Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Desmond, Jane

Second Advisor

Marra, Kim

First Committee Member

Ryang, Sonia

Second Committee Member

Creekmur, Corey

Third Committee Member

Andrejevic, Mark


This dissertation is a case study of the dissemination and circulation of Japanese popular cultures in the U.S., specifically focusing on the collective reception practices of individuals who identify as fans of Japanese animation, comic books, and video games. The key questions driving this project are: what difference does it make that young Americans are consuming popular cultures that are 1) international in origin and 2) specifically Japanese in origin? To answer these questions I carried out ethnographic research - such as subject interviews, questionnaires, and participant observation - to understand the significance of young adults' interest in Japanese animation and comic book works (usually referred to as "anime" and "manga," respectively). In response to my ethnographic investigation of U.S. fans' practices and experiences, I argue that many young Americans use their practices of consuming and circulating these international popular cultures to transform their immediate social landscapes, and therefore, their social and national identities as well. I also draw on methodologies from a variety of disciplines, pairing ethnographic fieldwork practices with audience reception and fandom studies, transnational media studies, and book studies approaches in order make connections between the social, cultural, performative, and national dimensions of Japanese popular culture fandom in the U.S.

In addition to exploring subjects' relationship to the texts they consume, I also target the embodied spaces and processes by which Japanese popular culture is actually circulated and experienced by local U.S. audience groups. In doing so, I strive to follow the "digital life" Japanese popular culture has taken in its jump to English-language translation world-wide and the significant role fans have played in facilitating unofficial flows of Japanese popular culture through specific translation practices. I examine the scholarly and fandom struggle over ideological questions of the "authenticity" and "Americanization" of adaptations of Japanese media in the North American marketplace, as well as the struggle between fans and official adapters to assert forms of ownership over these representations. Such struggles involve these groups' often conflicting practices of adaptation, translation, and circulation of these cultures.

This research adds an important dimension to current scholarship on cultural manifestations of globalization and so-called "Americanization" processes as I show how commodities from outside the U.S. are first received by U.S. audiences and then transformed through this audience's participatory engagement with the production and circulation of these works in the English language. As such, this research engages with key issues of cultural transmission, translation, practices of media localization, transnational flows, and identity formation and fandom.


anime, fandom, globalization, localization, manga, translation


viii, 278 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 262-270).


Copyright 2011 Danielle Leigh Rich