Publication Details

McLelland, M. J. 2011, 'Australia's "child abuse material' legislation, internet regulation and the juridification of the imagination', International Journal of Cultural Studies, 15 (5), pp. 467-483.


This article investigates the implications of Australia’s prohibition of ‘child-abuse material’ (including cartoons, animation, drawings and text) for Australian fan communities of animation, comics and gaming (ACG) and slash fiction. It is argued that current legislation is out of synch with the new communicative environment brought about by the internet since a large portion of the fans producing and trading in these images are themselves minors and young people. Habermas’s analysis of the conflict between instrumental and communicative rationality is deployed to demonstrate that legislators have misrecognized the nature of the communicative practices that take place within the ‘lifeworlds’ of fan communities, resulting in an unjust ‘juridification’ of their creative works. Drawing on Japanese research into the female fandom surrounding ‘boys’ love’ (BL) manga, it is argued that current Australian legislation not only forecloses the fantasy lives of young Australian fans but also harms them by aligning them with paedophile networks. Finally, drawing upon Jean Cohen’s paradigm of ‘reflexive law’ the article considers a possible way forward that opens up channels of communication between regulators, fans, domain host administrators and media studies professionals that would encourage a more nuanced approach to legislation as well as a greater awareness of the need for self-regulation among fan communities.



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