Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Among attendees of anime fan conventions in the U.S., there is a strong subset of individuals who identify with non-normative gender categories such as trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid, as well as a lighthearted disregard of gender norms even among those who appear to conform to them in everyday life. Practitioners of Japan-inspired hobbies such as cosplay and lolita street fashion understand gender as residing within the personality of an individual, or free-floating within elements of the costume or clothing they may wear--but not in the body itself. This results in crossings, layerings and inversions of gender that can be both playful and serious, permanent or temporary. This playfulness and acceptance of gender variance is facilitated by Japanese understandings of gender and self, which are reflected in manga and anime and then reinterpreted through an American lens. Such interpretations naturalize a concept of gender as flexible and fluid, and gendered items of clothing become toys or props in a game of self-expression. In this paper, I explore the role of the body, which can be by turns vital or inconsequential, in these sartorial practices.