Fandom grows in Southeast Asia – could it bring culture clash with Islam and authoritarianism?
by Patch O'Furr
By Patch O’Furr and Fred Patten, furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Remember the amazing story about Syrian refugee kids at VancouFur? They were freshly arrived in Canada from a conservative arabic country, and housed in the same hotel with the furries. At first there were warnings and high caution about the situation. Then the kids went wild about how cool it was. Remember that happened when you read the culture clash topic below!
Fred Patten wanted to learn about furry writing in Southeast Asia. (It’s a natural interest – he isn’t just a “founder” of furry fandom, he also helped bring anime to North America in the 1970’s). So Fred spoke with an academic in Malaysia who said this about furry novels:
“In Malaysia, portraying animal being human-like and intelligent is something rare and was not encouraged. This is because it contradicts with the Islamic teaching (Islam being the national religion of Malaysia). So, I am sorry to say I could not recommend any titles for you. Would be similar case for Indonesia too. But currently, there is a rise of independent novel publishers that doesn’t confine to the typical novel styles in Malaysia. They are labeled as rebels and those who tend to ‘speak their mind’ without any censorship.”
The discussion is related to Fred’s 2012 article – Survey: Foreign Furry novels. It adds relevant thoughts from a poster to the AnthroAsia forum:
Anthropomorphism is very much a Western concept passed on to this part of the world. When I was growing up, the only exposure to anthropomorphic characters was through children’s storybooks or through cartoons on the television. Even the first few books that I did get (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern) was at a local Borders store or through Amazon. Here, in Singapore, where English is the language of instruction, most of our material originates from the West.
New furry conventions are sprouting up in Southeast Asia. This includes south China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand:
- The Philippine Anthro Festival in Manila, first held in May 2014.
- The China National Furry Party in Guangzhou (Canton) (July 2015).
- Infurnity in Taipei (October 2015).
- FurryLah in Singapore (November 2015).
- Furs Upon Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur (December 2015).
- The Thai Tails Convention in Bangkok (January 2016).
- Shanghai Furry Summer Festival in Shanghai, China (July 23, 2016).
One Southeast Asian country is conspicuously missing: Burma/Myanmar. Of course, there have been furry conventions in Japan for the last decade.
The Southeast Asian furry community has been growing since AnthroAsia went online in 2004. There have been higher-profile furmeets in Bangkok since 2012, and these conventions have had no trouble getting meeting space. At least one furry author, MikasiWolf in Singapore, has risen since 2013, although his short stories have all been published in English outside Southeast Asia so far.
Disney’s Zootopia has been distributed throughout Southeast Asia including in Cambodia and Vietnam, although this may have been only in the largest and most cosmopolitan cities. In general, things are looking encouraging for the furry community there, and furry fandom has been accepted without notice.
Could such Western influences bring backlash? Things haven’t always been positive. Some terrorism in Southeast Asia has been blamed on reactionary Islamic groups, such as the bombing of Western tourists in Bali in 2002.
Disney’s Zootopia was released in Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Does this mean that attitudes have changed in some Islamic countries? Or that it is an example of the power of Disney? Or has distribution there been only in the most cosmopolitan cities?
Things taken for granted elsewhere in the West aren’t free to see everywhere; consider how ubiquitous Santa Claus is. But the government of Uzbekistan ordered Santa Claus and Russia’s similar Grandfather Frost taken off TV because they’re non-Uzbeki… but it’s more probably because they’re non-Islamic.
Remember when the Iron Curtain dominated half the world up to the 1980’s? It was a huge deal when rock and roll, jeans and McDonald’s came to Russia. Such things can be unexpectedly subversive.
It’s universal to love anthro animals. Art and cartoons speak in ways that words can’t. Maybe kids will have that as part of loosening domination in their countries. There already are pockets of furs in places like Iran.
Furry is an international conspiracy built from grassroots. It could take a little part in a bigger clash. So far, all I have are questions and curiosity. Especially if this ever starts to involve “the topic we love to hate” – the duality of Disney vs. Dirty in the fandom. As much as it causes concern, it’s also a source of independence and liberation. Something that many parts of the world could use in whatever form it takes.
Related: Questions for Russian furry fans about anti-gay oppression.
See the movie Argo for a fantastic liberation story set in Iran. It’s about a spy operation to free hostages under cover of making a sci-fi B movie – a bit fandom-adjacent perhaps.
China National Furry Party was reported as a government-run festival (Update: this info has been removed because it was a translation error.)
That so interesting. In China are most all fan conventions technically run by the state or is this an unusual exception? Either way, this is very neat! I love reading up on the fandom throughout parts of the world.
I have no idea! I sent a message to that con asking for more info, in English and with crude machine translation, but heard nothing back. I would like to hear more from someone who knows the language.
No, most of fan conventions have nothing about the state (including this). The problem is that the English name “China National Furry Party” is too strange and there must be some misunderstanding (sounds related to politics and government, but nothing about this!), The Chinese name of this convention is “神州萌兽祭”. I think the translation “Cute Furry Festival of the Divine Land” might be more close to its original meaning,
Thanks Snowkylin! It looks like I made a mistake in the translation of info I saw… it wasn’t easy at all to figure out what it was saying.
I was wondering if Vietnam has any furry events there.
There’s a couple of furs you could ask: http://www.furaffinity.net/user/vietfur/ – http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Category:Vietnam – or try the AnthroAsia forum. I looked at the FA journal with Google Translate and did see a few events in HCMC last time it was active. Comment back if you learn more!
A few years ago I read The Divine Life of Animals by Ptolemy Tompkins. He took the subject of whether animals have souls seriously, while myself in a more atheist mindset read between the lines. The question of animals having souls came up in the late 18th century as fewer people were working farms and more people were living in urban areas with companion animals, and wondered if they would meet their pets in heaven. Reading cynically, church authorities in more agrarian times wanted to make sure people stood above animals when they were our servants on farms, but had to adapt their stand (lead from behind) when people saw animals more as equals. This history seems to present more evidence that morality actually comes from society’s main means of economic production, and not from revealed truth. Islam seems to be closer to an agrarian view than the west is, but hopefully they will catch up without too many more people getting hurt.
I used to work a job where incoming electronic parts were wrapped in Malaysian newspapers, and I would use that wrapping to repackage the parts for distribution here. One time the paper ran a listing of upcoming sports tournaments, each one associated with an Asian cartoon mascot. I don’t know if I still have that clipping, or where it is.
Very interesting. The animal souls question must be more modern than asking which people have souls, which was part of justifying slavery. Slavery was an economic engine, so there was incentive to rationalize them as lesser than the owners.
Tech made that system obsolete, since slaves were less powerful than other engines (leading to the US civil war between industrial and agrarian society.) Now tech is part of this fascination with animal-people. You can play them in games, watch them animated or be one on the internet.
It’s interesting to look at all the global stuff as competing value systems. In a perverse way, I get why defenders of slavery felt so attached to it. If slaves weren’t people, it would be scary to fear “barbarism”. And there was the benefit of servants who did anything you told them to. But I don’t fully understand what is the attachment to religiously conservative anti-westernism. I can’t relate it to how a system benefited from slavery. But I’m guessing it has to do with limited resources and competing cultures within their own areas. I’m told it helps to look all the way back to the split between shia and sunni. But that’s another topic.
There already exists a Muslim Furs group on FA. I had written an article on wikifur about Islam and furry fandom, but it was pulled for reasons on which I am not clear.
Thanks! Yes I’ve seen that one, there’s a Persian furs group too. If you have the info that was pulled, maybe it’s worth posting as an article here?
Pope Paul III issued the papal bull “Sublimus Deus” on June 2, 1537 forbidding the enslavement of Native Americans on the grounds that they were subhumans without souls. They could be enslaved for other reasons, and the Spanish crown had a duty to convert heathens to Catholicism, but the Roman Catholic Church agreed that the Native Americans were fully human with souls.
I love so much Zabivaka. I have to get a plush toy.
There don’t seem to be any plush toys yet, but someone (FIFA?) made mascot suits of all three 2018 FIFA mascot finalists.
I am a furry from China, and I am sure to tell you the con in Guangzhou was not run by government; just like every other con in the world, it was held by normal furllows.
One more trivia, over 1500 tickets to the furry con in Shanghai were sold (although some may not come).
Thanks Xiongma! It looks like I made a mistake in the translation of info I saw… it wasn’t easy at all to figure out what it was saying.
If you can tell more about furries in China, and about the con, I would love to post a guest article. Send info to email@example.com. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly written – I can work with you, or another furry can help make a good translation.
It is great to see Asian furries becoming increasingly active in recent years.
But there is a misunderstanding to be noted, the Chinese Furry event mentioned at last, is definitely not a government-run convention.
The two furry events in mainland China, held in Guangzhou and Shanghai, are totally commercial activities.
Nonetheless, conventions among the group already means a lot to promote the visibility of furry communities.
Thanks! If you can tell more about furries in China, or about the con, I would love to post a guest article. Send info to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly written – I can work with you, or another furry can help make a good translation.
I just got this e-mail:
In the article http://dogpatch.press/2016/10/25/furry-fandom-southeast-asia/ by Patch O’Furr and you, there is something wrong with the following sentence:
The world’s only government-run furry convention (as far as I can tell) is The China National Furry Party .
No, “The China National Furry Party ” is not government-run. In fact, it is just held by some Chinese furries. As I have said in the previous letter, the English name of the convention is really a bit strange (and might lead to misunderstanding).
That comment should probably have said government-approved rather than government-run. Or was the furry convention coordinated with the anime convention held at the same time, without any contact with the government?
[…] Asia has it going on too. Apart from furry conventions in Japan in the last decade, since 2014 new ones have been founded in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and […]