Positivity, critical fan discourse, and "Humans of New York"

  • Paromita Sengupta University of Southern California
Keywords: Critical discourse, Fandom, HONY, Photography, Politics, Spin-off, Brandon Stanton


"Humans of New York" (HONY) is a popular photography project, with a global fandom and great outreach on social media platforms like Facebook. However, the creator of HONY has placed heavy restrictions on political discourse within the fan page in order to maintain the spirit of goodwill and positivity for which the fandom has come to be renowned. Yet the culture of positivity on HONY may be problematized: two case studies show that positivity was utilized to protect white men at the expense of women of color. HONY fans have pushed back against the culture of positivity by reclaiming the right to engage in political discourse or by creating alternate spin-off groups that engage with local political issues. Case studies of HONY provoke questions about what it means to engage in political discourse in a fandom that is premised on lying outside the realm of politics.