The following conference proposal has just been submitted to the Under the Mask: Perspectives on the Gamer conference at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, UK:
Based on as sources as varying as for instance Japanese manga fiction, Egyptian mythology, Batman’s Catwoman, the musical Cats and conceptions of what “cats are like,” the Neko culture has become one of the most visible subcultures in Second Life (Villota). The cat-inspired avatars look like hybrids of (usually) female-shaped humans and cats, with cat’s ears, tails and, less often, whiskers and cat skins in various colours (Villota). Wearing urban street fashion or perhaps Japanese school girl uniforms, these Second Life residents live out the fantasy of who they might have been had they been born as felines, or perhaps they only gather strength from idea of the individuality and independence of the cat.
Neko is the Japanese word for cat, and the origin of the Japanese Neko community is primarily the 2002 movie “The cat returns,” which tells the story of a schoolgirl being abducted by the prince of the “Cat Kingdom.” Before the shotgun wedding she begins to transform into a cat, but before the transformation is complete she is rescued and the girl is left in human form but with the addition of cat’s ears and a tail. The movie inspired a large number of fans to dress and act like the schoolgirl (Villota). Using sources such as blogs, forum discussions and interviews I intend to study the Nekos in Second Life as a form of fan culture, which has been imported into the Western cultural sphere and, and while retaining its Japanese name, it has been transformed both by Western examples of “cat people” and its incorporation into the Second Life community.
Let's hope it becomes accepted.