Books, Not Comics: Publishing Fields, Globalization, and Japanese Manga in the United States
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The market for Japanese comics, called manga, in the United States grew rapidly at the beginning of the twenty first century at a rate unprecedented in the publishing industry. Sales grew a remarkable 350% from $60 million in 2002 to $210 million in 2007 and did not begin to decline until the beginning of the recent economic downturn beginning in late 2008. No published research is yet able to account for this phenomenon in a manner that is both socially-situated and medium-specific. In this paper, I provide such a sociological account of the rise of manga in the United States and its implications for the globalization of culture. Adapting Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical formulation of the cultural field, I argue that manga migrated from the comics field to the book field and that the ways in which industry practices, distribution networks, and target demographics differ between the two fields are directly responsible for the medium’s newfound visibility. Furthermore, I argue that, despite the now-common transparency of the Japanese origin of Japanese titles, the American publishing industry’s creation of manga as a category of books distinct from other comics is an ineluctable naturalizing process that ultimately erases from American consciousness the Japanese, the foreign, the other.
KeywordsManga Comics Graphic novels Globalization American publishing Field theory Japan
If this article is the fruit of my research, then I owe the following people a profound debt of gratitude: John B. Thompson, for leading me to the field; Ruoyun Bai, for the intellectual space to grow; and Aram Sinnreich, for seeing me all the way to the final harvest.
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