Exploring popular Asian Culture

Growing up in Jakarta as a Chinese-Indonesian allowed me to experience a plethora of pop culture influences. From Friends to Gundam Seed, Toy Story to Kingdom Hearts, I can distinctly recall the varied mix of pop-culture artifacts that effectively shaped my childhood. This arguably random assortment of influences gave me the identity of someone with complex cultural literacy. As someone who carries an Indonesian passport, I have a limited understanding of local pop culture–my ‘native’ Bahasa Indonesia is akin to Google Translate on a good day, I have under ten Indonesian songs, have watched a maximum of five Indonesian films, and my understanding of local slang is minimal.

On the other hand, I’ve amassed an arguably useless literacy in 90s American sitcoms, have a borderline obsessive understanding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, assembled the complete collection of Bleach volumes, could probably name each Gundam in both Seed and Seed Destiny and do the same for most members in a lot of K-pop idol groups. In taking Exploring Asian Popular Culture, I was able to reconcile my economic, geographic, and linguistic understanding of Asia with my unbeknownst internalized orientalism. Thus, this piece will analyze my changing perspective of Asian pop culture and its interaction with the west over the course of this semester.

Prior to this semester, I had no cohesive understanding as to what constitutes pop culture. I had always studied culture academically, never looking into the social implications of finding meaning within a text. While I understood that “structuring social relations provide us with preformed frameworks of meaning or ways of making sense,” I could never reconcile this knowledge with the practices of every day.

Thus, I was most struck with approaching texts with cultural studies in mind, viewing artifacts with the understanding “culture does not inhere in objects or texts, but in the practices, people use to make sense of those objects and texts,” essentially viewing popular culture as the way in which we “‘make do’ with what reigning cultural industries and institutions provide”