Asian BL Symposium Overview

Symposium Overview

Created by and for adolescent girls and women, boys love (BL) media, which depicts romantic and sexual relationships between males, who often do not identify as gay, emerged in commercial shōjo manga (girls’ comics) magazines in Japan in the early 1970s, with roots in the 1960s and earlier. While first appearing as commercially published manga, BL quickly spread into other media forms, both commercially and fan-produced, including dōjinshi (fanzines), “light novels,” anime, “drama CDs,” live action films, collectible figures, and video games—all popular in the present day. At an estimated domestic market size in 2014 alone, including commercial and amateur works, of nearly US$190 million (¥212 billion) (Yano Research Group 2015), BL media and its fans clearly have a strong presence in Japanese popular culture today.

As part of a broader “Cool Japan” boom, by the early 2000s BL media was making strong headway into becoming a global media phenomenon, encompassing pirated translations (fansubs and fandubs) and locally produced commercial and amateur works in many languages around the world. Owing perhaps to cultural and geographic proximity, BL media has found a particularly receptive home in many parts of Asia, where it has often taken on new meanings and had different fanbases and cultural effects from in its country of origin.

Queer Transfigurations: International Symposium on Boys Love Media in Asia brings together twenty-three scholars researching boys love (BL) media and its fandoms in twelve countries in and beyond Asia. This symposium will include five panels and one roundtable discussion across two days:

  • Local BL Texts, Local BL Fandoms
  • Conflict and Contention within and beyond BL Fandoms
  • BL in Cross-Cultural Circulation
  • Reading BL Fantasies, Re-Reading LGBT Lives
  • BL and Local Masculinities
  • Roundtable: BL and Japan’s Socio-Cultural Impact on Asia

The seventeen papers to be presented will cover a diverse range of media and fandoms, variously illustrating how BL media has been

  • forming the core of rich new fan cultures in Thailand (Poowin Bunyavejchewin) and Indonesia (Kania Arini Sukotjo);
  • helping female fans negotiate their attitudes towards sex and sexuality in India (Lakshmi Menon);
  • serving as a lens through which to critique hegemonic masculinities in the Philippines (Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin), and transforming gender norms for young men in urban China (Wei Wei);
  • functioning as a medium of cultural exchange among China, Japan, and Taiwan (Asako Saito), the Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia (Kristine Michelle Santos), and fandoms in China and the Anglophone world (Yanrui Xu and Ling Yang);
  • serving as a tool through which to insist on freedom of expression in Hong Kong (Katrien Jacobs and Holly Lixian Hou) and South Korea (Hyojin Kim);
  • affecting the sexual fantasies of male BL fans (fudanshi), both homo- and heterosexual, in East Asia (Kazumi Nagaike) and Singapore (Aerin Lai);
  • (re)shaping the representation of gay men in popular culture in Thailand (Kang Byung’chu Dredge);
  • influencing beliefs about the LGBT community among strongly religious BL fans in Indonesia (Gita Pramudita Prameswari);
  • motivating gay men in China to travel to Japan (Thomas Baudinette); and
  • affecting attitudes about LGBTQ rights (Feichi Chiang) and same-sex marriage (Peiti Wang) in Taiwan.

Five prominent scholars of BL and fan cultures in Japan, Patrick W. Galbraith, Akiko Hori, Mark McLelland, Akiko Mizoguchi, and Naoko Mori, will serve as discussants for the panels, while James Welker will emcee the symposium and serve as chair of the closing roundtable discussion.

This symposium—which will be conducted in English, without Japanese interpretation—is free and open the to public. Preregistration is not required but strongly encouraged (by Monday, June 26) to assist us with preparation.
本シンポジウムは英語で行われます。 参加費無料。当日の登録も可能ですが、配布資料準備の都合上、なるべく6月26日(月)までに事前登録をお願いします。

Details may be found at the following links:

Please direct inquiries to the symposium organizer, James Welker (お問い合わせはジェームズ・ウェルカーまで):