Marcello Francioni has recently obtained his PhD in Anthropology from SOAS University of London. An anthropologist by training and aspiring comics artist, Francioni has harvested his passion for drawing and comics since an early age, but it was not until recently that he realised that those two passions – and those two sides of him – could be merged without either sacrificing their identity.
His research focuses on the Japanese service industry and, more specifically, on issues of gender, care and knowledge transmission in queer nightlife. During his 14-month fieldwork, Francioni worked as a bar help (miseko) at a Japanese-style gay bar in Japan’s largest ‘gay town,’ Shinjuku Ni-chome (Tokyo), learning about That Bar Life (also the title of his thesis). Under the vigilant surveillance of his manager, he observed the networks of mutual support existing among bars, and attempted to navigate the delicate customer-staff interactions across the counter. Ultimately, he learnt that nightlife is a business that requires extreme dedication and continuous transformation from its practitioners in order to meet the needs and desires of their counterparts, and make them feel special.
What took you so Long? was born as part of turning That Bar Life into an ethnographic novel. By concocting a method of ethnographic storytelling that combines text and image, Francioni was able to bring the spatiality and material culture of his field-site to life, and to closely engage with issues of time and his own positionality as a researcher-author.