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Costuming as subculture: The multiple bodies of cosplay

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This article explores the subculture of cosplay, short for ‘costume play’. In this particular practice, fans create and wear costumes that allow them to re-enact existing fictional characters from popular culture. These outfits and subsequent performances are a physical manifestation of their immersion into the fictional realms of television, games and movies, among others. Cosplay can be understood as the culture of costuming that occurs beyond the institutional remit of the theatre. Especially in western countries, cosplay is intimately connected to the carnivalesque space of the fan convention, where fans gather and re-enact their favourite characters. I argue that embodiment plays a unique role in cosplay that should be interrogated closely. The fan performer relies on multiple bodies and repertoires that are intimately connected to the fan’s identity and the performed character.
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Keywords: carnivalesque; cosplay; fan conventions; fandom; mediation; performance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Utrecht University

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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