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February 25, 2021

Lonely Nerds Special Issue Workshop

Through its analysis of artistic takes on nerds, our issue aims to intervene in the debate about technologies' and popular media’s influence on social bonds, with a particular focus on loneliness. We suggest a broad understanding of loneliness that includes a wide range of societal issues such as stances vis-à-vis society, the positionality of nerds within or outside of it, their intergroup behaviour dynamics and belonging, their feeling of loneliness both derived from physical and/or emotional isolation, or even conceptualised as loneliness within a group. The issue will hence analyse varying cultural representations of the nerd’s relationship with society in order to critically discuss how various art forms approach the notion of the “lonely nerd”.

We want to ask questions such as: Can we still find common characteristics in representations that are not overtly about nerds? Is loneliness inextricable from any representation of nerds, or do we see narratives where nerds actually become, quite anticanonically, the centre of their community, as small as it may be? And if so, what do these representations tell us about their culture? Are they representational? If this is the case, how can it be used to interrogate relevant phenomena of isolation and loneliness in general? Possible topics include, but are not limited to, fictional explorations of nerds and loneliness (Call for papers, Exchanges, 2020)


We’re delighted to announce a two-day workshop as part of our preparations for our ‘lonely nerds’ special issue, to be hosted by the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick, Friday and Saturday 12th/13th March. This online event will be a chance to hear papers from the authors contributing to this special issue on a range of topics concerning the representations of nerds in cultural milieu around the world.

Hosted by myself, in partnership with Dr Ben Schaper (University of Oxford) and Dr Filippo Cervelli (SOAS, University of London), it will be two highly engaging, insightful and challenging talks given by speakers from around the globe on a diverse and fascinating topic.

To reserve your place contact: There is no fee for attending.

[Edit: Biographies of the speakers are now available]

Event Schedule (Fri 12th-Sat 13th March)


Friday (Day One)

15.00 Welcome

15:15-16:45 Session 1

  • Guido Furci (Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle): Through the Nerdish Glass: Rereading Antiheroes in Modern Italian Culture
  • Benjamin Schaper (University of Oxford): Conquering the Meatspace: The Reception of David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) in Baran bo Odar’s Who am I (2014)
  • Aneesh Barai (University of Sheffield): Child detectives, specialist knowledge and the sociable genius: Detective Conan and adult-child identities

16.45 Tea break

17:15-18:45 Session 2

  • Filippo Cervelli (SOAS, University of London): Saved by the Nerd: Otaku and the Space of Family in Summer Wars
  • Kwasu D. Tembo (Independent Researcher): The Jackal and the Genius: Jake Gyllenhall's Representation of the Pathology of the Occidental Nerd in Nightcrawler and Donnie Darko”
  • Carolin Fleischer-Heininger (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich): Lonely Heisei Japan: On Murakami Ryū's In za miso sūpu

18:45 Close


Saturday (Day Two)

10:25 Introduction

10:30-12:00 Session 3

  • Natalia Rumak (Lomonosov Moscow State University): Sherlock And Sha:rokku: Detectives With ASD. Will East And West Ever Meet?
  • Rebecca Lewis (University of Westminster): The Fear of Belonging: The Simultaneity of Loneliness and Popularity in Dear Evan Hansen
  • Daniele Durante (University of Rome, Sapienza): From Misfit to Leader: Towards a Revisionist Representation of Otaku and Hikikomori in Japanese Video Game Persona 5

12.00-13.00 Lunch Break

13:00-14:30 Session 4

  • Janée N. Burkhalter (Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia): ‘Gus, don’t be the comma in Earth, Wind & Fire’: Understanding Psych’s (sometimes) lonely blerd Burton Guster
  • Sharon Coleclough (Staffordshire University): So Many Ways to be an Outsider – “Nerdism” and Ethnicity as Signifiers of Otherness
  • Alena Cicholewski (University of Oldenburg): “A place where everybody is a legendary hero… and a total dork” – Representing the American Nerd Community as an Antidote to Loneliness in G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel Comics (2014-2019)

14.30-15.00 Tea Break

15:00-16:30 Session 5

  • Marta Fanasca (University of Manchester): Communicating isolation and sexual negotiation: Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with loneliness
  • Christopher Smith (University of Florida): Consumable Bodies, Consumable Self: The Queer Potential of Otaku Subjectivity in Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken
  • Ozgur Cicek (Freie Universität, Berlin: Young, male, and unruly: The representation of nerds in Turkey between 2000-2020

16.30-16.45 Tea Break

16.45-17.15 Final Discussion

17:15 Close

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