By David Birch
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Extra info for Asia: Cultural politics in the global age
Those terms have increasingly involved a synthesising of ‘Asian’ tradition and ‘western’ technologies. The fit between the two has not always been comfortable, especially in the area of western-driven information and media flows which are often considered to be damaging to specific ‘Asian’ cultural values. This has led to a romanticising of ‘older’, more traditional Asian ways, as the basis of a distinctive ‘Asian modernity’. Consider, for example, the advertisement for Royal Brunei Airlines in Figure 1 (similar, in many ways to advertisements for Singapore International Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways) which paints an idealised image of modern technology as a form of traditional ‘Asian’ crafts.
The spread of video, film, computer games, advertising, satellite television and the Internet, much of it originating from the West, has meant that western culture has largely colonised the world. That process carries with it specific cultural values, which compete against and often replace—as well as revitalise—local cultures and values (see Mattelart, 1996). Much of this has been welcomed by non-western nations, which compete actively with the West in ‘colonising’ the world. Not all of the reactions are positive, however.
At the same time many western nations, 33 Asia Pages part 1 16/11/01 3:43 PM Page 34 ASIA because of the neo-liberal emphasis that is placed on individuality and the ‘freedom of the market’, have come to equate modernity with withdrawal of government from the social sphere. That is not the case in many parts of contemporary Asia. The diversity of contemporary ‘appropriations’ of modernity in many parts of Asia is consistent with regard to the diversity of sociopolitical and sociocultural contexts which has determined those redefinitions (see Chen, 1998; Yamamoto, 1995).