Indian Yoga gurus, tele-astrologists, Chinese dating and Taiwanese feng shui home-makeovers featured in a new book.

Tania holding her new book.
Associate Professor Tania Lewis with her new book
Asian TV screens are increasingly home to a wild proliferation of popular factual programmes aimed at providing lifestyle guidance to viewers, particularly the emergent consumer middle classes.

RMIT researcher Associate Professor Tania Lewis and her colleagues Associate Professor Fran Martin (University of Melbourne) and Professor Wanning Sun (University of Technology Sydney) have been studying the impact of lifestyle and consumer oriented television in Asia via a four year ARC funded Discovery project.

The team were interested in using the rise of Asian reality and lifestyle television as a lens through which to view some of the dramatic social, cultural and economic transformations occurring across the region.

During the course of the project they installed satellite dishes on a campus building and on a researcher’s house, mingled with Indian reality stars and, of course, recorded, analysed and watched a vast amount of television.

Fieldwork and interviews were conducted with householders, from families living in informal housing in Mumbai to middle class urbanities, and with a range of television executives and producers from Chinese state TV to religious TV channels in Taiwan to lifestyle cable channels in India.

The resulting book entitled Telemodernities Television and Transforming Lives in Asia demonstrates how lifestyle-oriented popular factual shows illuminate key aspects of late modernities in South and East Asia, offering a window not only into early 21st century media cultures but also into broader shifts in the nature of public and private life, identity, citizenship and social engagement today.

Lewis, who is the Deputy Dean of Research in the School of Media and Communication, said the book uses popular lifestyle television as a window onto emergent forms of identity, sociality and capitalist modernity in Asia.

“Telemodernities analyses a wide range of reality, lifestyle and popular factual shows from Taiwanese fashion-and-beauty variety formats to Chinese home makeover programs to Indian reality-lifestyle TV and draws on extensive interviews with TV industry professionals and audiences across China, India, Taiwan and Singapore,” Lewis said.

Professor Chris Berry from King’s College London said the book focuses on the uncannily familiar-yet-strange world of Indian- and Chinese-language lifestyle television and this ambitious study asks what modernity is today, now that the engine room of global change has shifted decisively away from the West.

“Based on years of careful audience research, textual analysis and producer interviews, the answers are never less than eye-opening and, more often than not, mind-blowing. A revelation,” Berry said.

The book is available in cloth and paperback from Duke University Press, a highly prestigious US publishing house that produces only 120 books per year.

Story: Wendy Little

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