The role of lifestyle television in transforming culture, citizenship and selfhood: Australia, China, Taiwan, Singapore and India

Mumbai 2010, Star TV Headquarters, photograph by Tania Lewis

Over the past decade or so, TV schedules around the world have undergone something of a lifestyle revolution on primetime television with advice television increasingly directed towards a broader prime-time audience.

This ARC funded study uses lifestyle programming as a lens through which to examine broader social and cultural changes in Asia. Seeing such programs as etiquette manuals for the 21st century, we are interested in what the rise of such programming might tell us about a range of broader shifts in Asian societies in relation to identity, culture and citizenship. Furthermore, we are concerned with the social, cultural and political role played by television and lifestyle media more generally in shaping and legitimating particular kinds of lifestyle and consumer practices, values and identities.

If the rise of lifestyle TV in ‘the west’ can be linked to broader political, cultural and social shifts in the nature of late modernity, to what extent can these developments be applied to other contexts such as Asia? What are the potentials and limits of using concepts such as ‘neoliberalism’, or indeed terms such as the ‘middle class’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘reflexive individualisation’, ‘consumer-citizenship’, etc in the context of Asia, given that such concepts and concerns emerge out of a specifically Anglo-European sociological tradition and temporal mapping of modernity and industrial capitalism?  This study addresses these complex questions through a large-scale comparative study of lifestyle programming in China, India, Taiwan and Singapore. The project applies a three-pronged approach at each national site, focusing on industry, textual and audience analysis.

Start By 1 January 2009
Completed By 31 December 2012
Funding ARC Discovery Grant
Outcomes Publications:
Tania Lewis, Fran Martin,'Learning modernity: lifestyle advice television in Australia, Taiwan and Singapore', Asian Journal of Communication, September 2010.

Tania Lewis, 'Making Over Culture?', Communication, Politics & Culture, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 21-32, 2010.

Forthcoming Publications:
Tania Lewis, Fran Martin and Wanning Sun, 'Lifestyling Asia? Shaping modernity and selfhood on life advice programming', International Journal of Cultural Studies (Accepted for publication August 2011).

Fran Martin and Tania Lewis, ‘Lifestyling Women: Emergent Femininities on Singapore and Taiwan Television’, in Youna Kim, The Precarious Self: Women and the Media in Asia (Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming 2011).

Researcher(s) Tania Lewis
Program Globalization and Culture
Location(s) Mumbai – India
Shanghai – China
Taipei – Taiwan