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Popular Culture and Regionalization in East and Southeast Asia

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The role of popular culture in regionalisation

An EU-funded project has explored the connection between the commodification of culture and the dynamics of regionalisation in east and south-east Asia. Activities of the popular culture industries in the region over the last two decades were studied.

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'Popular culture and regionalisation in east and south-eastern Asia' (ASIANPOPCULTURES) is a project that endeavoured to extend research beyond state-centric explanations of regionalisation and to develop a theoretically plausible explanation for how the commodification of culture can affect regional formation. Research focused on Chinese, Japanese and Korean popular cultures, investigating their emergence, activities, expansion to other markets in the region, interaction with each other, and their relations with the state. Taking a unique approach, ASIANPOPCULTURES provided a comprehensive account of the networks of production and distribution that put the cultural commodities into circulation. Popular culture products include and relate to regional collaboration in the production and marketing of movies, music, animation and television programmes — all of which are having a major impact on the local cultural markets. While most studies in the field have typically taken an interpretive approach (focusing on the content and images of particular cultural products), ASIANPOPCULTURES research takes a comparative perspective instead. The project works from a variety of primary sources (e.g. through research visits to major cities in the region) and is based on insights from within the Asian region as a whole. The researchers carried out market surveys and interviews with personnel in local cultural industries, and used the collected data to analyse and evaluate cultural and media markets. In addition, ties with local scholars who share similar research interests were established. ASIANPOPCULTURES studied the mechanisms of production and distribution in an effort to provide a bigger picture of the dramatic changes having taken place in regional cultural production and circulation. Project work represents the first major attempt to offer a comprehensive understanding of the production, circulation and acceptance of these cultural industries in the Asian market. By highlighting the role of popular culture in regionalisation, project outcomes present an alternative approach to better understanding how regions are being constructed and conceptualised.

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