January 29, 2008
This weekend, I had the great fortune to attend transculturELLE: How Girls Cross Cultures, a workshop organized by Dr. Thomas Lamarre and sponsored by the East Asian Studies Department at McGill University in Montreal. (fps contributor Kino Kid hosted me, and is such a good hostess that I had to avoid saying "my roommate" when referring to her.)
The two-day workshop revolved around papers that focused on shoujo titles from various eras, including live-action films like Shimotsuma Monogatari (otherwise known as Kamikaze Girls). As a theme, "How girls cross cultures" yielded fruitful results, with papers examining issues of transcultural flow, fashion, intertextuality, national identity, criminality, perversion, and technology in such titles as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Rose of Versailles, NANA, and Denno Coil. The discussion was deep and long-lasting, and the calibre of participants unparallelled.
Although more and more academic conferences like the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts and the Popular Culture Association national conference now hold panels on anime and manga, it's rare to find a conference that's as specific as this one, especially outside the US. Frenchy Lunning, a transculturELLE participant and editor of Mechademia, the top journal of anime and manga criticism, hosts a similar workshop called Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but SGMS is geared toward a slightly different audience. For academics interested in theory and interdisciplinary thinking, workshops like transculturELLE afford the opportunity to discuss Eto Jun, Julia Kristeva, Michel Foucault, and Toshiya Ueno (or even meet the man) all in the context of anime and manga. This is something I've yearned for since encountering anime to begin with, and it's both heartening and humbling to see established professionals turning the discourse to their interests with such vigour. I eagerly anticipate the next workshop, and hope to tell you all about it soon.