[CONFERENCE] In the world but not of it: Keep Calm and Carry On #fandomleics

Fandom is not an area that I’m academically particularly familiar with, but as CODEC’s pitching into this event (Fandom & Religion Conference, Leicester), I thought it was an opportunity to play with some of my thoughts about the ‘fandom’ of Keep Calm and Carry On, and look specifically at those produced by/for those of faith. These are my slides from today’s session.


[ABSTRACT] In the world but not of it: Keep Calm and Carry On

Topic: Uses of popular culture by religious groups

keep-calm-trushThe ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster, designed by the British Government in 1939 as a response to war, has become global cultural icon of the early twenty-first century, drawing a nostalgic response for a time ‘when we all pulled together’ in the current time of economic crisis. This paper considers what Christians have contributed to, and drawn from, fan culture around this poster, as part of their call to be ‘in the world but not of it’: are they also drawing on nostalgia, or seeking cultural relevance?

When the posters were originally produced in 1939, churchgoing was the cultural norm, in a way that it is not now. Many wartime posters had visibly religious discourse embedded within their designs, offering a clear moral and ethical perspective. As ‘the church’ has found itself discouraged from participating in the public sphere by an increasing sacred-secular divide, it has had to find new ways of engaging with the world. We question how Christian versions of the design and slogan (many as questionable as those produced by secular copyists) highlight the interaction between church and popular culture, whether separatist, conformist, or transformist.

Working with the concept of ‘whole-life discipleship’, we consider what the uses of subverted designs indicate about the stories that Christians want to tell about themselves: are they fans of Jesus, or fans of content? We question what they might offer as opportunities to open or participate a conversation – in a fragmented digital age – in a way that bridges culture and religion.

Accepted for Fandom and Religion: And International and Interdisciplinary Conference , Leicester University, July 2015