van de Goor, Sophie Charlotte (2017) Fan Cultures from 'Panoptic Sorting' to 'Imaginary Communities': Theorising Fan/Scholar Dispositions through Discourses of Sherlock and the MCU. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis challenges established scholarship on fan cultures—based on foundational assumptions of fandom as an ‘imaginary community’ (Hill, 2016) bounded off from the mainstream—on a theoretical and methodological level. It traces these assumptions to canonised theoretical frameworks of Bourdieu’s (1984) economistic concept of cultural capital and to a lesser extent Foucault’s (1966) heterotopic spaces of otherness, and breaks with this tradition by placing fan/scholar practices in relation to the overarching socio-cultural structures and ideologies they remain part of. By synthesising a new theoretical framework from Bourdieu’s (1977) system of dispositions (habitus) and Foucault’s (1977) disciplinary notion of the panoptic sort (Gandy, 1993), I shift focus from mapping fandom to exploring scholarly sorting practices and the dispositional attitudes they serve. This not only explores naturalised fan scholarship practices, but also provides a means for scholars to move away from them.

I then examine two academic case studies, analysing scholarly discourse of the BBC’s Sherlock and Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, chosen for their cultural omnipresence and abundance of scholarly discourse. Each case study is contrasted with over 400,000 words of discourse collected from 400 participant accounts through the transnational, multi-sited, ethnographic ‘Views on Fandom Project’. Through this triangulation, I demonstrate that scholar-fans implicitly draw from established brand, media, and fannish discourses, resulting in accounts that uncritically reproduce established, neoliberal value systems as the natural order of things. Through new theoretical pathways opened up by the framework of disposition and panoptic sorting—Sloterdijkian (2009) spherology and the Archerian (2012) reflexive imperative—I theorise the absence of scholar-fan reflexivity regarding these practices as attempts to maintain dispositional security. Additionally, I demonstrate that by focusing on fan/scholar dispositions, scholarship can break with this tradition of implicitly reproducing established discourses based on assumptions of fandom as bounded and different, and move on to critically analyse the complex relationships between fan cultures and the mainstream.

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