Popular privation: Suffering in fan cultures
Pawley, Daniel W
Contributing to scholarship that explores human suffering within mediated culture has provided the impetus for this PhD thesis. I propose that suffering in mediated modernity be considered in social, cultural, and theological terms; and specifically in the context of privation, a term applied by Saint Augustine to the integrated problems of suffering and evil. Privation, to Augustine, meant negation: a vacuum of human existence understood as the absence of positive, sustaining life forces. I attempt to update this concept by arguing that a modern definition of privation can be conceived of as variable states of human deprivation such as loss, dislocation, isolation, and hunger. Privation encompasses these states of deprivation, expressing the kind of suffering that occurs in mediated culture. To narrow the mediated-culture aspect of the study, I explore the topic of fandom, which I define as “the intentional socialization of textual consumption,” and I attempt to show how privation exists in several well-defined forms within a wide variety of fan cultures (groups of fans). In short, fans use their fandom to satisfy their privation in four ways: through connectivity, release, identification, and empowerment. The corresponding deprivations include dislocation, animus, isolation, and hunger. I bring these concepts together in the form of deprivations requiring satisfactions described as dislocation/connectivity, animus/release, isolation/identification, and hunger/empowerment. In each case I attempt to provide analysis and discussion of relevant findings based on empirical research, and in a final discussion I integrate supportive ideas from theories of attachment, catharsis, identification, and empowerment. My methods of research include a combination of secondary source analysis; two distinct phases of questionnaire-based research among 256 fans from various fan cultures; and a case study approach to the online fan culture of the Harry Potter books by Edinburgh author J.K. Rowling.