaborating on fan identity highlights commonalities, delimiting fan identity can establish divisions by more clearly attending to the boundaries between groups based on experience, interest, and authority. This difference is evident in examples of this rhetorical move:

[7.2] Although my own engagement with Hannibal fan blogs on Tumblr involved reblogging the posts of others, which could be viewed as form of participation within a fan community, I did not engage in any conversation or reciprocal posting and reblogging with any other fans. In this, I acted as a lone fan—that is, someone who does not engage in dialogue with other fans in fannish spaces, even though such fans may visit such sites and recirculate content created by others. (Williams 2018, ¶1.4, emphasis added)

[7.3] Personally, I consider myself a novice Sherlockian fan, just a few years into the Game that many play for a lifetime, and I am most familiar with the North American fan community. (Donley 2017, ¶14.2, emphasis added)

[7.4] Much like statements that elaborate on fan activity, these statements enable identification by claiming identities as fans and offering details that deepen the consubstantial relationship between the author and the audience. However, unlike elaborations, these delimiting statements negotiate identification by emphasizing boundaries. Williams (2018), for example, establishes clear boundaries on her fan identity by highlighting a lack of active participation in fan conversation. Her audience can still identify with her as a fan, but their attention is also drawn to the differences that make her distinct from them and from other fans.

[7.5] Statements that delimit fan identity can also serve to productively detract from the author's perceived authority or expertise. Donley (2017), for example, claims a fan identity as a "novice"—itself delimiting identifier—by referencing her limited length of membership in the community ("just a few years into the Game") and her limited geographical context. She marks herself as potentially less of an expert and highlights factors which seem to detract from the authority of her arguments. These moves, then, seem to function as identifications also for acafans' scholarly audiences, highlighting the potential limitations of our arguments and the ways in which our own experiences do not fully encompass what is happening in the community. This identification can then also be a persuasive move in signaling a self-reflexive and critical understanding of our scholarship—an expression of goodwill toward both fan and scholarly identities. By explicitly limiting our claimed authority, authors might be using these statements to facilitate identification with a scholarly community that values acknowledging limitations and an implicit willingness for further discussion.

[7.6] The identification enabled by these statements can thus facilitate negotiation of both fan and scholarly identities, allowing the establishment of consubstantial relationships from both these perspectives in ways that persuasively advance acafans' arguments. Authors' moves to delimit our fan identities may reinforce our ethos within the fan community (and within an academic community composed of many scholars who are also fans) by signaling to fans that authors acknowledge our inability to speak for all of fandom. We can read this acknowledgement as a recognition of the contentious history of fan/scholar relations and an attempt by scholar fans to avoid the impression that we are attempting to generalize our experience to the entire community. Thus, statements that put boundaries on authors' fan identities facilitate identification of both experience within fandom and respect for the ethical negotiation of fan and scholarly communities.

8. Move: Constructing research methods and conclusions

[8.1] The final rhetorical move I will discuss is the leveraging of a fan identity to construct research methodologies, arguments, and conclusions. In this type of statement, authors explicitly use fan identities as part of their data collection (e.g., reaching out to fan authors they know from a mailing list), as an example in support of a particular argument, and to justify conclusions they make in their scholarship. In this section I discuss each scenario of this rhetorical move.

[8.2] First, scholars leverage our fan identities to justify or facilitate research methods:

[8.3] The recruitment request for participants was shared on my personal fandom (Sherlock) Twitter account and Tumblr. A few participants were in my own personal network and joined to help me out with this study while others saw my call through our shared network. (Petersen 2017, ¶4.2)

[8.4] As an author of homoaffection fic, I reached out to my community for fic that fit within the genre. I selected examples for this paper by sharing a post with the Star Trek fan community on Tumblr, describing the type of fic I was looking for and asking for recommendations. Within a week I had been sent over 30 examples. (Narai 2017, ¶2.2)

[8.5] As Petersen (2017) and Narai (2017) do in the above examples, authors can use existing personal relationships to find research participants and/or use existing fandom-focused accounts to recruit participants. Petersen, for example, shared a request for participants on her fandom-focused Twitter and Tumblr accounts, while Narai used her status as a fan fiction writer to reach out to her community for data to use in her research. These statements often explicitly describe how a fan identity contributed to the researcher's awareness of how to conduct research and where to locate research subjects or research material or helped the researcher gather those subjects or materials for study. Statements that explicitly lay out this connection between an author's fan identity and research methods provide transparency into the author's methods and can also serve to signal the author's commitment to drawing on fan voices for their research.

[8.6] Second, scholars leverage our fan identities as examples to support particular arguments within our scholarship and as justifications for larger conclusions that we draw. To better illustrate how fan identities can be leveraged in support of arguments, I have included longer excerpts in the below examples to show, where appropriate, the argument being supported by the disclosure of fan identity:

[8.7] Stein uses this idea to explain fan transformative creativity, but it is also applicable to this instance of fan emotional turmoil and mobilization, particularly because her observation—that Tumblr has become a hub of "visual enactment of collective emotion" (2015, 158) because of the use of heavy image usage to represent emotion—is completely accurate. I encountered numerous posts on my dashboard that used images and GIFs (especially relevant ones from the shows) to express outrage at the cancellation decision in the weeks after. (Chew 2018, ¶2.5, emphasis added)

[8.8] While it is hard to quantify this assertion through counting meta, as there is no easy way of gathering statistics by meta on Tumblr, especially because of diverse tagging practices, I speak from my experience as a participant-observer in the Johnlock Tumblr fandom. (Hofmann 2018, ¶8.2)

[8.9] I offer my own experience as a trans man and superhero fan as an example of this phenomenon. While adjusting to new social negotiations as a man (or, that is to say, as someone actively read as a cis man), I relied on my childhood hero, Superman, to guide me in understanding the complexities of masculinity. […] I hope to render into discourse the affective reverberations and resonances of my lived experience, coupled with striking moments of engagement with the Superman mythos, which have come to inform my reading practice as a trans man and comics fan. (Vena 2017, ¶1.3)

[8.10] These three examples show various ways authors can leverage our fan identities as examples and justifications for our arguments. Chew's (2018) statement exemplifies the rhetorical move of using fan identity as an example of a specific argument made within an article; here she narrates her own experiences with Tumblr as an example of her argument about the use of the visual to represent emotion. Personal examples like these allow fan identities to serve as the evidence to support an author's assertions both specifically and generally. Chew's statement shows how this evidence can function at the level of the specific point within an argument. Hofmann's (2018) statement from the Notes section of her article similarly shows how a fan identity can operate as evidence to support an assertion in a situation where impersonal evidence is difficult to gather or present.

[8.11] Vena's (2017) statement shows how this leveraging of a personal identity as a fan can function on a larger scale within an article. In his article, Vena uses his experiences as a trans man and fan to consider trans reading practices in comics and present a trans reading of the Superman origin story. Like Chew (2018), Vena leverages his identity as a fan to support specific arguments and insights, but as the above excerpt suggests, Vena also uses that fan identity as a foundation for the overarching argument of the entire article. As academic fans, we have experience with the role our fan identities can have at every stage of our research. This rhetorical move shows our comfort in making that role explicit in our scholarship.

[8.12] In all of these cases, the leveraging of fan identities in support of specific and overarching arguments suggests a certain expectation of trust and assumption that an author's personal fan identities are acceptable evidence for scholarly argument. We leverage our fan identities to gather our data, we use our personal experiences as evidence, and we rely on those experiences to form the foundations of our arguments. This leveraging of fan identities in these complex and foundational spaces of our research may be a reflection of a valuation within fan studies of the voices and experiences of fans within research that has extended to trusting and valuing the personal, subjective experiences of scholar fans as scholarly evidence. Making fan identities explicit, then, can be read as a rhetorical choice to claim the authority of a fan identity.

[8.13] It can thus also importantly be read as part of the ongoing rhetoric of identification functioning in disclosures of fan identity. Authors' uses of disclosure here facilitate a personal connection with what might otherwise be more distanced scholarship. Explicitness about the use of personal fannish networks in research methodology, for example, reminds readers of the author's identity within the community. Similarly, the leveraging of authors' fan experiences and observations to support their examples and conclusions invites readers to build closer relationships with the authors' arguments by personalizing and humanizing those scholarly insights. Thus, this rhetorical move seems to facilitate identification as an avenue for drawing the audience closer to the authors' scholarship.

9. Some statistics on disclosing a fan identity

[9.1] The rhetorical moves described in the previous sections suggest that acafans explicitly disclose fan identity to facilitate identification and consubstantial relationships between authors and audiences in ways that productively negotiate a multiplicity of identities as fan and scholar. Yet these disclosures are not universal in fan studies scholarship. In this section, I share some broad statistics about the distribution of each rhetorical move across the sample and the breakdown of articles and article types that do and do not include these disclosures. Taken together, these statistics suggest that despite the rhetorical potential of statements of disclosure for facilitating identification, the presence of fan identities is still under negotiation within fan studies scholarship. These statistics also show a spectrum of use, with some articles drawing extensively on statements of disclosure and most using them only minimally. This spectrum suggests that, in addition to the rhetorical function of a single statement, the use of many statements can also serve rhetorical purpose.

[9.2] As I noted, in the majority of articles surveyed, authors do not disclose an identity as a fan. Across sixty-nine articles, only twenty-eight, or 40.6 percent, include statements that explicitly identify the author as a participant in the fandom community that is the subject of the article. Of those articles, the majority were located in the journal's Praxis section: seventeen (47.2 percent) of thirty-six Praxis articles included a disclosure of fan identity, while eleven (33.3 percent) of thirty-three Theory articles did. The infrequency of disclosure suggests that while fan identities are valued in scholarship, it is not a requirement of this discourse community that scholars be fans or, if they are fans, that they disclose identities as fans for their arguments to have weight; identification can thus be rhetorically productive but is not required. Further, the greater frequency of disclosure in Praxis articles might suggest that fan identities are more valued in scholarship focused on case studies and/or less valued in scholarship focused on theory.

[9.3] Additionally, though over 40 percent of authors in this sample disclosed some form of fan identity, few leveraged that identity extensively within their work. When authors disclosed identities as fans, they most often included only a single statement. Of the twenty-eight articles that included statements of fan identity, thirteen (46.4 percent) included only a single statement. The greatest number of statements in a single article was fifteen and the average across the twenty-eight articles was 3.3 statements.

Table 1. Total frequency of each rhetorical move in sample, number of articles in which each type of statement occurs, and average frequency per article of that rhetorical move

Rhetorical MoveStatementsArticlesAverage Frequency per Article
Claiming identity as fan27/93 (29%)19/28 (67.9%)1.4
Elaborating on activity as fan16/93 (17.2%)7/28 (25%)1.8
Delimiting fan identity5/93 (5.4%)4/28 (14.3%)1.25
Constructing research methods and conclusions45/93 (48.4%)16/28 (57.1%)2.8

[9.4] The rhetorical move used in the greatest number of articles is claiming an identity as a fan: nineteen (67.9 percent) of twenty-eight articles use this rhetorical move. Though this rhetorical move is present in the greatest number of articles, it is not the most common type of statement in the sample. The most frequently used rhetorical move is leveraging authors' fan identities in the construction of research methods, arguments, and conclusions: forty-five (48.4 percent) of ninety-three statements are coded as this rhetorical move and its average frequency per article is highest at 2.8 statements. This pattern is a reasonable expectation; if authors heavily leverage their fan identities it is most likely to be used in constructing research methods and conclusions, while a claim to an identity as a fan is the simplest way to facilitate a measure of identification with readers. Taken together, these trends suggest that acafans cluster in the extremes of the spectrum of disclosure; we tend toward either a minimal yet encompassing establishment of identification or a deep engagement with the place of our fan identities within our work. This pattern is worth further exploration, as is the rhetorical impact of each end of the spectrum. Why do we tend toward these extremes? How do these patterns of engagement with our fan identities differently impact our audiences and our own relationships with our work?

[9.5] It is clear from these statistics and the rhetorical moves I have discussed that fan studies scholars employ particular rhetorical patterns in our scholarship with regards to disclosing our identities as fans. It is equally clear that there is no one universally agreed response to the complex question of the role of acafandom in scholarship.

10. Conclusion

[10.1] In the past decades, there have been many calls for acafans to reflect on the balance between our fan and scholarly identities, and the roles each of those identities plays within our scholarship (Cristofari and Guitton 2017; Harrington and Bielby 1995; Hellekson and Busse 2006; Hills 2002). In this article, I have considered the specific practices of explicitly disclosing an identity as a fan and the various rhetorical purposes to which such statements can be put in fan studies scholarship. Interrogating our practices around negotiating fan and scholar identities, such as explicit disclosures of fan identities, helps us take up these calls from fan studies scholars to be "open and thoughtful about our positions (as fans and researchers)" (Kelley 2016, ¶4.1).

[10.2] Statements that explicitly disclose scholars' identities as fans are powerful tools through which acafans can express and negotiate our varying identities in relation to our research, and they are representative of an ethic of goodwill that permeates our scholarly and fannish communities. These statements work to establish and reinforce acafans' identities, particularly our fannish identities, as well as acknowledge the limitations of our fan knowledge and leverage our identities to validate our research. Scholars can use such statements to claim the authority of fan expertise and leverage the trust of insider knowledge, allowing us to establish ourselves and our arguments for both our fan and scholarly audiences. Fans can use these statements to connect with fellow fans and foster personal connections between author, audience, and scholarship. Fundamentally, disclosures of fan identity are a rhetorical move to identification and a fostering of relationships between author and audience that acknowledge a multiplicity of fan, scholar, and acafan positions.

[10.3] This multiplicity of fan and scholar positions is only one part of acafans' identities, and the work of interrogating fannish disclosure in acafan scholars is part of a larger conversation about the place of identity and identification in fan studies scholarship. Ingram-Waters's (2010) reflections on the ways her pregnant body changed the nature of the relationships she could build with her interview subjects and Wanzo's (2015) argument about the absence of race analysis in fan studies and the need "to explore what may be missing" (¶5.4) reflect this growing conversation about the ways our various identities visibly and invisibly inflect our scholarship. Fan identities and their disclosure are another dimension of this complex relationship of identity and scholarship. My examination of these disclosures echoes calls not only to attend to what we might miss if we neglect to talk about this interrelationship but also to think through how our identities might facilitate or complicate the identifications we seek to establish with our readers and with the communities we study and participate in as part of an ethical research practice.

[10.4] Further work on these questions of fannish identity in particular might investigate why scholars choose to disclose or refrain from disclosing their fan (or other) identities, how they choose what and how much of their fan identities to disclose and what rhetorical impact, if any, they thought these disclosures would have in their work. We can certainly speculate on the answers to these questions: disclosure might be intended primarily to serve persuasive purpose, or to establish the author's bona fides in the fandom and/or scholarly community, or to allow the author to share their overwhelming enthusiasm about fandom. I cannot speak for any other fan scholar and can only offer my own insights. For me, disclosing my identity as a fan is about being proud of my fannish history, open about its influence in my scholarship, and, yes, a bit about trying to demonstrate that I have the right to do the work I do.

[10.5] This complex negotiation of disclosure, identity, and identification is an acknowledgement of a complex history of tension between fans and scholars and serves as a reflection of current values within the field of fan studies that value fan voices. Yet the use of disclosures of fan identity is not consistent across scholarship in the field—a reminder that acafans ourselves are still uncertain about navigating our multiple identities and the role(s) those identities should play in our fan studies scholarship. As we continue to work in the liminal space between fandom and scholarship, it is to our benefit to question our practices and make apparent the ways in which our values express themselves in our scholarship.

11. Acknowledgements

[11.1] This article began life as a seminar paper for a class on literacies in American life; many thanks to David Gold, my professor for that class, for his encouragement and insightful questions, and my classmates Meg Garver, Naitnaphit Limlamai, Michelle Sprouse, and Emily Wilson for their generous feedback on early drafts of that paper. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the fellow scholars and fans who attended my presentation on this research at the Popular Culture Association 2018 conference and helped me refine this project.

12. Note

1. For this article, I define "fan identity" as an individual's self-identification as a fan of a particular media space or artifact such as a movie, TV show, book, or band and as a participant in fannish activities beyond the media artifact. As Jenkins (quoted in Jenkins and Scott 2013, xiv) has explained, a fan in the context of fandom studies is an individual who does more than merely appreciate the text; fans engage with the text in some way such as consuming or creating fan works, participating in fannish activities like conferences, and/or engaging in critique of the media.

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