Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.
Jennifer Duggan is Associate Professor of English at the University of South-Eastern Norway, a Harry Potter fan, and author or co-author of numerous articles and book chapters on children’s and youth literature and media, fandom, multilinguality, multiliteracies, and social difference. Today, Jennifer talks about researching fan demographics in the Harry Potter fandom.
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
I suppose that depends on how you define both terms!
When I was a kid, I has a string of obsessions. At my youngest, I identified heavily with a string of male characters (Peter Pan, Cody from The Rescuers Down Under, Luke from Star Wars), often dressing as them and/or refusing to answer to my own name. I reread and rewatched favourite books and films so many times that I had to purchase new copies, because the old ones would fall apart or stop working. Whenever I was given money to buy practical things, like clothing, I would spend the least possible on what I was supposed to purchase (usually at second-hand stores) and use the rest on books.
I also used to collect objects, trading cards, and images related to favourite series, like Sailor Moon. Later, with some books/films/shows, including Harriet the Spy, The X-Files, and Anastasia (the animated film), my sister, one of our best friends, and I would do extensive background research. We’d write each other newsletters, write sequels/prequels/episodes, and draw or print out fan art and images, all of which we kept in binders that we took with us whenever we visited each other. (We still pull them out sometimes and read our works to each other, which inevitably ends in hysterics.) I suppose in some way, we knew of organized fandom even then, because we used fan sites as sources for images, but I don’t think we realized that we could actually participate. But we didn’t need to, because we had our own tiny fandom, and it was perfect.