Fandom as method: decolonising research on social media communications through Chinese transnational fandoms of a Japanese Olympic figure skater

Zhen Troy Chen, Jackie Cameron, Nancy Xiuzhi Liu

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


This paper focuses on international sports personality in figure staking Yuzuru Hanyu, who plays for Japan, and his transnational fandoms in China, to examine the politicisation of his evolving fandom during and after his performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Our contribution is to illustrate the value of analysing fandoms in the Chinese social media as a method that seeks to advance a decolonised approach to communication studies. This study uses digital ethnography to collect data and conducts critical thematic analysis to illustrate the complexity of socially mediated fandom debates and flames. Consulting interdisciplinary literature in sports fandom and communication, athletic branding, and political communication, we propose a fresh critical approach to Chinese communication studies, which we have conceptualised as “fandom as method.” We offer a case study to illustrate this critical approach, which we argue is a contribution to decolonising scholarship by promoting inclusivity of alternative approaches, in communication studies in the global south. “Fandom as method” can excavate new terrain, rather than simply adding to West-centric theoretical advances. Findings underscore that critically analysing the complex interplay between fans, anti-fans, and the authorities through “fandom as method” can reveal previously undetected communication patterns. More importantly, fandom as method can help us interrogate the nuances of communications situated within complex, dynamic, evolving patriotic and nationalistic social media discourses. This approach helps to explicate opaque clashes of “mainstremeist belief and action” in the name of patriotism and nationalism which, in the Chinese context, are subject to intervention from the authorities as the ultimate other. It reveals how social media activity politicises a sports personality, a fandom trend that seems likely to spill over into other spheres of the entertainment industry.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Current Chinese Affairs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Fandom as method
  • politicisation
  • social media
  • sports fandom
  • transnational fandoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • General Economics,Econometrics and Finance


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