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Popular Culture and Regionalization in East and Southeast Asia

Final Report Summary - ASIANPOPCULTURES (Popular culture and regionalisation in east and south-eastern Asia)

This research project analyses the dramatic changes in east and south-eastern Asia's popular culture markets over the past two decades. The research has focused on the cases of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean poplar cultures: their emergence, activities, expansion to other markets in the region, interaction with each other, and their relations with the state. This work is the first major attempt to provide a comprehensive understanding of the production, circulation, and acceptance of these cultural industries in the Asian market. No less important, this research introduces an alternative understanding on the way regions are being constructed and conceptualised by emphasising the role of popular culture in this process.

This research project is pioneering in recognising the mechanisms and in providing a multi-sited account of the networks of production and distribution that put the cultural commodities into circulation. Unlike the overwhelming majority of studies in the field, which have typically employed an interpretive approach focusing on the content and image of certain cultural products, this research does not only looks at specific cases related to cultural consumption but is rather based on an explicit comparative perspective and on a variety of primary sources, on research visits to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Seoul, and on insights from within the Asian region. This research aspires to go beyond just one case study, to look at the mechanisms of production and distribution so as not to be simply over-interpretive and focus only on texts; to provide the larger picture of this dramatic change in the regional cultural production and circulation.

As part of this research, I have conducted a number of field visits to a few Asia cities. As I believe in combining quantitative and qualitative research methods, in each city, I conducted market surveys and interviews with local cultural industries personnel, collected relevant data for my research, observed and analysed the evaluation of the local cultural and media markets, and established ties with local scholars who share similar research interests. These field visits included Hong Kong (June 2010); Seoul (September 2010), Bangalore (December 2010), Tokyo (April 2011), and Singapore (July 2009, October 2011). I have also been invited to give talks on issues related to Asia's cultural industries at a number of international conferences and have held visiting fellowship positions at Cornell University - East Asia Programme (June - September 2009, July - August 2011), Sciences-Po - Center for International Studies and Research (February - March 2010), the National University of Singapore - the Department of Japanese Studies (October 2011), and the University of Sydney - the Department of Japanese Studies (July - August 2012).