Cuteness has become a widespread phenomenon of popular culture across the world, as the popularity of e.g. East Asian concepts of cuteness attest. This interdisciplinary panel seeks to engage with conceptualizations, manifestations and (political) functions of cuteness in contemporary lifeworlds.
Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning interest in cuteness across cultures and disciplines. This is far from coincidental, given that "cuteness is a rising trend in global popular culture" (Joshua Paul Dale). One need only think of the dissemination of East Asian concepts of cuteness (kawaii, aegyo) in the wake of the increased global popularity of Japanese and Korean popular culture. While scholars in cultural studies have explored how 'cuteness' is tied to gender stereotypes, the impact of consumption cultures, or to an agenda of making state authority more palatable (e.g. 'Hello Kitty' road blocks in Japan), scholars in the arts have called for more attention to cuteness as an aesthetic category because it indexes conditions of late capitalism. This panel seeks to engage with the phenomenon of 'cuteness' as a marker of transforming contemporary lifeworlds. We invite papers from various disciplines that cover but are not limited to the following questions: How may 'cuteness' be defined? Is 'cute' inherently superficial or does it have deeper implications? What are important differences between culturally specific notions of 'cuteness'? How is cuteness constructed linguistically in specific cultures (diminutives, special "feminine" and "infantile" adjectives and nouns)? What functions does 'cuteness' fulfil in contemporary socio-cultural worlds? How is cuteness bound with power structures and attachments? And how may various artistic and linguistic expressions contribute to our understanding of cuteness? We will send panel participants some reading on 'cuteness studies' as this may be helpful for enlivening our discussion by serving as a common basis.