The Production of a 'Manga Culture' in France: a Sociological Analysis of a Successful Intercultural Reception

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THE PRODUCTION OF A “MANGA CULTURE” IN FRANCE: A SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF A SUCCESSFUL INTERCULTRAL RECEPTION Olivier VANHEE Communication à la Conférence Internationale Asia Culture Forum 2006 Mobile and Pop Culture in Asia Gwangju, Corée, octobre 2006

Introduction Manga and anime are now part of the cultural habits of different generations of French readers, and they are a major cultural space where images and meanings about Japan and Asia circulate. From the end of the 1970’s, intercultural relations with Japan developed mainly through this Japanese media culture1. The success of manga and anime contributed to a strong interest in different aspects of Japanese culture, but there are still few studies of this successful intercultural reception. This paper is an attempt to analyze the reception of manga in France as an historical process challenging French traditional cultural hierarchies. The reception of these global commodities in France has involved conflicting discourses and representations, and has eventually resulted in the production and recognition of a specific set of activities and cultural resources about manga and anime. This “manga culture” is however far from being homogeneous, and is even more and more diverse: distinctions and boundaries have been created within this specific cultural domain, and the perception of manga is shaped by various French stereotypes and cultural myths about Japan. I will try to show how this form of “cultural capital”2 was built up and used, and how it relates both to an interest in Japanese society and to skills related to Information and Communication Technologies, especially among teenagers and young adults. Two dimensions of these processes will be more precisely developed in this paper: A discourse analysis of the symbolic conflicts between traditional cultural “gatekeepers” and fans, which led to different forms of cultural acknowledgement of manga and anime. 1

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See Rafoni Béatrice, « Le néo-japonisme en France : de l’influence de la culture médiatique japonaise », Compar(a)ison, 2, 2002 2 I refer here to the sociological concept of “cultural capital” elaborated by Pierre Bourdieu in La Reproduction, Minuit (1970) and La distinction, Minuit (1979). It describes forms of knowledge and skills providing prestige and a higher social status: this cultural capital can be embodied (dispositions, competences and categories of perception), objectified (cultural goods and discourses) or institutionalized. This concept has been specified and applied to the local context of fandom: see Jeffrey A. Brown, “Comic Book, Fandom and Cultural Capital”, Journal of Popular Culture, 30-4, Spring 1997, p.13. This specific form of “cultural capital” about manga and anime is not generally recognized in the society, but it can operate as a source of prestige and distinction within the manga and anime fandom, or within peer groups at school. Moreover, fans have mobilized more traditional forms of cultural capital to produce the cultural acknowledgement of manga and anime.

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A sociological analysis of the cultural and media practices of a group of French manga readers, in order to understand how they appropriated these textual, visual and technological materials. These two levels of analysis are complementary and allow us to understand the interactions between the individual reading experiences and the collective production of a “manga culture” in France.

I. The symbolic struggles about the reception and the meaning of manga and anime in France First, I will try to analyze the actors and “cultural entrepreneurs” of the reception of manga in France, from the 1990’s controversy to the current processes of legitimization. What I would like to stress here is the transformation of the frames of reception of manga over this period. I will distinguish two moments: between 1988 and 1997, the public and media representations of the “manga phenomenon” were mainly shaped by traditional...
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