This course is a survey of contemporary popular culture in Japan, China, and Korea. It is also about the concept of popular culture itself. Thus we will have to understand the processes and structures that make popular culture possible in the first place, and its relation to the general culture of global capitalism. We will also focus on the issue of globalization and how the transnational flows of commodities and culture affect local societies and individual identities.
East Asian societies are all "late" modernizers, but while they were greatly affected by Western ideas, technologies, and commodities, they retain a unique identity even as they synthesize and re- position Western culture within their own. Through the twentieth century and with increasing intensity toward its end, East Asia has exported its own popular cultural forms to the West. Modern versions of traditional Asian cultural forms (Buddhism, martial arts, book illustration, fashion, tonsure) as well as East Asian adaptations of modern leisure technologies (printing, film, recording, automobile design, animation) have influenced our own material culture in many ways. Our goal is to find out how this phenomenon came to be, and by so doing learn about the structures of late capitalist cultural production and something about East Asian culture as well.
Sample/Possible Course Texts
Gordon Mathews, Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket
James L. Watson, Ed. Golden Arches East: McDonald's in East Asia<
Joseph J. Tobin, Re-Made in Japan: Everyday Life and Consumer Taste in a Changing Society<
Selected readings on reserve
Course Assignments and Grading
You will be evaluated on the basis of your performance on a mid-term examination, two five-page essays, a final group project (includes individual short-essay), and classroom participation and attendance. The assignments will be weighted as follows: Mid-term 25%; essays 20% each; final project 25%, and attendance and participation 10%. The mid-term exam during week seven will cover the first part of the course covering lectures, readings, and discussion for weeks 1-6. After week seven we will begin group projects in discussion sections. Students may choose from a range of possible projects we will discus in class. Each group will present their project formally in sections during the last two weeks of the semester.