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Background: Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies

Recent decades have seen dramatic changes in the economic landscapes of the region, and also in academic approaches to the study of Asian and Pacific societies and cultures. The transnational impact of globalising markets, new media and communications technologies, and mass human movements have called for new research methods that focus on phenomena that cross national boundaries. At the same time, the continuing geopolitical dominance of the West and the residual impact of imperialism have seen the emergence of critical approaches that challenge Eurocentric forms of knowledge. While going by a variety of names, these critical and transnational approaches are often called cultural studies of Asia and the Pacific.

Cultural studies explores the relation between cultural practices, everyday life, and material, economic, political, geographical, and historical contexts. It uses a wide range of critical methods to challenge the division between "high culture" and "popular culture", viewing the mass cultures of the market place as equally valid objects of academic attention as traditional elite cultures and politically inflected "national cultures". Cultural studies also seeks to give value to the cultures of diverse ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, and other minorities that are often excluded from dominant national frameworks. This field is especially interested in developing new approaches relevant to analysing contemporary cultures, arguing that established theoretical methods often fail to fully grasp the character of emerging cultural forms associated with new media and communications technologies. Some of the most exciting work in the area has been in the area of transnational and diasporic studies, as well as postcolonial, globalisation, and new media studies.

Cultural studies of Asia and the Pacific draw on the critical methods of cultural studies to understand the rapidly changing forms of contemporary cultures across the region. These methods – including poststructuralism, postcolonialism, globalisation studies, transnationalist approaches, and queer studies – provide platforms for interrogating and understanding the diversity of Australian, Asian, and Pacific cultures and histories, and their interconnectivity with each other and with the rest of the world. Some specific focuses are:

  • Diasporas and transnationalism
  • Cross-border cultures and cultures of globalisation
  • Postcolonial critiques of Eurocentrism
  • Inter-Asia cultural traffic
  • Nativisms and fundamentalisms
  • Asian (post)modernities
  • Asian and Pacific cinemas and popular cultures
  • Asian and Pacific regionalisms
  • Digital and new media networks
  • Critical perspectives on gender difference
  • Emerging same-sex and transgender cultures
  • Resurgent religiosity and religions of the market place

These concerns feature regularly in key Australian and international journals in the field, including:

Updated:  21 September 2016/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific /Page Contact:  web.cap@anu.edu.au