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Intra-Regional Popular Cultural Flows

Towards an East Asian Identity?

Edited By Xin Chen and Nicholas Tarling

This edited volume brings together scholars from eight countries to explore interactions of popular cultural flows, state politics, audiences’ receptions, and public debates in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam and China, and across the region as a whole. These investigations provide fresh conceptual and empirical insights into the study of the dynamic and complex interface of cultural adaptation, political identification and regional identity formation in the popular cultural consumption process in East Asia. The impact of cross-border popular cultural flows on East Asians’ competing national selves and the potential of translating pleasure from popular cultural consumption into regional integration urges are thus issues carrying political significance and consequence for East Asia, and possibly with serious repercussions on the world.

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1. Introduction: Pop Culture Cross Currents and East Asian-ness (Xin Chen / Nicholas Tarling)


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1.  Introduction: Pop Culture Cross Currents and East Asian-ness


Amidst the region-wide discussions on the East Asian integration since the 1997–1998 financial crisis, there has been an explosive growth of cross-border popular cultural flows among its members, that is, the ASEAN-Plus-Three countries (China, Japan, and Korea). This ever denser intra-Asian traffic of films, TV dramas, pop music, movie tourism, fashion trends, and internet games is primarily market-driven and has carved out a significant segment of the regional GDP and trade.1 The flourishing commercial exchanges of popular cultural products point towards the conscious efforts made by the increasingly knowledge-based economies in East Asia to develop “creative industries”. These exchanges have enhanced the iconography of the cultural dimensions of globalisation.

To date, many worthy studies have been conducted on the economies of production, distribution, and consumption of popular cultural products that shape the intra-regional “flows”.2 Brought into focus are also textual, ← 1 | 2 → contextual, and broader socio-economic factors that are believed to have contributed to the popularity surges of entertainment commodities across East Asia.3 A commonly accepted argument, for example, takes as given that the export-led growth and export-upgrading strategies pursued by the region cannot but lead its members to pop culture as another variety of consumer goods for overseas markets, regional as well as international.4 A complementary account further explains that the improvement of the average East Asian’s living...

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