CFP: Nationbending, a special edition of Transformative Works and Cultures

Avatar: The Last Airbender is that rare animal: American-produced anime faithful to both its Japanese cinematic influences and its pervasive Chinese iconography. A vast amount of research was invested in bringing a fantasy Asian environment to life: martial arts master Sifu Kisu choreographed each fight and assigned specific fighting forms to each character; a Chinese calligraphy consultant wrote the signage that appeared in each episode, and the series’ creators visited China to study its traditional architecture. These elements create an enticing mash-up of genuine Asian signifiers within a fictional environment. The series’ popularity encouraged a live-action film adaptation from director M. Night Shyamalan. Fan controversy erupted when white actors were cast in roles previously “played” by characters with dark skin. Protests against this act of “racebending” included T-shirts and bumper stickers with the slogan Aang Ain’t White!, the founding of, and a renewed discussion among online fans about the long cinematic history of whitewashing and yellowface

This issue aims to investigate the cultural significance of A:tLA as a transforming and transformative text. Like the Avatar, A:tLA and its settings and characters have many incarnations online, on television, on film, and in print. Likewise, the definitions of anime, cartoons, Asia, and race have been bent by fans and producers alike. A:tLA is part of the ongoing transformation of American media in a global context. We welcome contributions focusing on Asian Studies; media theory and film studies; religious studies and anthropology; postcolonial and queer readings of the series, the films, and the fan works they have inspired; reviews of both canon and fanon texts; interviews with both canon and fanon producers; and reviews of relevant texts, whatever form they might take.

TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. Contributors are encouraged to include embedded links, images, and videos or to propose submissions in alternative formats: interviews, collaborations, podcasts, comics, drawings, video, multimedia works.

Theory: Often interdisciplinary essays with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offer expansive interventions in the field. Peer review. Length: 5,000-8,000 words plus a 100-250-word abstract.

Praxis: Analyses of particular cases that may apply a specific theory or framework to an artifact; explicate fan practice or formations; or perform a detailed reading of a text. Peer review. Length: 4,000-7,000 words plus a 100-250-word abstract.

Symposium: Short pieces that provide insight into current developments and debates. Editorial review. Length: 1,500-2,500 words

DUE DATES: OCTOBER 2011 (Theory, Praxis) & NOVEMBER 2011 (Symposium)

Please visit Transformative Works & Cultures for instructions on how to submit your manuscripts! If you have further questions, contact me with “A:tLA” in the subject heading.

This post is brought to you in memory of Lena Horne, an enormously talented woman of mixed race (and one of my grandmother’s favourite performers) who once saw her role go to a white actress thanks to MGM’s racist hiring practises. Rest in peace, Ms. Horne: the fight continues.

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