East Asian pop culture and the trajectory of Asian consumption
C. J. W.-L. WEE
ABSTRACT: This article focuses on Chua Beng Huat’s work on the East Asian pop culture that became more prominent in East and Southeast Asia from the 1990s, when the circulation of multilingual and multi-format pop culture started to exceed linguistic, ethnic and national boundaries. It argues that Chua’s work indicates that the pop-cultural production and innovation that support the globalisation and regionalisation processes in East Asia need not be national in origin but can hail from different national origins – and this despite the existing political realities of the region and its history of political fractures. He cautions, though, that the national popular can also be marshalled to defeat the border-crossing potential of an inter-Asian pop culture. What is the ‘Asia’ imagined or being represented in such cultural production? Chua’s work is also distinctive in that it deals with the political and economic conditions that underpin mainstream pop consumption as a socio-cultural phenomenon, instead of examining consumption as identity politics. The article concludes by noting the significance that Chua as an institutional builder has played in enabling the study of East Asian pop culture in the region.
Keywords: Cultural studies; East Asia; Pop Culture; consumption/consumerism.
Note on the contributor
C. J. W.-L. Wee is Professor of English at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has held Visiting Fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India, and the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, among other institutions. Wee is the author of Culture, Empire, and the Question of Being Modern (2003) and The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007), and a board member of the journal Modern Asian Studies.