Graduate Student Nou-Chee Chang Explores How Anime Fan Art Helps Express Identity

head shot of Nou-Chee Chang
Nou Chee Chang

Nou-Chee Chang’s project “Lady in the Streets, Freak in the Sheets” tackles themes of social justice, sexuality, and gender identity in fan-made art and illustration in anime-related communities. Chang is a graduate student in the Department of Communication Studies with an emphasis on critical media analysis. The Beverly and Richard Fink Summer Fellowship helped Chang gather literature on gender and sexuality studies. 

What do you call your project and how would you summarize it? How does it connect to your broader research interests?

“Lady in the Streets, Freak in the Sheets” is a project exploring the motivations behind female fans illustrating fictional, animated men in homoerotic relationships within specific, anime-related fandoms. I argue that fan art and illustration offer a visual vocabulary for female and queer individuals to explore and express their sexual and gender identities independently and communally.

My general interests explore the popularity of transnational entertainment and media consumed in the United States. From this, I aim to explore how US audiences curate unique communities that embody transnational media as their means to explore identity with artistic fan activities.

What has this award allowed you to do? How is your project making a difference in the world?

The award has allowed me to begin critical steps toward gathering the necessary literature and laying the foundation for my interview work. I’ve engaged with literature around fandom, art, and using art to explore queer and sexual identity.

My project continues to add upon how media and fandom-ship play a powerful tool in developing one’s self-concept of gender/sexual identity. The aim is to continue exploring how art and media can be used to further support identity construction and development amongst marginalized identities.

What challenges have you faced? Have there been any notable surprises?

The challenges I faced were mass bodies of literature around each of the theoretical frameworks I wanted to implement in the literature. The most notable surprises was the interdisciplinary nature of the project.

How has the award made a difference to your career? What's next?

The fellowship has allowed me to continue developing my research skills and professionally prepare my paper submission for the 2024 International Communication Association (ICA) Conference while preparing myself for fundamental scholarship in my preliminary exams.

From this project, I aim to pursue how other various artistic mediums such as cosplay and fanfiction could aid in identity formation compared to digital illustrations and comics. Many of these artists engage in multiple mediums simultaneously. My next project explores how fan-artists engaging in multiple art forms simultaneously develop intersecting identities.

The Beverly and Richard Fink Graduate Fellowship

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This story was edited by an undergraduate student in CLA.

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