Alice and Play in Australian Art and Japanese shōjo Culture

This peer-reviewed academic article appeared in the July 2016 special issue of the International Journal of Play themed ‘Histories of Play’.

Alice in transnational perspective and through the history of replication: an exploration of adult play in Australian art and Japanese shōjo culture


From her nineteenth century origins in a text which satirised the university milieu of Oxford, Lewis Carroll’s Alice became, by the end of the twentieth century, a global icon and an inspiration for serious and subversive adult play in numerous locations across the world. Examining two examples of this diverse adult play – modern Australian art and Japanese shōjo culture – this study of Alice as conduit for adult play reveals relations between individual and society, cultural constructions of identity, and enacted and repressed desires. This article argues that adult play constitutes spaces in which cultural relations of gender and identity are subverted and resisted. Thus, instances of adult play placed within their cultural contexts reveal both relations of power in the societies in which they are situated, and the ability of adult play to act as resistance hidden behind the playful childlike guise of imagined alternative (and impossible) worlds.

KEYWORDS: Aliceadult playHeterotopiaperformative genderAustralian artJapanese shōjo culturecomparative history

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