The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness International Symposium

CutenessPosterNAUNorthern Arizona University
February 13-14, 2014

This event in the breathtakingly lovely landscape of Flagstaff, Arizona, marked the first instance at which all the editors of The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness were able to meet and share their work and thoughts on cuteness in person. The papers delivered were as follows:

  • Diane Negra: “Animality, Domesticity and Intimacy in My Cat From Hell”
  • Julia Leyda, “Abjection, Animality, and Cuteness in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
  • Joshua Paul Dale: “Domestication, Agency, and the Appeal of the Cute Object
  • Joyce Goggin, “The Komfort of Kiddles: Memory, Nostalgia, and Material Culture
  • Rebecca Gordon, “‘So Cute It’s Sick’: The Chicana/Latina Disruption of Cute in Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin”
  • Anthony P. McIntyre, “Sarah Silverman: Cuteness as Subversion”
  • Christine Yano: “Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek across the Atlantic”

The facilities at host institution Northern Arizona University were excellent and both students and staff of the university turned out to welcome the speakers and contribute to the discussions. Special thanks must be given to organizer Rebecca Mercedes Gordon who was an excellent host and ensured the smooth-running of the event. Rebecca’s paper on how cuteness functions within the cultural terrain of Chicana/Latina representation was one of the more noteworthy contributions to the symposium, raising essential questions as to how the aesthetic functions to soften ethnic markers of difference within a dominant culture.

The highlight of the event was Christine Yano’s excellent keynote on her experiences writing Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific (Duke UP, 2013) as well as her continued experiences in the world of Kitty fandom once the seminal work had been published. In an entertaining Q&A session after her talk, Yano told an engaged audience of some of the challenges of being an academic engaging with the corporate entity that is Sanrio.

The event also provided the editors of The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness an opportunity to delegate various subdivisions of the book for each member of the team to oversee. In addition, a number of future funding possibilities pertaining to the broader project of cuteness studies were discussed, and the idea of starting the current website was suggested.

In addition to Rebecca’s hospitality, the University’s Center for International Education, College of Arts and Letters, English Department, Comparative Culture Studies Department, Honors College, and the Office of the Provost all contributed to the funding for our event.