Popular Culture in East Asia: Politics and Organization

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I have collaborated with a colleague who is a political economist on hitherto little studied aspects of popular culture in Asia. For all the dramatic changes in East and Southeast Asia’s popular culture markets in recent decades, very little scholarly attention has been given to the its, policy and economic aspects. Although a number of such works deal with Western-based cultural industries, there are very few which illuminate the production mechanisms, marketing routes, and capabilities of the cultural industries in East Asia and their political implications. Our volumes speak directly to these issues comparatively and provides an important corrective to the limitations of existing scholarship on popular culture in East Asia. Now published in two volumes (based on workshops we organized in Japan and Israel), we have sought to go beyond the overwhelming emphasis in the study of popular culture on texts and performances in two directions.

The first volume takes an explicit political perspective that examines the variegated relations between states or state actors and manifestations of popular culture. The volume examines the relations between cultural industries and the state in East and Southeast Asia comprising the urban centers and middle-classes of Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand, and the Philippines. By studying the state, political power and industrial policy as they shape and are shaped by popular culture, this volume opens up multiple issues. Although popular culture production and dissemination has become regionalized with various confluences routinely crossing national borders as a part of a transnational-urban culture of consumption, cultural policy remains predominantly national and there are very few policy initiatives on a country-to-country or region-wide basis. In fact, it is only recently that issues related to popular culture have been added to bilateral and multilateral negotiations between East Asian countries with a special emphasis placed on intellectual property violations.

The second volume is more economic and organizational in its focus in that it explores the kinds of business networks, joint projects and region-making processes of co-production involved in producing and disseminating popular culture. Here we have tried to address what we see as the very fruitful but still limited approaches to popular culture that are rooted in cultural studies, cultural anthropology or media and film studies to introduce articles based in economics, business studies, organizational research or network analysis. From a wider theoretical perspective, this volume develops a regional framework to examine transnational collaborations in the making of popular culture in East and Southeast Asia and goes beyond the accepted paradigm centered on the dynamics of global-local relations. Along these lines, taken together the chapters in this book explore the production and exploitation of cultural imaginaries in the context of intensive regional circulation of cultural commodities and images and present a potential for a regional economy of transcultural production



Nissim Otmazgin and Eyal Ben-Ari (eds) Popular Culture and the State in East Asia. London: Routledge, 2011. [Book Link]

Nissim Otmazgin and Eyal Ben-Ari (eds) Popular Culture Co-productions and Collaborations in East and Southeast Asia. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press and Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2011.