UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How do you like that? : queer translations and disidentifications of K-pop within online fandoms Miniaci, Anna


Since the mid-2000s, Korean popular music (K-pop) has continued to rise in popularity in Western countries like the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. As such, Western academic and media discourse on K-pop has revolved around finding answers to explain K-pop’s meteoric and continued rise in popularity in the West since Psy’s viral hit “Gangnam Style” in 2013. However, these analyses often conclude that the reasons for K-pop’s popularity are due to idol groups’ catchy dance routines and pop music that blends Korean and English lyrics with Western musical styles. Although, many critique K-pop’s blend of musical styles, particularly Black musical traditions of hip-hop and rap as ‘inauthentic’. However, K-pop scholarship within cultural, media, and Asia American studies argue that K-pop should be considered as ‘hybrid’ to acknowledge its political and cultural history in addition to the complex ways it is translated transnationally by racialized individuals. Drawing upon scholarship in the disciplines of queer, critical race, media, Asian American and fan studies, this thesis aims to further current discourse on K-pop’s hybridity by exploring the ways K-pop is translated as ‘Asiatic’ and queer, which brings K-pop’s Asianish and campy aesthetics to the forefront. Often missing from the conversation, this thesis centers around transnational queer and Asian K-pop fans to highlight the transformative ways the Asiatic as a queer space facilitates Asiatic disidentifications of K-pop. Theorized by Christopher Patterson, the Asiatic refers to a “style or form recognize as Asianish but [remains] adaptable, fluid, and outside of the authentic/inauthentic binary” (2020, p. 29). In this way, K-pop facilitates a queer space within online fandoms to ‘play’ along with K-pop idols through the process of Asiatic disidentification to challenge and navigate dominant culture. Considering the Covid-19 pandemic, this thesis argues that it is imperative to explore how K-pop and idols are translated by Western social institutions that continue to exacerbate anti-Asian racism. In addition, this thesis considers the ways queer K-pop fans’ translations of K-pop occur within a heteronormative and patriarchal framework in and outside of countries like South Korea as 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals continue to face disproportionate violence and death globally.

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