In response to Harlequin: Global legacy, local agency

Publication year

From the introduction to the volume:

Kathrina Mohd Daud concludes this volume with a chapter (Chapter 24) considering how romance novels—especially category romances‫ؙ‬ — translate into non-western cultures, focusing specifically on India, Japan, Nigeria, and Malaysia. Daud describes local romance publishing initiatives responding to the success of Harlequin in these markets, with the emergence of local romance lines such as the francophone Adoras series (known as the “African Harlequin”) in Cote d’Ivoire in 1998, the romance genre called Littattafan Soyayya (books of love) in Nigeria, the Sanrio New Romance series of Japanese-authored romances, and a more variegated Malay-language romance market in Malaysia. However, Daud notes that local initiatives to imitate the success of Harlequin have not always been successful, as evidenced in the failure of Rupa & Co.’s line of local romances in India because part of the appeal of Harlequin romances was the foreignness of the romantic protagonists. Clearly, much more work needs to be done on non-western traditions of romance but, as Daud argues, a foreign form of fiction that was introduced through the global dominance of Harlequin does not remain a homogenized product when it becomes indigenized. Rather, local variations of the popular romance draw on the authors’ own culture and traditions to produce new forms of the genre that can reflect resistance to cultural colonization. (19)


Scholars since the turn of the century have been increasingly attentive to how romance novels, especially category romances, translate into non-English cultures, including the Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, and Nigerian contexts, but also how these contexts have their own traditions outside of the dominant Anglophone sphere. This chapter will trace the influence and presence of the Harlequin Mills & Boon novels in the global context to consider their impact on indigenous literary ecosystems. (529)