Cosplay

The Fictional Mode of Existence

2022
Author:

Frenchy Lunning

An exploration of cosplay and its relationship with the realms of its global fandom, performance, and the modes of fictional existence

Cosplay is a unique and necessary examination of identity, performance, play, and otaku fandom and culture in relation to contemporary theories. Through a culmination of years of personal research on cosplay, author Frenchy Lunning offers an intimate, sensational tour through cosplay’s past and present, as well as its global lure.

Showcasing provocative theoretical work and data collected at conventions in the United States and Japan since the 1990s, Frenchy Lunning makes a powerful argument for understanding the potential of cosplay and its engagements with fictional modes of existence. With deep implications for the politics of imagination and open and ongoing entanglements in a more-than-human world, Cosplay is as passionate as it is timely.

Patrick W. Galbraith, author of Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan

Flourishing far beyond its Japanese roots, cosplay has become an international phenomenon with fervid fans who gather at enormous, worldwide conventions annually. Here, author Frenchy Lunning offers an intimate, sensational tour through cosplay’s past and present, as well as its global lure.

Through a culmination of years of personal research on cosplay, and growing out of Lunning’s wealth of scholarship, conference presentations, and cosplayer interviews, Cosplay is a unique and necessary examination of identity, performance, play, and otaku fandom and culture in relation to contemporary theories. With discussions covering construction, masquerades, and community through performance, Lunning presents cosplay as a dynamic and ever-evolving global practice. She combines the fascinating viewpoints of cosplayers with observational, in-depth research on cosplay history and practice, and a deep dive into critical theory involving the modes of fictional existence, in order to understand its global expansion.

Augmented with beautiful photographs, this is an engrossing, lively read that explores a complicated and often misunderstood history and meditates on how cosplay allows its participants to create and construct meaning and identity.

Frenchy Lunning is professor emeritus of design and cultural studies at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is founder and director of the Asian and U.S. Mechademia Conferences on Asian Popular Cultures; editor-in-chief of the Mechademia book series published by the University of Minnesota Press; and coeditor-in-chief of the journal series Mechademia: Second Arc. Lunning is author of Fetish Style.

Showcasing provocative theoretical work and data collected at conventions in the United States and Japan since the 1990s, Frenchy Lunning makes a powerful argument for understanding the potential of cosplay and its engagements with fictional modes of existence. With deep implications for the politics of imagination and open and ongoing entanglements in a more-than-human world, Cosplay is as passionate as it is timely.

Patrick W. Galbraith, author of Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Cosplay Experience

1. Cosplay: A Social History of Mass Culture and Identity

2. The Lure of the Mask: Identity, Expression, and Embodiment

3. Overcoming Abjection: From Ambiguity to Becoming

4. In the Theater of the Cosplayer: Improvisations, Innovations, and Masquerade

5. Fandom and the Fictional Mode of Existence

Notes

Index