Recently I have read the following book. The main arguments are as follows:
Book title: Nissim Kadosh Otmazgin. 2013. Regionalizing Culture: the Political Economy of Japanese Popular Culture in Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
The book points out that currently little attention had been paid to the economic and industrial aspect of cultural production. The available literature so far mainly focused on contextual analysis or on the process of consumption, for example Iwabuchi’s Reentering Globalization in 2002. (162)
Otmazgin also asserts that currently three major aspects were missing from the existing literature. First, not enough information was given about the organizational aspects of Japanese pop culture in East Asia. Second, existing literature mainly endorsed globalization, and the global-local relations was the only possible frame-work for analysis, missing out the importance of region. Third, the available studies did not systematically analyze the region transformation and their contribution (163).
Building on the work of Castells etc. on media industry, the book favors an integrative political economic approach to study pop culture. This approach studied pop culture by focusing on, and analyzing the cultural industries by using the economic model. (5)
Several key features distinguished the political economic approach from earlier ethnographic and interpretive studies. This approach related popular cultural product as a commodity. It ignored messages and meanings encoding, merely viewed the product in economic terms, such as in monetary value. For example in analyzing TV drama, it payed little attention to its social and cultural message, just focused on the cost, the organization of production, and the distribution etc. (6)
This book looks into the relation between the organization of pop culture and the process of regionalization. It provides a study on the production, market expansion cum circulation, and the reception of Japanese cultural industries in East Asia. (163)
The central argument of this study was that the activities of cultural industries were underpinning regionalization in East Asia. Regionalization through pop culture was a bottom-up, market-led process.(180) In order to understand how Japanese pop culture reached foreign markets in a massive scale, the book looks at the ways the culture was commodified and organized inside Japan.(89)
The book suggests that internationalization of pop culture was contributing to region building through the impact on business and institution that involved in the production and transfer of cultural products due to the appearance of a regional market. (182) It further argues that other than at institutional level by connecting companies, at personal level regionalization was achieved through offering shared experience that could lead to the cultivation of common lifestyle and conception.(22). Regionalizing involved harmonizing people’s cultural sensibilities and creating shared experience. (181) People saw themselves as members of a wide region that was defined by their appreciation/consumption of the same popular culture. (182) Such a sharing of pop culture created a sense of ‘we-ness’, a word borrowed from Andrew Hurrell (49).
The book suggests that pop culture was a powerful engine that helped make East Asia into a region. The circulation of commodified culture in the region encouraged the creation of shared pop culture markets. (49) Therefore the research done by Otmazgin was to analyze the creation of a regional market for pop culture by focusing on the spread of Japanese music and TV programs. The analysis started with a review of the macro politico-economic conditions that contributed to the spread of Japanese pop culture. (92) It also examines how piracy had help promoting the dissemination of Japanese pop culture, and looks at the relationship between censorship and bootleg markets. It proposes a new framework to see the dynamism of these Asian markets. (92)
The importance of Japanese culture industry’s regionalization was not only in creating new markets but also for Japan to serve as a model for propagating a region-wide transformation. (125) Otmazgin makes a distinction between “content” and “format” in popular culture and focuses on the externalization, adaptation , and reproduction of Japanese “formats” in East Asia. (128) He also asserts that Japanese cultural industry impacted regionalization through its influence on diplomatic polices adaptation within East Asian governments. (183)
“Format” in the context of this book was the wider technologies, capital and marketing that surrounded the production. (130) One famous Japanese format was the production of idols. Japanese style idols were young; usually appeared in certain configuration, such as three-girl bands, or five-boy singing group. (131) J-pop represents another format constructed in Japan. (135)
The book asserts that in East Asia, Japanese format for pop culture production had been adopted and emulated. To-day Japan was still a major source of learning on how to make and handle commodified culture. (158)