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Lolita : atemporal Class-Play With tea and cakes


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Staite, SA 2012 , 'Lolita : atemporal Class-Play With tea and cakes', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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When Tokyopop released the first volume of its English language version of the Japanese collectable magazine Gothic & Lolita Bible in 2008, I predicted that it would not be widely accepted by Australian Lolitas. This thesis began as a media reception study in which I intended to explain why the magazine would fail to capture the imaginations of Lolitas. I assumed that the appeal of Lolita lay largely in an Orientalist fantasy of Japan and that Lolita was a subset of the Australian cosplay1 community. I anticipated the magazine failing to attract a substantial following because its localisation techniques would jar against the prioritisation of ‘authentic’ Japanese exoticism within the community. I was interested by Arjun Appadurai’s (1986: 56) observation that “as commodities travel greater distances (institutional, special, temporal), knowledge about them tends to become partial, contradictory, and differentiated. But such differentiation may itself … lead to the intensification of demand.” I conducted a number of interviews with Lolitas about their media usage (both production and consumption). Over the course of these interviews it became apparent that the questions I was asking were wrong; they were neither as interesting nor as important as the aspects Lolitas themselves emphasised in answering my more open-ended questions. Japan and Orientalism barely featured in their responses. Some were fans of Japanese animation and cosplayed, but they firmly articulated a separation between Lolita and cosplay. Some Lolitas were musicians who had discovered Lolita through Japanese bands like Malice Mizer. Other Lolitas had no interest in Japan whatsoever. As I talked with Lolitas, read the novels and websites they recommended and looked more closely at what has been written about Lolita communities, I saw an as-yet-unexplored but fascinating aspect of Lolita: playing with an identity of leisure. Roger Silverstone (1999: 60) writes that “to step into a space and a time to play is to move across a threshold, to leave something behind – one kind of order – and to grasp a different reality and a rationality defined by its own rules and terms or trade and action.”
Lolita is the expression of a desire for indulgence untempered by the un-aristocratic concerns of earning income.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Staite, SA
Keywords: Lolita, gender, class disadvantage, clothing, subculture, gift economy
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Copyright 2012 the author

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