2013 Symposium

An international symposium on “Consumption, Lifestyle and Asian Modernities” was held in November 2013 in Melbourne, with keynote speakers Professor Chua Beng Huat (National University of Singapore) and Professor Eric Kit-wai Ma (The Chinese University of Hong Kong). The biographies of participants in this symposium, and the outline of their papers are as follows:

Hong Kong/China: the materiality and ethical dilemma of transborder cultural politics

Eric Kit-wai Ma

The presentation starts with the history of Hong Kong/mainland cultural politics in the 1970s and the 1980s, when Hong Kong emerged as a satellite city of colonial modernity, and had become the object of desire for those Mainland Chinese who fancied a better life. I describe the features of transborder urban imaginations, how these imaginations were produced, and their implications in social practices, focusing on how new migrants acquired the urban lifestyles of modern Hong Kong. In these two decades, Hong Kong/mainland cultural politics was largely embedded in the differentials of capitalistic materiality.

The second part of the presentation traces the new developments in transborder cultural politics since the mid-1990s, when the role of Hong Kong as a satellite modern city for mainlanders has greatly diminished, and when China has emerged as an aspiring giant in global capitalism. The cases examined in the presentation include life histories of migrants, young professionals, wedding couples, visual producers, homebuyers, travelers, and rural migrant workers. They travel back and forth the Shenzhen border, bringing with them their imaginations and apprehensions of the ‘other side’, and the difficulties they encounter in their everyday life.

The last part of the presentation focuses on the recent conflicts between local Hong Kong people and mainland tourists, shoppers and immigrants. The conspicuous consumption of mainland new rich in Hong Kong, as amplified by the popular media, has triggered a renewed sense of difference and resentment among the locals, which intensify the contradictions of local and national identification. Lifestyles become highly political when they are linked not only to tastes and affordability, but also to civic values and citizen rights. The colliding trajectories of modernity in Hong Kong can thus be analyzed via the vectors of materiality as well as ethical sophistication, with Hong Kong people claiming the later, but at the same time running into the dilemma between accepting nationalization, upholding civic tolerance, and maintaining a self-prescribed sense of ethical superiority.

Bio: Eric Kit-wai Ma teaches communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His books include Desiring Hong Kong, Consuming China (HKU Press), Hong Kong, China: learning to belong to a nation (Routledge, with Mathews and Lui), and Culture, Politics and Television in Hong Kong (Routledge). His articles appear in journals such as Global Media and Communication, Visual Anthropology, Cultural Studies, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Social Text, Positions, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, etc. He has written and edited more than 20 books in Chinese; the most recent ones include Trends Factory: A Visual Ethnography andMediated Modernity: A Dialogue between Communication and Social Theories, both published by Fudan University Press. He writes columns for Ming Pao Daily (Hong Kong) and the International Herald Leader (Beijing).

Rethinking Consumption in Economic Recessionary East Asia

Chua Beng Huat

Looking back, I could say that between the late 1980s and end of 1990s were the triumphant days of consumption, both actual material consumption and academic interest in consumption. From the early 2000s onwards, with the intensification of global finance capitalism, asset ownership began to achieve much higher returns than waged work. Middle class wages have stagnated or rolled back for more than a decade and the working classes have suffered real wage loss. Income inequalities have intensified in all East Asian countries. In places like Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, there has been a shift in the focus of the middle classes on to the necessities of housing, healthcare and the social security needs of an aging population. In all these societies, the social safety net is weak. Concern with employment stability has resulted in an emerging xenophobia in Hong Kong and Singapore, two global cities that have previously been comfortable with strangers. Young professionals in Taiwan are unable to afford basic housing in Taipei, where they work. Marriage is delayed. So is the arrival of first child due to the worrying anticipation of the cost of bringing up ‘middle-class’ children. In an aging society, funding prolonged sickness and other retirement needs is a constant source of anxiety, especially since the first line of payment is sourced from family members rather than a welfare state. Gone are the days in which double digit annual economic growth raised the standard of material life for all. Since consumerism is always about excess, the re-focusing of daily life on to necessities has severely curbed consumption, even if the construction of shopping centers continues and the newspapers and magazines get fatter with advertisements and the TV screen continues to project a cornucopia of lifestyle consumption.

Bio: Chua Beng Huat, Provost Chair Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, received his PhD from York University, Canada. He is concurrently Head, Department of Sociology, Convener Cultural Studies Programmes, FASS and Research Leader, Cultural Studies in Asia Research Cluster, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Before joining NUS, he was director of research at the Housing and Development Board. His research areas include housing and urban studies, cultural studies in Asia, East Asian pop culture and comparative politics in Southeast Asia. He is a founding co-editor of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.

Performing the Global Locally: Post -Islamist Chic in Southeast Asia

Bart Barendregt (Leiden University) and Chris Hudson (RMIT University)

The spatial scales of global, national and local have all but collapsed, as Saskia Sassen’s extensive work on the processes of globalization has shown. It seems that the global can now transcend but also inhabit the nation and be constituted inside it. Each nation reinvents the local and imagines its engagement with the global differently. Following Tsing, globalisation can be perceived of as a ‘set of projects with cultural and institutional specificities; projects that constitute, refer to, dream of, and fantasize of, in very diverse ways, a world as their zone of operation’ (Stokes 2004). Performance and performativity are critical to developing an understanding of how this might be articulated or ‘played out’. Certain types of performance condense the spatial scales and articulate the global, while simultaneously anchoring subjects to the very place of the local. Global media are important sites for these performances. This paper will focus on the ways in which Islamists in Southeast Asia have reinvented and refocused local shariah values through the vehicle of global media formats.

The emergence of a new sort of cosmopolitan Islamist chic in contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia offers a case in point. From its early inception among student activists and fundamentalist sects, Islamist performance has increasingly been taken up by the entertainment industry and as a result has been gentrified in order to address a newly emergent Muslim Malay middle class. Some people who were among the first of the Islamist activists have since turned into halal entrepreneurs now running their own empires of motivational literature, ethical soaps and Islamic television content. From an initial rejection and condemnation of what activists perceived of as hedonism and the idolising of celebrities, Islamists have gradually become aware of how such ‘alien’ formats may provide new affordances and how they can be appropriated to the demands of the Islamist project. Islamist entertainers have successfully reached the finals of Voice of Indonesia and the Malaysian talent show Akademi Fantasia. This new formula has proven to be so successful that new national TV channels such as Astro Oasis and Al Hijrah TV now air mostly locally produced Islamist entertainment.

In our paper we’ll look more thoroughly at two cases. The first is the highly successful reality competition series Imam Muda (‘The Young Imam’) – now in its third season – which sees a cast of ten young men competing for the title of this year’s Young Imam as they demonstrate their competency in reciting the Koran, marrying Muslim couples and performing Islamist songs. Our second case is the Indonesian sitcom Insya’allah ada Jalan (God willing, there is a way), which showcases popular Muslim celebrity Maheer Zain. God willing, there is a way appropriates the aesthetics of Indonesian drama, celebrity interviews and international soap opera and adapts it to an orthodox message. It simultaneously provides a wider, not necessarily Islamist audience with a modern, cosmopolitan-minded, globally oriented outlet for their new found piety.

Bio: Bart Barendregt is an anthropologist at the Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. As a senior researcher and main coordinator he is affiliated to the Articulation of Modernity Project, a four-year project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). This project looks at societal change through the prism of popular music, emphasizing the appeal of modernity rather than that of the nation-state, thus offering a new way of studying South-East Asian culture and history. Bart has an interest in popular and digital culture, and has published on and made films on Southeast Asian performing arts, new and mobile media, and (Islamic) pop music. His publications include the edited volumes Recollecting Resonance, Indonesian Dutch Musical Encounters (with E. Bogaerts, Brill 2013) and Green Consumption, The Global Emergence of Eco Chic (with R. Jaffe, Bloomsbury 2014). He is currently working on a book dealing with Islamic boy band music and the mixing of religion, youth culture and politics that has become so popular among Malaysian and Indonesian student activists.

Chris Hudson is a Research Leader in the Globalization and Culture Program in the Global Cities Research Institute and Associate Professor of Asian Media and Culture in the School of Media and Communication. She has published widely on cultural politics in Singapore, includingBeyond the Singapore Girl: Discourses of Gender and Nation in Singapore (NIAS Press, 2013), a study of the politics of fertility, narrative control and resistance in Singapore. She is a co-author of Theatre and Performance in the Asia-Pacific: Regional Modernities in the Global Era(Palgrave Macmillan). Funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Scheme, this book examines the diverse theatre and performance traditions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mobile lifestyles: Reflections on Mobile Media and Modernity across the Asia-Pacific

Heather Horst & Larissa Hjorth (RMIT University)

The twenty-first century has been marked by the rapid and divergent uptake of mobile media throughout the world. From iPhones in Singapore and shanzhai (“copy”) phones in Shanghai to the circulation of mobile money, mobile media technologies have become a potent symbol of lifestyle and mobility. Popular conceptions of the rise of mobile media tend to assume that such technologies herald the globalisation of privileged forms of lifestyle culture and consumption, often narrowly conceived of as ‘western’ or capitalist in nature. The use of mobile media, in particular, has become tantamount to the adoption of individualist, middle class lifestyles. Such assumptions sit uncomfortably with the experiences of new groups who use mobile media, including a growing cadre of migrant working-class workers (Qiu 2008; Bell 2005), transnational families as well as economically marginalised populations for whom mobility may represent a more ambivalent experience.

This talk will use two different examples of mobile media use to map and examine the divergent forms of mobile media lifestyles in the Asia-Pacific region. The first example will be drawn from Hjorth’s ongoing research in South Korea on the intersection between social, locative and mobile media. Drawing on South Korea’s purpose built social mobile media, Kakao Talk, Hjorth will illustrate some of the ways in which mobile intimacy is being overlaid with co-presence. Focusing upon camera phone sharing, this case study will explores the cross-generational dimensions of the relationship between movement, co-present play and place in Asia. The second case study will be based on Horst’s ongoing research in the South Pacific on the growth of the mobile phone company Digicel, Ltd. Building upon a their track record of rapid growth in Jamaica and the Caribbean (Horst and Miller 2006), Digicel moved into seven markets in the South Pacific beginning with Samoa in 2006 and later PNG, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Nauru. In addition to contributing to GDP (e.g. Papua New Guinea) and increased mobile penetration rates, Digicel quickly became a visible feature of public culture through its ubiquitous billboards, extensive marketing programs and Facebook pages. This case study examines how a range of stakeholders participate in the visual and popular culture created by and around Digicel (and other telecommunications companies) and, in turn, define the role that mobile media is playing in contemporary notions of modernity.

Through the comparative focus upon mobile media in East Asia and the South Pacific, this paper aims to expand and complicate accounts of mobile lifestyles that privilege Anglophonic and Western constructions of lifestyle and modernity. Moreover, we to draw attention to the range of experience of lifestyle at play in the rhetorically significant but under theorised Asia-Pacific region. Through reference to a range of empirical studies of media consumption and lifestyle practices we seek to produce a more nuanced and complex account of the role of lifestyle and mobility in the Asia-Pacific region today.

Bio: Heather Horst is a Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. She has been researching mobile communication, transnational migration and digital media practices and has published widely in anthropology, media and communication journals. Her books include The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (with Daniel Miller, Berg, 2006) and Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media (with Mizuko Ito, et al., MIT Press, 2009) and an edited volume with Daniel Miller, Digital Anthropology, to be published with Berg in late 2012. She is currently carrying out research on mobile media and communication in the global south on three projects: an IMTFI-funded project on Money, Migrants and Mobility on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic with Erin Taylor (University of Lisbon), the PACMAS Baseline Study with consortium partners University of Goroka and UNITEC, and ARC Linkage ‘Mobilising Media for Sustainable Outcomes in the Pacific’ with Jo Tacchi and Domenic Friguglietti. Contact: heather.horst@rmit.edu.au Webpage: http://heatherhorst.org

Larissa Hjorth is Associate Professor in the Games Programs at RMIT University. She is an artist and digital ethnographer who researches gendered customising of mobile, social and gaming communities in the Asia–Pacific. She is the author of Mobile Media in the Asia-Pacific (London, Routledge, 2009) and Games & Gaming (London, Berg, 2010). Hjorth has co-edited three Routledge anthologies, Gaming Cultures and Place in the Asia–Pacific region (with Dean Chan, 2009), Mobile Technologies: from Telecommunication to Media (with Gerard Goggin, 2009) and Studying the iPhone: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone (with Jean Burgess and Ingrid Richardson, 2012). She is currently CI on two ARC grants (one linkage, the other discovery).Contact:larissa.hjorth@rmit.edu.au. Webpage: http://www.larissa.hjorth.net

Neoliberal Capitalism and Media Representation in Korean Television Series: Subversiveness and Sustainability

Sun Jung (National University of Singapore)

“This is the era where the number of non-regular contract workers has reached eight million,” says a voice over narration of the Korean television drama “The Queen of the Office.” It continues, “Koreans no longer aspire to unification but to attaining a full-time regular position.” “The Queen of the Office” is a satirical comedy that portrays the unfair treatment and other problems facing contract-based temporary employees in this neoliberal capitalist corporate environment of contemporary South Korea. The popular Korean “Real-Variety” program “Infinite Challenge” recently included an episode of “Muhan Trading Company” that also focused on redundancy as a central theme. These examples demonstrate that current affairs and news programs are not the only place on Korean television where the negative consequences of a neoliberal market economy have become a source of interest: this theme is now also visible in a number of entertainment programs. This reflects a growing dissatisfaction amongst the Korean public, unhappy with the current socio-economic environment that has seen a polarisation of wealth, an increase in youth unemployment and the increasing collapse of small and medium-sized business enterprises

This paper examines “The Queen of the Office” and “Conditions of Human Beings” and explores their representations of these subversive desires of many Korean people. These programs reflect these broader shifts in the socio-economic environment, and this paper considers the role of the media in regards to these changes, as well as investigating how they are conceptualised through the notions of subversiveness and sustainability. “The Queen of the Office” does this through an emphasis upon the absurdity of the corporate neoliberal capitalist system by highlighting the inequalities between regular and irregular employees. The female lead Kim Hye-Soo subverts this politic by voluntarily choosing to be a contract worker, defying corporate workplace conventions: she believes that she does not have to follow such conventions as she is not a regular employee and thus in her own terms, not “a slave of a company.”

The reality show “Conditions of Human Beings” also addresses this situation by raising concerns about neoliberal market economies and investigating sustainable remedies to this socio-economic crisis. In this show, six comedians occupy a house for one week and adopt one sustainable lifestyle action, such as living without food waste or without a car. Their fifth mission was to consume local food, where they had to both locate and then confirm who was producing the food, mirroring the currently booming Living Cooperative Associations (생활협동조합, 生活協同組合 , せいかつきょうどうくみあ). The booming co-ops and the ways they encourage direct “green trading” between producers and consumers reflects their members’ beliefs that the cooperative association-led social economy can replace the current corporate-led neoliberal economic system.

In this context, “The Queen of the Office” demonstrates unfair work issues that many ordinary Koreans would regularly face in today’s socio-economic climate, sharing their fundamental desire for subversion. At the same time, “Conditions of Human Beings” suggests alternatives and offers tangible ways that the situation can be improved through changes in lifestyle and relationships within the current economic chain. By analysing these two television programs, this paper explores many Koreans’ desires for subversion and sustainability as well as the relevant roles of media and the state in the representation of these desires.

Bio: Sun Jung is a research fellow in the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. She has published broadly on South Korean popular cultures, lifestyles and transnational media flows, including the monograph Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption: Yonsama, Rain, Oldboy and K-pop Idols (HKUP 2011). Her current projects include Social Media and Cross-Border Cultural Transmissions, K-pop: Art of Cultural Capital, Neoliberal Capitalism and Sustainable Lifestyles, Participatory Public Space: A Right to the Networked City, and Sexuality and Gender in Asian Pop Cultures.

Being Modern and Being a Woman at the Same Time: Lifestyle Television and the Negotiation of Womanhood in Post-socialist China

Wu Jing (Peking University)

Alternative modernity, or the Chinese model, is one of the catchy phrases that China observers use often these days when talking about China’s role in shaping the future of the capitalist global society. It would be wise however, to look at the actual formations of everyday cultural identities and social habitus if we want to have a more solid understanding of the Chinese-ness in the new cultural drive toward modernity, orchestrated mostly by the cooperation and negotiation among the state, the intellectual elite and the largely commercialized mass media. This article hopes to study the lifestyle television scene in mainland China, and analyze the underlying socio-economic forces as well as symbolic strategies that try to shape individual identities as woman, family member and social being all at the same time. Both taking the influence from the west and maintaining certain tradition of Chinese TV culture, lifestyle programs in China are predominantly aimed at women or family-oriented audience. Either more traditional content of cooking, home decoration and health, or more commercialized versions of contest, weight control, psychological therapy, together they form a symbolic environment where the dominant idea of womanhood, family, society and their interrelationships are formulized. With pedagogical or advisory overtones of most lifestyle programs, selfhood of woman is constantly shaped and reshaped while watching or participating in these programs. Thus it would be interesting to look at the raw materials of such identity formation work and understand how exactly they are mingled to present the façade of modernity in contemporary China.

Bio: Dr. Wu Jing is professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, China. Her research areas are media and cultural studies, social theories of mass communication, media and the public sphere, identity and ideology, media and modernity, etc. She published articles both in Chinese and English on topics concerning various aspects of media and society. Her recent book is entitled Visual Expressions of Cultural Modernity: Ways of Seeing and Communication. She has guest lectured at Oxford University, Columbia University and the Royal Institute of Technology among others.

China’s fashionable approach to breast cancer awareness

Yue Gao

In contemporary societies, the media provides a significant aspect of the sociocultural construct of disease. People rely on the media for knowledge about disease, its treatment, meaning and prognosis. It is not only an important source of medical information but of cultural messages and ideologies about gender, women, their bodies and health. Heavy dependence on the media for health-related information is also prevalent in today’s China, partly because Chinese doctors are no longer believed to be trustworthy and because medical resources have become scarcer.
Since 2003, Trend Health, a monthly fashion magazine targeting young and vibrant urban middle-class women in China has published a themed ‘Pink Ribbon Campaign’ issue each October—globally recognized as breast cancer awareness month. The magazine invites three or four Chinese female celebrities to be campaign spokeswomen for that year—and in 2005 took the bold decision to photograph the celebrities unclothed.

In the past three decades China has experienced a profound social transformation, among which the retreat of government from the health care sector and the privatization of health issues is very significant. Chinese people are now required to make their own life choices and to be ‘self-responsible’ in all walks of lives, including for their health. However, the proliferation of self-governing and neoliberal values in China does not manifest a shift in the socialist political regime; it actually helps sustain socialist rule and realize the ‘governing from afar’, as the use of celebrities as ‘health experts’ in Trend Health’s Pink Ribbon campaigns demonstrates.

In this paper, by content-analyzing the Pink Ribbon Campaign in Trend Health magazine in China from 2003 till now, I examine how the female celebrities are constructed as role models in terms of their body shape as well as their health & wise lifestyle for the magazine readers – those Chinese urban young female elites and how the ‘experts’ differentiate themselves from ‘ordinary’ women by adopting the neoliberal ideology of being self-responsible and devoting themselves to the endless project of ‘self-making’. I also analyze how breast cancer is depicted in the campaign as a chance for individuals to ‘grow up’ as well as an opportunity to reform their gender identities, and even to achieve class mobility. I argue that while packaging female celebrities as health experts in the cause of breast cancer prevention, the campaign has succeeded in introducing a certain lifestyle appealing to middle-class tastes and values—and the neoliberal values of self-enterprise and self-responsibility to young urban women. I also argue that the introduction of health ‘expertise’, and the heavy involvement of multinational commercial forces in the campaign, further reinforces the withdrawal of the Chinese government funding of women’s health-related causes such as prevention of breast cancer. Through the cooperation of commoditized media, of celebrities as health experts, and of large transnational companies, young urban females are falling prey to global commercial forces—while being given the ‘choiceless’ choice of being self-responsible, ethical consumer–citizens.

Bio: Yue Gao is a PhD candidate in China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney. Yue’s research interest is in socio-cultural representation of diseases, media and health reform in China. Prior to arriving at UTS, she graduated from both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Journalism at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

From Here to Modernity? Spiritualism and selfhood on Indian Lifestyle TV

Tania Lewis (RMIT University)

This paper examines shifting trends around selfhood, citizenship and modernity through the unlikely genre of religious lifestyle television. While religious programming has been popular for decades in India, in recent years there has been a rise in what might be categorised as religious lifestyle programming i.e., shows that blend spiritual guidance with individual life advice and often feature a lifestyle guru of some kind. Such developments speak to a range of social, cultural and economic shifts, including the growing marketization of religion in India, a country where religious tourism is big business, as well as the growing influence of neoliberal and individualist models of consumer-citizenship. It is out of this broader context that we see the emergence of cable channels such as Pragya TV, which has branded itself as a ‘wellness’ rather than a religious channel and offers a blend of US-style self-development with Indian notions of karma. Seemingly at the other end of the spectrum is Baba Ramdev, a yoga who first appeared on the Aastha channel, which describes itself as ‘India’s number one socio-spiritual-cultural channel’. Initially offering what might be seen as an old-fashioned form of Indian religious TV complete with daily prayers and yoga instruction, Ramdev now has his own health and wellbeing channel, focused on exercise, relaxation and spiritual techniques and clearly geared to a flexible, entrepreurial and spiritually-engaged mode of selfhood.

Drawing on an analysis of a range of religious lifestyle and reality shows as well as ethnographic research and interviews conducted with households and TV producers in India this paper discusses two main issues: first, I’m interested in the role of experts and gurus on such shows as mediators for and models of certain practices and models of sociality and selfhood. Secondly, drawing upon a multiple modernities approach, the paper examines the intricacies of the aspirational, performative and pedagogical dimensions of these shows. While such shows can be read as promoting a culture of consumer individualism culture in India they need to be understood in the context of the extreme complexity of Indian social identities and practices and the vastly differentiated experiences of modernity across the country.

See Tania’s bio

Differential mobilities: Re-imagining ‘women’ through transnational life advice TV in Sinophone Asia

Fran Martin (University of Melbourne)

Life advice TV in Sinophone Asia opens a window onto the ongoing transformation of feminine identity into something associated with mobility rather than (or as well as) with family, home and stasis, as has long been the case. Drawing on four years’ research on lifestyle advice TV from Taiwan, this paper explores a range of gendered identity positions currently being offered to and engaged with by viewers both in Taiwan and elsewhere in the region, including Singapore and PR China. I will consider a wide variety of programs and channels across the levels of production, content and reception, including a global/ regional cable network (Travel & Living Taiwan), a transnational religious channel (Da’Ai TV, media mouthpiece of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation), and local commercial channels whose life advice is typically embedded in Japanese variety-style formats (TVBS; Videoland). I will show how life advice targeted at women viewers produces a range of identificatory options that figure specific relationships with mobility and immobility.

For example, TLC Taiwan enables its largely female, middle-class viewers to imagine themselves as (future) global subjects, linking geographic and social mobility, and an idealization of upper-middle class lifestyles with the potential for global travel, especially to Europe and north America. Meanwhile, long-running local variety-style fashion and beauty advice show Queen (女人我最大)––watched enthusiastically by young female audiences across Taiwan, PR China, Singapore, Malaysia and beyond––enables the imagination of an identity based on consumption, urban life, individual focus and transnational connection into the regional circuits of north-east Asian fashion cultures centered in Japan and Korea. In contrast, religious programming like that found on Da’Ai TV––most popular with middle-aged to elderly Minnan women from both the middle and working classes––might appear to project a far more static and local form of feminine identity. However, Da’Ai TV too has a strongly transnational aspect, airing worldwide via satellite and inculcating a global worldview through the sermons of the nun Dharma Master Cheng Yen, who leads her followers in imagining compassionate relief on a global scale.

Each of these examples illustrates a specific imagination of mobility as a central feature of feminine gender identity. However, I argue that the differences between these forms of mobility are crucial, embedding, as they also do, differential levels of immobility. Through analysis of the various forms of mobility and immobility made imaginable through these examples, I hope to show that it is inadequate to simply celebrate the transformation of feminine identities by the incorporation of imagined mobility, and that “mobility” is not one thing but many, always anchored to existing social structures and relations of power.

See Fran’s bio

Nurturing Life: The Political Economy and Cultural Politics of the Yangsheng Practice

Wanning Sun (University of Technology, Sydney)

Yangsheng is normally translated as ‘life nurturance’, ‘health cultivation’ or ‘wellness promotion’. It is, as Judith Farquhar says, both ‘embodied and discursive, ecological and cosmic, civic and individual’, and as such, it is at once the science, the art and the philosophy of living. Above all, it is considered to be distinctively Chinese, and it encompasses just about everything one can do to improve one’s health, including what to eat and drink, how to take care of one’s body, how to relate to each other and the environment. Despite the fact that yanysheng is an integral aspect of everyday life in contemporary urban China, it remains somewhat unclear what kind of knowledge about yangsheng is produced, how and where it is circulated, and who is empowered to impart it and give it legitimacy. This paper is concerned with these questions. By pursuing yangsheng as a social artefact, a discursive process and a consumption practice, it seeks to contribute to the wider intellectual debate on citizenship, everyday life and subjectivity in postsocialist China.

See Wanning’s bio


We have some great researchers in the field of Asian lifestyle, consumption and modernity coming to this symposium to act as respondents. We are also looking postgraduate respondents. You can find more details here.

Graeme Turner

Graeme Turner is ARC Federation Fellow, Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies. He is one of the key figures in the development of cultural and media studies in Australia and has an outstanding international reputation in the field. His work is used in many disciplines—cultural and media studies, communications, history, literary studies, and film and television studies—and it has been translated into eight languages.

His most recent publication is a co-edited (with Stuart Cunningham) second edition of The Media and Communications in Australia (2006). Last year he published Ending the Affair: the decline of television current affairs in Australia, which was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers Literary Awards for 2005. Understanding Celebrity, a comprehensive study of the phenomenon of celebrity was published by Sage (UK) in 2004. Other recent publications include The Film Cultures Reader (Routledge, 2002).

Graeme Turner is President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and convenor of the Australian Research Council Cultural Research Network.

John Postill

John Postill is Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne (2013-2016), and Digital Anthropology Fellow at University College London (UCL). His publications include Localizing the Internet (2011), Media and Nation Building (2006) and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Practice (2010, with Birgit Bräuchler). Currently he is conducting anthropological research on new forms of digital activism and civic engagement in Indonesia and Spain. He is also writing a book provisionally titled The Information War: Digital Activism and Popular Protest in the 21st Century and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Change (with Elisenda Ardèvol and Sirpa Tenhunen).

Meaghan Morris

Professor Meaghan Morris is a figure of world stature in the field of Cultural Studies and she is immediate past Chair of the international Association for Cultural Studies (ACS), 2004-08. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a former ARC Senior Fellow, she divides her time between the University of Sydney and Lingnan University, Hong Kong, where she has been Chair Professor of Cultural Studies since 2000. Her books, including The Pirate’s Fiancée: Feminism, Reading, Postmodernism, Too Soon Too Late: History in Popular Culture, and Identity Anecdotes: Translation and Media Culture, focus on the role of the media and popular history in forming public cultures.

Koichi Iwabuchi

Professor Iwabuchi is the director of Monash Asia Institute. Specializing in Media and Cultural studies, Professor Iwabuchi’s research interests include cultural globalization, transnationalism, and media culture in East Asia. His publications include East Asian pop culture: analysing the Korean wave (co-edited with Chua Beng Huat) (2008, Hong Kong University Press), Bunka no Taiwaryoku (2007, Nihonkeizaishinbun Shuppansha), Feeling Asian modernities (ed. 2004, Hong Kong University Press); Recentering globalization (2002, Duke University Press); and Transnational Japan (2001, Iwanami Shoten岩波書店).

Audrey Yue

Dr. Audrey Yue is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of Ann Hui’s Song of the Exile (Hong Kong University Press, 2010), and co-editor of AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities (University of Illinois Press, 2008) and Mobile Cultures: New Media in Asia (Duke University Press, 2003). She is currently completing a book project on queer Asian migrations, and her essays in this field have been published in GLQ, Sexualities, Journal of Australasian Cinema and Somatechnics: Queering the Technologisation of Bodies (Ashgate, 2009). She is currently Chief Investigator in three current Australian Research Council-funded projects on Asian Australian cinema (2009-2011, DP0987349), transnational large screens (2009-2012, LP0989302) and multicultural arts governance (2011-2015, LPIIOI00039).

Prospective contributions to Telemodernities publications

Media, Cosmopolitanism and Modernity: Asian Women in Transnational Flows

Youna Kim (American University of Paris, France)

Imagined cosmopolitanism is intrinsically bound up with the intensification of media globalization in Asia and its effects on young women, as it provides a condition for everyday reflexivity and possible transformation in the light of revised self-understandings. It expands the framework of meaning of identity and engages with a self-development project, while attempting individualization and liberation of desire from established structures. The social imaginary of global modernity is increasingly present in neoliberal capitalist media culture and everyday cultural practices. Educated, middle-class and upper-class, urban young women are the representation of global modernity. Trying to be mobile transnationals is intimately linked to the experiential tensions rooted in the home, tradition and patriarchal meanings of life that are negotiated through media cultural consumption. Imagined cosmopolitanism is now creating greater motivations to travel outside of the national and enter a broader sphere of modern experience. But does the abstract and de-contextualized form of global consumer cosmopolitanism move beyond? Whose cosmopolitanism? This paper will recognize resulting paradoxes. Providing ethnographic data on Korean, Japanese and Chinese women in transnational flows, this paper will consider how Asian women make sense of transnational lives and the media and paradoxical consequences for identities. The consequence that manifests through the actual embracing of the world is not necessarily an increased significance and better potentiality of cosmopolitanism. As a lived experience, the possibility of becoming cosmopolitan subjects is contingent upon discursive dialogic encounters with global Others, context-sensitive relational experience and exclusionary practices.

Bio: Youna Kim is Associate Professor of Global Communications at the American University of Paris, joined from the London School of Economics and Political Science where she had taught since 2004, after completing her PhD at the University of London, Goldsmiths College. Her books are Women, Television and Everyday Life in Korea: Journeys of Hope (2005, Routledge);Media Consumption and Everyday Life in Asia (2008, Routledge); Transnational Migration, Media and Identity of Asian Women: Diasporic Daughters (2011, Routledge); Women and the Media in Asia: The Precarious Self (2012, Palgrave Macmillan); The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global (2013, Routledge); Global Nannies: Minorities and the Digital Media (in preparation).

Fang-chih Irene Yang

Fang-chih Irene Yang, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Taiwanese Literature at the National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, is also a potential contributor to our publications. You can find more details of her work here.