Hallyu, the Korean Wave, has entered another stage with the emergence and dramatic success of BTS, a seven-member South Korean boy band, and its uniquely engaged fandom. The band’s fan club, ARMY of BTS, through their social media presence and other internet activities, is a significant factor in the band’s success. Unlike traditional fandom, ARMY has built a huge base of support by championing the message that everyone must find their own personal taste and voice, demonstrating in the process the tribal power of global fandom as a far-reaching cultural phenomenon that exceeds the scope of traditional fan clubs. Adopting a grounded theory approach through our ethnographic research, we identified four primary dimensions of this emerging fandom: (1) digital intimacy, (2) non-social sociality, (3) transnational locality, and (4) organizing without an organization. We found that, in conjunction with Maffesoli’s concept of the “tribe,” these four dimensions help us to understand how the relationship between BTS and ARMY transforms the private realm of the tastes and desires of their fans into cultural, political, and economic expression in the public realm. Thus, this global fandom, the tribe in the digital era, potentiated by the internet and the new forms of sociality created by social media, is effecting tectonic sociocultural change on a global scale.


ARMY, BTS, digital era, fandom, Hallyu, Maffesoli’s tribe

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)