Intersections: On the Move: Globalisation and Culture in the Asia-Pacific Region
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 23, January 2010

On the Move:
Globalisation and Culture in the Asia-Pacific Region

Vera Mackie and Mark Pendleton

  1. One of the recurring themes in the discussion of globalisation is mobility.[1] Money moves, products move, people move. Signs, symbols and representations also move. With new communications technologies, images can be flashed around the globe instantaneously, but with diverse forms of local reception. It could be argued that practices move, too. As people move, they take with them their learned ways of doing things: their work habits, their manners, their deportment, their gestures. In new places, they also learn new ways of doing things. When people move, bodies move. Mobility is an embodied experience.
  2. Artistic practice is one way of coming to terms with these embodied forms of mobility. A major focus of the articles in this special issue is how the creative and performing arts may be used to reflect on the conditions of globalisation. The arts can help us to imagine new forms of connectedness and alternative futures. We are particularly interested in the role of the body in imagining these new forms—in embodied performances and in representations of embodiment.
  3. We are also, however, interested in performativity: in the ways in which repetitive acts produce identities and power relations. Judith Butler has taught us how the social categories of 'sex' and 'gender' are produced through the repetition of embodied acts.[2] We would argue that this is also true of other social categories. The daily giving and receiving of domestic services produces the categories of 'employer' and 'domestic worker.' The repeated buying and selling of sexual services produces the categories of 'prostitute' and 'client.' This element of performativity is apparent in Romit Dasgupta's discussion of corporate masculinities in their local manifestations in contemporary Japan. When the male salaried worker makes choices about dress and grooming, his quotidian choices produce a particular form of masculinity. When first world tourists travel to places like the Cook Islands to watch local dance performances, these acts of performing and watching position the dancers and the audience members in a set of unequal relationships shaped by gender, class and ethnicity, as seen in Kalissa Alexeyeff's article.
  4. Our discussion is situated in the Asia-Pacific region. The articles focus on the cultural dimensions of globalisation in Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the Cook Islands. We are interested in the local dynamics of globalisation, the local circuits for the transmission of information, finance and commodities, and in local cultural responses to globalisation. Several academics have criticised the Euro-American focus of much of the existing discussion of globalisation.[3] We are keen to situate the effects of global processes in a regional frame, where the 'centre' is not necessarily Europe or North America. Indeed, there may be multiple centres and peripheries and complex local circuits for the mobility of finance, capital, people and cultural forms. The precise effects of globalisation can only be understood through fine-grained research in localised sites, embedded in a consideration of globalising processes at various scales: the global, the regional, the national, the local, the interpersonal, the individual, and the body itself. We can only fully understand these processes by considering both the 'macro' level of transnational relationships and their effects and the 'micro' level of individual and interpersonal practices.[4]

    Bodies on the move
  5. In order to understand individual experiences of globalisation, we could start with the body itself. The body is central to an understanding of self, and the individual's relationships to others, and this has been a major concern of feminist research. Academic interest in the body has grown particularly since the 1990s when theorists such as Butler and Elizabeth Grosz reoriented theoretical approaches to the body by moving away from an understanding of the body as simply 'existing' and towards an interpretation of the body, and most notably sexed and gendered difference, as socially constructed, psychically imagined and performatively realised.[5] More recent work on the body has moved beyond sex, gender and sexuality to consider how power relationships structured by class and ethnicity are also expressed through the body. 'Inscription' is a common metaphor for the ways in which the body is shaped through the practices of labour and leisure, implying that social practices are 'written' on the body.[6] Michel Foucault has described the body as 'the inscribed surface of events.'[7]
  6. Under globalisation, physical bodies are inscribed in new and more complex ways. These bodies experience new forms of mobility as technologies of transportation become increasingly affordable and restrictions on movement are reduced (at least for regional and global élites). Internal movements within bounded states have created divisions between urban élites and the rural or working classes.[8] While all workers and consumers are implicated in the operations of contemporary globalised market cultures, the benefits are unevenly distributed. Cross-border movement has been liberalised for some. The removal of restrictions on movement within the European Union is possibly the most prominent example of this trend. In the Asia Pacific region, the APEC Business Travel Card provides business travellers with pre-approved travel and fast-tracked entry to Asia Pacific Economic Community member economies. Thus, the strict controls on the movement of people by nation-states in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are being transformed by new border control regimes in the twenty-first century.[9]
  7. While the business élites of the Asia Pacific region can move freely between 'economies,' the poor migrant workers and asylum seekers of the region are faced with increased surveillance and suspicion.[10] Most people have nowhere near the freedom of capital and its agents to move around the globe. These different forms of mobility are put into relief by the comments of Sittee Duern Tang, commenting on the different experiences of first world tourists and third world labour migrants.

      Many young Australian backpackers arrive at Bangkok airport with a little bit of money, no references…and get a visa straight away. Some will get paid to teach English while they are here, even though they have only a tourist visa…When we Thai women want to visit Australia it's very different…we can't just get a stamp at the airport…even when all the paperwork is complete the final decision depends on the mood of the person in the embassy that day. If they have a hangover or a fight with their partner then we probably won't get a visa. All this for what? I can't believe little me going to work for a few months is a national security issue! I'm not a terrorist…just sometimes a tourist! I understand why some women pay an agent to do all the paperwork! The harder the process the more the [agent] can charge.[11]

  8. Sittee's comments highlight the different degrees of mobility experienced by individuals and the different degrees of freedom to choose when and where to sell one's labour. Her comments suggest the possibility of a free agent who chooses to come to Australia from Thailand to work in the sex industry, only to meet restrictions on entry into Australia. Many, however, would point out that this apparent choice is determined by economic inequalities in the region; inequalities which are structured according to gender, class, ethnicity and nationality. At the extreme are those who end up in the sexual service industry in places such as Australia and Japan as 'unfree' labour, a process referred to by some as 'trafficking.'[12] In the worst cases, such workers—usually women—are subject to coercion or trickery, imprisoned and with their passports confiscated.
  9. Those who profit from the movement of people and the selling of labour benefit from a series of oppositions between first world and third world, richer and poorer countries, buyers and sellers of labour and services, in social positionings structured according to gender, class and ethnicity. With respect to the transnational sexual service industry, individuals act on desires which are also shaped by these structures of gender, class and ethnicity. Border control regimes which result in unequal access to mobility facilitate the operations of 'people smugglers' and 'traffickers.' Some of these smugglers/traffickers assist in the movement of undocumented labour; others assist in the movement of those seeking asylum.
  10. While the corporate travel facilitated by initiatives like the APEC card may occur largely between developed countries, or from developed to developing countries, labour migration occurs largely in the opposite direction. Poor workers move from the less-developed regions to the more-developed countries, providing the cheap labour needed to maintain the economic inequalities of this system. They often provide the kinds of embodied labour known in the region as 'difficult, dirty and dangerous' work. Or, they provide 'caring' labour in the form of domestic work, childcare, and care for the aged and infirm—in effect caring for the bodily needs of others.[13]
  11. An additional layer of global movement is composed of tourists, workers, academics, students and artists increasingly able to afford to travel around the region with a degree of freedom. In the case of tourism, short-term visitors move from developed to developing countries in search of local spectacle. As Raewyn Connell points out, 'affluent travellers consume embodied difference as a form of entertainment [whereby local identities] are packaged for them, using photogenic versions of traditional dress, art, religion and cuisine, and ignoring the daily realities of life for the local population.'[14] The influx of cash and foreign exchange affects local economies, while the presence of these visitors leads to the development of service industries to meet their needs. Many of the services provided involve the care and presentation of bodies: cooking, cleaning, spa treatments, massages, suntanning, hair braiding, dressmaking and tailoring—not to mention the provision of sexual services. The emerging category of medical tourism is also worthy of mention in this context.[15] In many tourist sites, locals will provide performances shaped to meet the expectations of the tourist audience.[16] Several authors in this issue point to the role of migration and the transnational movement of people in changing how people perceive their social situatedness, their cultural contexts and their embodied experiences. Identities may also be reworked through these extended exchanges between people of different cultures, languages and ethnicities.
  12. We have seen massive shifts in contemporary understandings of embodiment and its corresponding cultural manifestations. This is reflected in such disparate phenomena as multi-player online computer gaming, the growing acceptance of cosmetic surgery and the transformation and manipulation of biological sex.[17] Processes of globalisation and concomitant technological advances are changing understandings of the body in other ways. Technologies of communication increasingly create situations where representations of the physical body are transmissible across borders. Haptic interfaces can even provide the illusion of physical connectedness. This disembodied (or, perhaps, differently embodied) form of communication results in a slippage between the immediate embodied environment and the social and cultural context in which the individual operates. In other words, where the body is corporeally located is no longer necessarily where the individual functions culturally and socially.[18]
  13. For the artists discussed in this issue, the body acts as screen, canvas and sculpture—a medium for interpreting and representing global change. The body may also be a site of resistance and a focus of debate. For Mikala Tai, the use of the body in contemporary Chinese art reflects a move towards using the corporeal reality of the artist's body as a tool for 'locating and personalising the overarching, and essentially impersonal, concept of globalisation.' Utako Shindo also sees the importance of the body (of the artist and of audience members) in grounding concepts that may be difficult to grasp in abstract terms, including experiences of displacement, alienation and belonging. Shindo is informed by theories of the 'haptic,' a consciousness of the constant feedback between touch and perception. In Allison Holland's exploration of the oeuvre of contemporary artist Mariko Mori, the body in play shifts from that of Mori, the artist, to the dispersed bodies of individual audience members, marking a shift away from locating meaning in nationally- and culturally-bounded individual bodies and towards an aspiration for a new 'global' collective understanding of humanity. Reading Tai, Shindo and Holland together, we can identify two complementary trends: on the one hand those who find meaning in the body grounded in its local environment; and on the other hand those who seek to transcend the physical body in the ethereal, the alien, the universal.

    Practices on the move
  14. As bodies move, practices move. As people move, they learn, adopt and adapt to new ways of doing things. We can say that this process is part of developing a new habitus, a concept developed in the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.[19] Mike Featherstone explains that habitus refers to 'the set of shared flexible dispositions, modes of classifying the world which are not just cognitive, but are sedimented and written into bodies, and evident in body styles of sitting, movement, talking, demeanour.' The habitus is the 'habitual state of approaching others and the world and is the source of our particular embodied tastes in food, consumer goods or art.'[20]
  15. Several authors have recently attempted to consider what this means in the context of globalisation.[21] It has been suggested that mobility might make it more difficult to read the signs communicated through bodies. What happens in encounters between embodied individuals who have been schooled and disciplined in different milieux?

      The habitus has a reflexive 'see and be seen,' or 'classify the classifier' quality to it, because in social life we constantly are required to make judgements about others on the basis of our habitus which structures the way we see the world. Others, of course, are at the same time engaged in making judgements about us by observing our bodies and speech, judgements which are made from the perspective of their habituses and therefore they are able to locate our position in the social space. Much of this classificatory work happens below the level of consciousness and is taken for granted and habitual. It rarely surfaces into speech. Yet the smallest gesture of a hand, or the way a person looks away or glances aside, unconsciously pass onto us much information about the nature of their habitus…[22]

  16. Issues of communication between individuals who have each been educated, trained and socialised in a different habitus are dramatised in Sue Brooks' 2003 film Japanese Story.[23] The film concerns a relationship between two people who could be said to reflect the conditions of the new 'transnational' class under conditions of globalisation.[24] 'Sandy,' an Anglo-Australian woman, is a geologist and software designer. 'Hiro' is the representative of a Japanese transnational corporation. They meet when she is assigned to take him to inspect mining sites in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Despite their similar class position, they are often unable to 'read' each other's words and gestures. The question of habitus becomes a matter of life and death for Hiro as he struggles to learn the techniques of physical survival in the outback.
  17. Some practices do cross borders. Once again, the film Japanese Story provides an illustration of practices on the move. The employees of the fictional mining company in outback Australia have learned how to bow and exchange name cards with the Japanese visitor. Even in the outback, they manage to find a karaoke bar where they can entertain their visitor.[25] Similarly, the business suit and the white shirt are the markers of corporate masculinity from London to Sydney to Tokyo (as seen in the fictional character of Hiro). Dasgupta, in his contribution to this issue, explores the local forms of a global corporate masculinity as it is manifested in contemporary Japan.
  18. Practices of sport, exercise and bodybuilding also cross borders. Similar kinds of gymnasia and sports clubs may be seen from Singapore to Sydney to Seoul.[26] Golf is a form of corporate sociability practised throughout the region. The Olympic Games and Winter Olympics provide global spectacles where athletes perform and almost literally embody the geopolitical tensions, economic inequalities and cultural politics of the contemporary world.[27] The Paralympics, Special Olympics and Deaflympics, however, provide a challenge to normative views of ableness, health and beauty.[28] The Gay Games, in turn, challenge the heteronormativity of the nationalist discourses which still thrive under conditions of globalisation.[29] The theatrical performance discussed by Peter Eckersall places the Olympic Games in their local and historical context. In Port B's tour performance Tokyo/Olympics, audience members become actors, props and scenery in the drama as they are transported around the global city of Tokyo, in the process destabilising established historical constructions of the event, the nation and post-Olympics Japanese society.
  19. Kalissa Alexeyeff discusses the practices of dancing in the Cook Islands. Cook Islands dance has much in common with other forms of Pacific dance; particular styles of dancing and dress may be adopted and adapted from one country to the other. These dance forms are also, however, implicated in the production of identities. Subtle distinctions in dancing style or in dress serve to distinguish between the dances of the Cook Islands and those of other Pacific communities. These distinctions, in turn, are linked to the production of national identities.
  20. Katsuhiko Suganuma discusses the meanings attached to the practices of swimming and lifesaving. In Australia, swimming has taken on an ethnicised meaning, becoming an implicit marker of whiteness. When a Muslim woman, Mecca Laalaa, decides to become a lifesaver, she must first of all learn to swim, and then undergo training in the disciplines and practices of lifesaving. A further set of practices are associated with the presentation of the body. Laalaa must find a new form of swimsuit which allows her mobility and freedom, but which also preserves her modesty. This combination of the 'burqa' and the 'bikini' has been dubbed the 'burqini.' The 'burqini' is more than just a pragmatic solution for the dilemmas of one individual lifesaver. A recurrent cliché in the Anglophone media concerns photographs juxtaposing two types of woman: the veiled Muslim woman and the bikini-clad 'Western woman.'[30] Laalaa's 'burqini' serves the purpose of deconstructing this binary opposition. The story of Mecca Laalaa is thus about the embodied practices of swimming and lifesaving, but it also raises issues of cultural representation under conditions of globalisation.[31]

    Signs on the move
  21. Contemporary forms of electronically-mediated communication mean that images may be transmitted instantly around the globe. There are intense debates in globalisation studies around the reception and adaptation of cultural forms in diverse sites. These debates are sometimes summarised under the rubric of globalisation, localisation and glocalisation.[32] Jan Nederveen Pieterse has summarised these debates.

      …there are fundamentally three different paradigms of cultural difference: differences are lasting; they yield to growing homogenization; and they mix, generating new differences in the process. Thus, according to the 'clash of civilizations' view, cultural difference is enduring and creates rivalry and conflict. In the second view, global interconnectedness leads to increasing cultural convergence, as in the global sweep of consumerism, in short 'McDonaldization'. The third position holds that what have been taking place are processes of mixing or hybridization across locations and identities.[33]

    Raewyn Connell, however, is sceptical of the terms of these debates.

      To put the point in a slightly different way, the homogeneity/heterogeneity debate is undecidable. This antinomy does not arise from a conflict of evidence, but from the presuppositions at work in the concept of global society. The key presupposition concerns a process of integration that is both boundaryless and formless. This supposes an endless series of differences being overcome, and the process will appear as homogeneity whenever the observer focusses on the overcoming, heterogeneity whenever the observer focusses on the differences. Again, the choice is conceptually arbitrary.[34]

    Featherstone, in turn, proposes that we conceive of culture under globalisation 'as a field in which differences, power struggles and cultural prestige contests are played out.'[35]
  22. In this special issue, these abstract debates are given concrete form in a series of fine-grained local case studies. To provide just one example, Maila Stivens' research on how babies are represented in parenting magazines in Singapore and Malaysia reflects an interest in teasing out how representation reflects and shapes identity in multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Singapore and Malaysia. In the course of her analysis of parenting magazines, Stivens was struck by the disproportionately large number of 'white' babies. In drawing out the reasons for this disparity, Stivens explores the figure of the child in European Romantic imagery, the global circulation of media images and text, the legacies of colonialism in the region, and the place of whiteness in a globalised economy of beauty.[36]
  23. Cultural theorists are attempting to come to terms with these 'signs' on the move. The image of the 'white baby' for example, will be read differently in Singapore, Sydney and San Francisco. Images of the women of Afghanistan wearing the burqa, Muslim women in France wearing headscarves, and Mecca Laalaa wearing her burqini are circulated around the globe and commented on in disparate sites. In each site, the meaning of the veil will be different: unremarkable in Kabul, a focus for debates on universalism and secularism in Paris, a site of contestation around the meaning of multiculturalism in Sydney.[37]
  24. Cultural theorists have been interested in several aspects of mobility under conditions of globalisation. In the early 1990s Janet Wolff identified 'a restless moment in cultural theory.'[38] Since then, cultural theorists have been interested in the diverse forms of reception of cultural forms as they travel across borders. They have been interested in the kinds of theory needed to address current conditions of mobility, and in the diverse ways in which cultural theories are received, reworked and redeployed in different contexts. Mobility and travel have also, however, repeatedly been deployed as metaphors.

      Vocabularies of travel seem to have been proliferating in cultural criticism recently: nomadic criticism, traveling theory, critic-as-tourist (and vice versa), maps, billboards, hotels and motels.[39]

  25. Finally, travel and mobility have been seen as a question of epistemology, or ways of knowing, 'of knowledge as contingent and partial.'[40] Questions of viewpoint, standpoint and ways of knowing are particularly pertinent to the study of globalisation, where researchers cross literal and figurative borders in order to research the experiences of individuals who are engaged in various forms of border crossing. Writing about globalisation, culture and embodiment, then, requires us to cross disciplines. Our authors variously draw on the theories and methodologies of history, art history, sociology, ethnography, political economy, cultural studies, performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, critical race and whiteness studies and postcolonial studies. It is particularly important to historicise the discussion of globalisation. Through history we can see what is distinctive about current forms of mobility, and what is shared with earlier epochs.

    Histories on the move
  26. In the Asia and Pacific regions, it is impossible to understand contemporary globalisation without addressing the legacies of several historical threads, most notably European, US and Japanese colonialism, national independence struggles, intra-regional conflict and the Second World War. History is apparent in Tai's discussion of the practices of contemporary Chinese artists who work in the shadow of the long Chinese artistic tradition, which has nevertheless been interrupted by the Communist Revolution, the Cultural Revolution, and the transition to a post-socialist state. The legacy of colonialism is apparent in Stivens' discussion of racialisation in contemporary Southeast Asia and Alexeyeff's discussion of changing dance practices in the Cook Islands. In Suganuma's discussion of cultural difference in contemporary Australia we can see echoes of historical debates around immigration, multiculturalism and dealing with difference.
  27. Mark McLelland's article reminds us that what we now term globalisation can not be fully separated from earlier moments of transnational contact; contemporary globalisation has multiple histories.[41] Eckersall explores history from the moment of the present. In his article he discusses how performance and embodied audience experience can reveal the traces of the past in the globalised city of Tokyo. In Eckersall's reading, Port B's Tokyo/Olympics performance works against a flattened, depoliticised history that is packaged and commercialised under globalised commodity capitalism.
  28. This process of historicisation as an ongoing, changeable and mobile process has been captured by Dominick La Capra's notion of 'history in transit.'

      History is always in transit, even if periods, places or professions sometimes achieve relative stabilization. This is the very meaning of historicity. And the disciplines that study history…are also to varying degrees in transit, with their self-definitions and borders never achieving fixity or uncontested identity.[42]

  29. La Capra argues that the 'transition and transformation of historical understanding require[s] recurrent attempts to think through problems bearing on one's conception of the relation between the present and the past in their import for possible futures.'[43] The authors here take up La Capra's challenge, by exploring how their particular research subjects and their historical location intersect with the overarching contemporary themes of the issue: embodiment, culture and globalisation. In reading their work, we are reminded of Michel Foucault's model of genealogy, tied intimately to the body. Central to his formulation of genealogy is 'descent,' herkunft, 'an unstable assemblage of faults, fissures, and heterogeneous layers that threaten the fragile inheritor from within and from underneath.'[44] For Foucault, the histories that construct our present selves are always fragmentary and unstable.

      [D]escent attaches itself to the body. It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate bodies of those whose ancestors committed the errors…the body maintains, in life as in death, through its strength or weakness, the sanction of every truth and error, as it sustains, in an inverse manner, the origin—descent.[45]

  30. These unstable and fragmentary, yet embodied, pasts are multiplied through the mobile processes of globalisation. In considering how embodied globalisation may be historicised, or how embodied histories may be situated in a global frame, these processes of fragmentation and instability are key. Rather than simply searching for linear historical models of the processes of globalisation, Foucault's genealogical methods may also be useful. Eckersall suggests another possible method, with his deployment of Walter Benjamin's idea of 'digging' the past.[46]

    Politics on the move
  31. In thinking about how to understand recent forms of economic globalisation, we find uncanny echoes of the thought of Marx and Engels, who seemed to anticipate current experiences of mobility and fluidity.

      All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe.[47]

  32. Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, Marx and Engels foretold a world structured around mobility. The globalised market itself takes on an embodied and almost personified form, as it 'chases' the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. The bourgeoisie, in turn 'must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.'[48] Marx and Engels' poetic evocation of capitalism's mobility in The Communist Manifesto seems to prefigure contemporary conditions of globalisation, with the movement of ideas, of bodies and, yes, of capital. Contemporary discussions of the mobility of capital use verbs such as 'flow' and adjectives such as 'liquid,' pointing 'to the way in which the movement of material goods, bodies, electronic and digitalized textual information and images around the world has emerged as a social and cultural force… [with] a distinctive tempo, rhythm and direction…'[49] Intense academic and popular interest has focused on these movements since the 1990s, but the connections between the economic mobilities of globalisation—Marx's claim 'to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society'—and its politics is less well theorised.[50] For Marx, the notion that society was static and unchanging was an anathema; capitalism is, and has been since its inception, in a constant state of motion. Marx understood history as a form of evolution whereby people embody and receive the processes of economics; individuals are the 'personifications of economic categories, the bearers of particular class-relations and interests.'[51] The movement of economics, history, politics and individual bodies continues to lie at the heart of contemporary globalisation. Featherstone has extended Marx's notion of the market, to talk of a 'global market culture,' a structure underpinning global economic interconnectedness.

      …globalization builds a storey underneath global economic integration by encouraging the development of patterns of sociality, cultural expectations, and means of orientation which recursively form and are formed by the enlarged network of interdependencies.[52]

  33. While it is essential to base contemporary globalisation theory on this expanding network of interdependencies, it is by no means the entire picture. The marketisation of social life can never entirely control the actions, ideas and movements of people. The politics of contemporary globalisation needs to be further historicised and understood as a series of localised impositions and resistances, multi-directional struggles over the sites of globalisation and the bodies that move within it. For us, the economics of globalisation are important, but so are the cultural and political flows across and between the borders that divide us.
  34. The processes of globalisation are, of course, not entirely negative. The rhetoric of the media-dubbed 'anti-globalisation' movements that grew in prominence in the Western world over the last decade has never been simplistically anti-globalisation. Instead these movements have drawn on the connections forged by globalisation to call for alternative forms, captured in the now famous slogan: 'Another World is Possible'.[53] In practical terms, this process has been occurring on the level of non-state actors for decades.[54] The globalisation of transnational feminist activism is of particular note, occurring through low-level activist exchanges, advances in technology and communication and the formal establishment of women's organisations and activism in official and unofficial forums, such as the United Nations conferences and the associated non-governmental forums. One focus for transnational feminist activism in the Asia Pacific region has been the issue of militarised violence against women. This has included campaigns for justice for the survivors of military sexual slavery during the Second World War. The establishment of a transnational Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery is just one practical realisation of this globalised feminist activism.[55]
  35. Global processes are also implicated in the politics of sexuality. Some debates on sexuality echo the terms of the debates on the globalisation, localisation and glocalisation of cultures, as people consider the interactions and intersections of different ways of understanding and categorising sexual identities and sexual practices.[56] Local discourses on sexuality also, at times, bear the traces of colonial regimes.[57] These debates have intensified with the intra-regional movement of people for work, study and pleasure. Sexuality has also become a site of contestation in and through alter-globalisation movements.[58]
  36. For some time, discussions of sexuality and globalisation tended to focus on gay, lesbian and queer sexualities, with little problematisation of the ways in which global processes may affirm, reproduce, but also potentially challenge heterosexuality and heteronormativity.[59] However, understandings of reproductive and non-queer sexualities are also in a state of flux, with extremely low birth rates in many of the developed countries of the region, the use of assisted reproduction technologies, and integration into global circuits of transnational adoption. Several articles in this issue contribute to the denaturalisation of heterosexuality. McLelland shows the effort which was put into the promotion of particular forms of heterosexual courtship in Occupied Japan. Dasgupta demonstrates the work which goes into producing heterosexuality in contemporary Japan. He describes the lifestyle magazines which invite their readers to discipline themselves to achieve the desired form of heterosexual, middle-class, productive and reproductive masculinity. Sexualities are seen and imagined through the prism provided by popular culture in the region: Hollywood and Bollywood cinema, Japanese and South Korean television dramas, fiction, animation, computer gaming and manga.
  37. In this issue, we present nine articles focusing on the cultural politics and poetics of globalisation in the Asia-Pacific region. We write with a consciousness of conditions which threaten the relatively untroubled progress of global integration that has occurred over recent decades. With the near collapse of the global financial system in 2008 there was much discussion of a potential turn away from neo-liberal economic globalisation and towards political and economic alternatives that had seemed implausible only a few short years ago.[60] As the global economy appears to be emerging from this crisis, however, these critical voices are dissipating, with a focus once more on 'growth' and 'liberalisation.' By contrast, as consciousness of the environmental cost of development and unbridled economic growth spreads across the region and the world, the sustainability of continued mass travel has come into question, as have many of the consumption practices of the developed world. As globalisation continues its incessant transformations, interpretation and analysis of its localised realities will continue to be necessary, as will the imagining of new futures through artistic practice. It is our hope that this issue contributes to this understanding and provides tools of analysis and critique which can be applied in the future.


    [1] The articles in this special issue developed from a workshop on 'Globalised Bodies, Embodied Globalisation in the Asia-Pacific Region,' held at the University of Melbourne in August 2008, and convened by Vera Mackie and Mark Pendleton. The workshop was held in association with Vera Mackie's ARC Discovery Project on 'The Cultural History of the Body in Modern Japan,' which includes a component on 'The Embodied Experiences of Globalisation in the Asia-Pacific Region.' We gratefully acknowledge the support of the ARC Asia-Pacific Futures Research Network and the Centre for Asia-Pacific Social Transformations at the University of Wollongong. Asialink and the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne kindly allowed us the use of their venue. The guest editors would like to express their thanks to the Editor of Intersections, Carolyn Brewer, for her encouragement of this project. We would also like to thank all of the anonymous referees for their constructive comments on earlier versions of the articles published here. Another outcome of the workshop was a special issue of Asian Studies Review (Volume 33, no 3, September 2009), on the theme of 'Globalisation and Body Politics,' edited by Vera Mackie and Carolyn S. Stevens.

    [2] As is well known, Judith Butler adapted the notion of performativity from Austin's linguistic speech act theory. Performative sentences are those that do something: make a promise, sentence someone, or perform a marriage, for example. Through the repeated iteration of performative acts, 'sex,' 'gender' and other social categories are produced. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge, 1990; Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, London: Routledge, 1993; John L. Austin, How to do Things with Words, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980; Vera Mackie and Carolyn S. Stevens, 'Globalisation and body politics,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 3, September (2009): 257–273, p. 263.

    [3] Raewyn Connell, 'Southern bodies: embodiment, gender and sexuality in world society,' in The Body as Social Icon, vol. 2, ed. Bianca Maria Pirani and Ivan Varga, Lanhan, MD: University Press of America, in press; Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004, p. 2; Arjun Appadurai, 'Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy,' in Public Culture, vol. 2, no. 2 (1990): 1–24.

    [4] On methodologies for researching globalisation and body politics, see also Mackie and Stevens, 'Globalisation and Body Politics,' pp. 257–273.

    [5] Butler, Gender Trouble; Butler, Bodies that Matter; Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

    [6] See Pippa Brush, 'Metaphors of inscription: discipline, plasticity and the rhetoric of choice,' in Feminist Review, no. 58 (1998): 22–43, pp. 24–29. Brush draws on Michel Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history,' in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, New York: Random House, 1984, pp. 76–99, p. 83; Elizabeth Grosz, 'Notes toward a corporeal feminism,' in Australian Feminist Studies, no. 5 (1987): 1–16, p. 2; and Butler, Gender Trouble, p. 8.

    [7] Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history,' p. 83.

    [8] Wanning Sun, 'Symbolic bodies, mobile signs: the story of the rural maid in urban China,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 3, September (2009): 275–288.

    [9] See Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 'About the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme,' n.d., online:, site accessed 1 October 2009. For a useful historical discussion of the changes in border control regimes, see John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. On the Asia-Pacific region, see the articles in the special issue on 'Gender, Governance and Security in the Asia-Pacific Region,' in Intersections, issue 15, May (2007), ed. Vera Mackie and Sarah Pinto, online:, site accessed 20 October 2009.

    [10] Within globalisation studies, there has been extended debate on the cultural politics of mobility, and the possibility of élite and non-élite forms of 'cosmopolitanism.' See Pheng Cheah, Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006, pp. 17–44.

    [11] Sittee Duern Tang quoted in Elena Jeffreys, 'Anti-trafficking measures and migrant sex workers in Australia,' in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, issue 19, February (2009), online:, site accessed 1 October 2009.

    [12] For views of this process from different theoretical and political orientations, see Kamala Kempadoo and Jo Doezema (eds), Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, New York and London: Routledge, 1998; Kathleen Maltzahn, Trafficked, Sydney: The University of New South Wales Press, 2008; Audrey Yue, 'Asian sex workers in Australia: somatechnologies of trafficking and queer mobilities,' in Somatechnics: Queering the Technologisation of Bodies, ed. Nikki Sullivan and Samantha Murray, London: Ashgate, 2009, pp. 65–86; Laura Agustin, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, London: Zed Books, 2007.

    [13] Sun, 'Symbolic bodies, mobile signs,' pp. 275–288; Bobby Benedicto, 'Shared spaces of transnational transit: Filipino gay tourists, labour migrants and the borders of class difference,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 3 (2009): 289–301; Ruri Itō, 'The quandary of elder care in Japan: a shift from (national) female labour to migrant (female) labour?,' unpublished paper presented at the Workshop on Globalised bodies, embodied globalisation in the Asia-Pacific region, University of Melbourne, August 2008, unpaginated; Ruri Itō, 'Japon, une société vieillissante: immigration, travail de <care> et genre,' in Le genre au coeur de la mondialisation, ed. Brahim Labari, Jules Falquet, Helena Hirata, Daniàle Kergoat, Nicky Le Feuvre, Fatou Sow, Martine Spensky, Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques, in press, pp. 1–12.

    [14] Connell, 'Southern bodies.'

    [15] Aren Z. Aizura, 'Where health and beauty meet: femininity and racialisation in Thai cosmetic surgery clinics,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 3, September (2009): 303–317; Andrea Whittaker, 'Global technologies and transnational reproduction in Thailand,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 3, September (2009): 319–332.

    [16] On the embodied dimensions of the tourist experience, see: Soile Veijola and Eeva Jokinen, 'The body in tourism,' in Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 11 (1994): 125–51; Eeva Jokinen and Soile Veijola, Soile, 'The disoriented tourist: the figuration of the tourist in contemporary cultural critique,' in Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory, ed. Chris Rojek and John Urry, London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 23–51; Vera Mackie, 'The metropolitan gaze: travellers, bodies, spaces,' in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, Issue 4, September 2000, online:, site accessed 19 October 2009.

    [17] James Paul Gee, 'Video games and embodiment,' in Games and Culture, vol. 3, nos 3–4, July (2008): 253–63; Aizura, 'Where health and beauty meet,' pp. 303–17.

    [18] The pleasures and tensions of relationships carried out across national borders with the assistance of new communications technologies are dramatised in Sophie Cunningham's novel, Geography, about a relationship carried on between Sydney and California.

      …Email changed how I felt about the world. It brought me closer to my family – my father in Paris; my dad in Bangkok; my brother in New York; my mother in Adelaide. Sometimes I felt as if I personally was being globalised: stretched thin, across the world. Sometimes I felt as if I could never find all of me in the one place at the one time. So more and more the place I found myself was at my computer, imagining Michael sitting in front of his screen on the other side of the world.

    Sophie Cunningham, Geography, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2004, p. 101.

    [19] Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    [20] Mike Featherstone, 'Postnational flows, identity formation and cultural space,' in Identity, Culture and Globalization, ed. Eliezer Ben-Rafael with Yitzhak Sternberg, Leiden: Brill, 2001, pp. 483–526, p. 518.

    [21] Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

    [22] Featherstone, 'Postnational flows, identity formation and cultural space,' p. 518. See also Mackie and Stevens, 'Globalisation and body politics,' p. 263.

    [23] Sue Brooks, dir. Japanese Story, 2003.

    [24] L. Sklair, The Transnational Capitalist Class, Oxford: Blackwell, 2001; Geoforum, no. 33, 2002, pp. 505–65.

    [25] On karaoke as a transnational practice, see Tōru Mitsui and Shūhei Hosokawa (eds), Karaoke Around the World: Global Technology, Local Singing, London: Routledge, 1998.

    [26] Laura Spielvogel, Working Out in Japan: Shaping the Female Body in Tokyo Fitness Club, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. It should also, perhaps, be noted that the flows are not always in the direction of 'West' to 'East.' Suburban Australia also hosts yoga studios, martial arts training centres and parks where tai chi enthusiasts practise every morning. On martial arts practices in a transnational frame, see: Tamara Kohn, 'Creatively sculpting the self through the discipline of martial arts training,' in Exploring Regimes of Discipline: The Dynamics of Restraint, ed. N. Dyck, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008, pp. 99–112; Tamara Kohn, 'Bowing onto the mat: discourses of change through martial arts practice,' in The Discipline of Leisure: Embodying Cultures of 'Recreation', ed. S. Coleman and T. Kohn, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2007, pp. 171–86.

    [27] On the embodied politics of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, see: Yoshikuni Igarashi, Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945–1970, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, pp. 143–53; Rio Otomo, 'Narratives, the body and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 31, no. 2, July (2007): 117–32.

    [28] David Legg, Claudia Emes, David Stewart and Robert Steadward, 'Historical overview of the paralympics, special olympics, and deaflympics,' in Palaestra, 1 January 2004, available at The Free Library, online:, Historical overview of the Paralympics, Special Olympics, and–-a0114366604, site accessed 08 November 2009.

    [29] On the international politics of the Olympics, see Barbara Keys, Globalizing sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006; on the Gay Games, see Caroline Symons, 'Challenging homophobia and heterosexism in sport: the promise of the gay games,' in Sport and Gender Identities: Masculinities, Femininities and Sexualities, ed. Cara C. Aitchison, London: Routledge, 2007, pp. 140–59.

    [30] See for example, Mark Dunn, 'Bikini march sparks retort,' in the Herald Sun, 7 December 2006, online:, site accessed 24 October 2009.

    [31] Suganuma's article focuses on Alan Erson dir. Race for the Beach, produced in association with SBS Independent and BBC, 2007.

    [32] Roland Robertson, 'Glocalization: time-space and homogeneity-heterogeneity,' in Global Modernities, ed. Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash, and Roland Robertson, London: Sage Publications, 1995, pp. 25–44.

    [33] Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture, p. 4.

    [34] Raewyn Connell, 'The northern theory of globalization,' in Sociological Theory, vol. 25, no. 4 (2007): 368–85, p. 376.

    [35] Mike Featherstone, Undoing Culture: Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity, London: Sage, 1995, pp. 13–14.

    [36] On representations of whiteness in Southeast Asia, see also: Aizura, 'Where health and beauty meet,' pp. 303–17; Bobby Benedicto, 'Desiring sameness: globalization, agency and the Filipino gay imaginary,' in Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 55, no. 2 (2008): 274–311, p. 297.

    [37] See: Vera Mackie, 'Faces of feminism in transnational media space,' in Jendā Kenkyū/Journal of Gender Studies, no. 6, March (2003): 1–17; Judith Ezekiel, 'Magritte Meets Maghreb: this is not a veil,' in Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 20, no. 47 (2005): 231–43; Special Issue on 'Not another hijab row: new conversations on gender, race, religion and the making of communities,' in Transforming Cultures eJournal, vol. 2. no.1 (2007) ed. Tanja Dreher and Christina Ho: unpaginated, online:, site accessed 1 October 2009; Joan W. Scott, The Politics of the Veil, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

    [38] Janet Wolff, 'On the road again: metaphors of travel in cultural criticism,' in Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 2 (1993): 224–39; reprinted in Feminism–Art–Theory: An Anthology 1968–2000, ed. Hilary Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell, 2001, pp. 184–97, p. 185. Wolff was responding to such work as Meaghan Morris, 'At Henry Parkes Motel,' in Cultural Studies, vol. 2, no. 1 (January 1998): 1–47; James Clifford, 'Notes on travel and theory,' in Inscriptions, no. 5 (1989): 177–86; James Clifford, 'Travelling cultures,' in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler, London: Routledge, 1992, 96–117; Edward Said, 'Traveling theory,' in The World, The Text and the Critic, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983: 226–47.

    [39] Wolff, 'On the road again,' p. 184.

    [40] Wolff, 'On the road again,' p. 186.

    [41] See the discussion of 'globalisation avant la lettre' by the Modern Girl Around the World Research Group. They trace the emergence of the figure of the 'modern girl' in disparate locations around the world, and argue that the flows of commodities and cultural influence to be found in the early-twentieth century show some features of what we now call globalisation. Modern Girl Around the World Research Group: Tani E. Barlow, Madeleine Yue Dong, Uta G. Poiger, Priti Ramamurthy, Lynn M. Thomas and Alys Eve Weinbaum, 'The modern girl around the world: a research agenda and preliminary findings,' in Gender and History, vol. 17, no. 2, August (2005): 245–94, p. 246; The Modern Girl Around the World Research Group: Alys Eve Weinbaum, Lynn M. Thomas, Priti Ramamurthy, Uta G. Poiger, Madeleine Yue Dong, and Tani E. Barlow (eds), The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity and Globalization, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008.

    [42] Dominick La Capra, History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004, p. 1.

    [43] La Capra, History in Transit, p. 2.

    [44] Michel Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history,' p. 82.

    [45] Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history,' p. 83.

    [46] Walter Benjamin, Archives, London: Verso, 2007, p. ii.

    [47] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, London: The Penguin Group, 2002 [1848, English translation 1888], p. 223.

    [48] Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, p. 223.

    [49] Featherstone, 'Postnational flows, identity formation and cultural space,' p. 501. See also Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000, pp. 1–15. See, also, however, the caution expressed about the notions of 'flow' and 'liquidity' by Paul James, 'Review of Australian social attitudes: the first report,' in Australian Humanities Review, issue 38, April (2006): unpaginated, online:, site accessed 25 May 2009; Mackie and Stevens, 'Globalisation and body politics,' p. 265.

    [50] Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965 [1867], p. 10.

    [51] Andy Merrifield, Metromarxism: A Marxist Tale of the City, Routledge: NewYork and London, 2002, pp. 26–28.

    [52] Featherstone, 'Postnational flows, identity formation and cultural space,' p. 496.

    [53] The term is the official slogan of the World Social Forum, set up as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, an annual meeting of political and business élites held in Davos, Switzerland. For a sympathetic discussion of the role in the World Social Forum in constructing alternative forms of globalisation, see William F. Fisher and Thomas Ponniah (eds), Another World is Possible: Popular Alternatives to Globalization at the World Social Forum, London: Zed Books, 2003.

    [54] Indeed, transnational political mobilisation has a long history, including anti-slavery movements, movements for women's suffrage and the Communist International. Connell, 'Southern Bodies'; Vera Mackie, 'The language of globalization, transnationality and feminism,' in International Feminist Journal of Politics, vol. 3, no. 2 (2001): 180–206, pp. 180–81.

    [55] The tribunal was held in Tokyo in 2000 and the full verdict was handed down in 2001. Rumi Sakamoto, 'The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's military sexual slavery: a legal and feminist approach to the "comfort women" issue,' in New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (2001): 49–58; Kim Puja, 'Global civil society remakes history: "The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000",' translated by Hideko Mutsui, in positions: east asia cultures critique, vol. 9, no. 3, Winter (2001): 611–20.

    [56] Peter Jackson, 'Kathoey><Gay><Man: the historical emergence of gay male identity in Thailand,' in Sites of Desire: Economies of Pleasure, ed. Lenore Manderson and Margaret Jolly, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997, pp. 166–190; Rosalind, C. Morris, 'Three sexes and four sexualities: redressing the discourse on gender and sexuality in contemporary Thailand,' in positions: east asia cultures critique, vol. 2, no. 1 (1994): 15–43.

    [57] Several former British colonies have inherited regulations which criminalise 'sodomy.' See: Douglas Sanders, 'Section 377 and the unnatural afterlife of colonialism in Asia,' Paper presented at the Fifth International Convention of Asia Scholars, Kuala Lumpur, 2007.

    [58] See Fran Martin, Peter A. Jackson, Mark McLelland, and Audrey Yue (eds), AsiaPacificQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities, Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2008; Benedicto, 'Desiring sameness.' On queer activism see Mark Pendleton, 'Looking back to look forward: the past in Australian queer anti-capitalism 1999–2002,' in Melbourne Historical Journal, vol. 35 (2007): 51–71.

    [59] See, however: Vera Mackie, 'Sexuality in a transnational frame: Australian stories, Japanese stories,' in On the Western Edge: Australia and Japan, ed. Leigh Dale and Masayo Tada, Perth: Network Books, 2007; Shirlena Huang and Brenda S.A. Yeoh, 'Heterosexualities and the global(ising) city in Asia: introduction,' in Asian Studies Review, vol. 32, no.1, March (2008): 1–6.

    [60] See for example, George Soros, 'No alternative to a new world architecture,' in Japan Times, 8 November 2009, online:, site accessed 9 November 2009.

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