Negotiating otaku: A social group, its social representations and the changing cultural context

  • Perry Hinton University of Warwick


During the 1980s, a social group of dedicated fans of comics (manga) and animation (anime) – referred to as otaku – emerged within Japanese culture. This paper charts the social representations of this group in Japan over a period of thirty five years, to the present day. During that period, it is shown that the depiction of an otaku has altered from that of a deviant outsider to a representative of modern creative Japanese consumer culture. It is argued here that this development has occurred through the negotiation of the social representations concerning the otaku, within the context of socio-cultural change in Japan. Employing the framework of Moscovici’s social representations theory, it is demonstrated that the representation of a social group is not fixed and unchanging, but is subject to transformation, linked to the changing socio-cultural circumstances of the society. It is concluded that the meaning of a social group cannot be isolated from its cultural context.

Author Biography

Perry Hinton, University of Warwick

PERRY HINTON has worked for many years as an academic in British Universities since receiving his doctorate in psychology from the University of Oxford. He has often worked in an interdisciplinary team, as now in the Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, where he is a part-time professorial teaching fellow. He has written six books, published by Routledge, including The Perception of People: Integrating Cognition and Culture (2016) and Stereotypes, Cognition & Culture (2000), and had peer-reviewed articles published on the cultural context of media interpretation, particularly the interpretation of Japanese popular culture in Western media. Email:

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