Dissertation Abstracts

Fandom and the Fourth Wave: Youth, Digital Feminisms and Media Fandom on Tumblr

Author: Briony Hannell, briony_hannell@hotmail.com
Department: Politics
University: University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Dr Helen Warner
Year of completion: 2021
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: digital feminism , feminist pedagogy , fandom , popular culture
Areas of Research: Youth , Women in Society , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


Recent scholarly accounts have noted the increasing slippage between feminism, digital cultures, and popular culture, yet few have located media fandom at this juncture. While critical and celebratory modes of popular culture consumption, production, and critique are central to both fourth wave feminisms and media fandom, both feminist and fan studies scholarship is yet to account for the ways in which media fandom and fourth wave feminisms are deeply connected in practice, as well as how fannish and feminist communities are converging within the digital landscape.
Drawing upon feminist cultural studies and fan studies, this thesis offers an examination of the role of media fandom in the development of young people’s feminist identities. Analysing digital ethnographic data gathered over a two-year period through narrative survey, follow-up interviews, and participant observation, it explores the lived experiences of young people who are engaging with feminist discourses, practices, and positionalities in a routine, informal and everyday way through their ties to media fandom on Tumblr.
In doing so, it foregrounds the close relationship between feminist cultural studies and fan studies methodologically, theoretically, and empirically, and locates media fandom as a site at which meanings of feminism are collectively produced, negotiated, and contested. This research subsequently reveals the intimate, complex, and at times contradictory, relationship between popular culture, media fandom, and feminist pedagogy, and locates fandom as an important and accessible space for bringing feminism to a wider, and increasingly younger, audience beyond the academy.