Call for Contributions

BTS: A Critical Reader

Co-edited by Patty Ahn, Michelle Cho, Frances Gateward, Vernadette Gonzalez, Rani Neutill, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Yutian Wong 

BTS is the biggest popular music act on the planet, with a passionate fandom of  unprecedented size and diversity. As a multi-faceted cultural phenomenon, BTS has often brought forth reductive claims of universal appeal to explain their global success. 

Our volume resists the flattening effects of some of the discourses generated by BTS. We seek a broad interdisciplinary framework for understanding what BTS–as corporate brand, fan community, material/social/media technology, marketing strategy, industry standard, genre wrecker, global icon, cultural mediator, band, paradigm, or fantasy–allows us to understand. Instead of authoritative pronouncements on what BTS is, we look at what BTS makes possible, perceivable, and thinkable, and what imaginative force BTS catalyzes through various encounters with the group’s sounds, images, words, and ideas. 

This reader proposes BTS as a lens to think about performance, participation, aesthetics, capital, and geopolitics. We want to engage in conversations about the tensions and contradictions found within the narratives of identity, culture, history, and form that emerge from encounters with BTS. How do we compose and create theory through BTS to think about affect, genre, soft power, masculinity, performance, fandom, language, the global music industry, or a seemingly throwaway gesture (a raised eyebrow or a wink)? What does BTS tell us about the communities/social worlds around us?

We seek rigorous but accessible contributions from fans, artists, and/or academics geared towards a general readership/undergraduate reader from a wide-range of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. We welcome aca-fan analysis, with which we share the  premise that fannish appreciation neither dulls nor limits intellectual inquiry. However, we eschew the gatekeeping of fan discourses that privilege connoisseurship. We invite work that focuses on BTS as a flashpoint for thinking about performance, politics, art, affect, movement, aesthetics, power, gender, capital, geopolitics, identification, representation, narrative, history, and time. 

Please submit 500-word abstracts + 200-word bios by February 28, 2022 to criticalbtsreader@gmail.com. Full essays (approximately 3000-4000 words) are due July 1, 2022. Final acceptance is provisional on editorial assessment of full essays. 

Possible themes include:

  • BTS and the global pandemic
  • Fan labor/production 
  • Collective action and social movements
  • Political economy of BTS/K-Pop/Hallyu
  • Geopolitics and popular culture
  • Intimacy, sociality, parasociality
  • Performance and aesthetics
  • Musical and performance genres
  • Translation
  • Militarism, nationalism, and history
  • Identity and representation (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, age/generation)
  • Youth culture 
  • Fashion, style, expression