- Editor’s Introduction
This issue presents a case to formalize what some call new Asia media flows. In the spirit of this newly opening line of critique, Bhaskar Sarkar addresses a fake notion, “capitalist vitality,” in his “Media Piracy and the Terrorist Boogeyman: Speculative Potentiations.” Sarkar exposes how, rhetorically, copyright piracy has been fused to create a fake war-on-terror figure, as familiar acronyms (RAND, TRIPS, WTO, etc.) creep into his essay. What if, he says, instead of accepting a slipshod, bogus, terror-pirate, law-breaking boogeyman, we instrumentalize the category of the Global South? And then what will appear in a critical scope are the “ubiquitous, palpable, but largely unaccounted-for informal economies” of the South, where people socialize around media resources they sneak into their post-human environment supported by fecund media piracy. Here is where an invitation is extended. Sarkar invokes possibilities beyond liberal bourgeois rights and [End Page 337] beyond biopolitical governance paradigms: accept Tarde’s society of capacious concatenation, he argues, and embrace the parasitical fertility, the irritating peskiness, the sociality of the impoverished, and the scholarship they can incite in us, as they grab what they want to see and want to hear.
Doubtless, Fran Martin was not thinking about instrumentalizing the South when she composed “‘From Sparrow to Phoenix’: Imagining Gender Transformation through Taiwanese Women’s Variety TV.” She does, however, go at the established tradition of feminist scholarship on Sinophone media cultures and media subjectivities and gives it a poke even, a cosmetic surgery one could say. Working her way through the terms for gender categories that have emerged in the popular Taiwan TV talk show Queen, she situates the program and her own evaluation in a localized end-product of transnational media vectors. This useful formula allows her to go directly into the conditions of thinking about female life cycles and major sociological shifts that have displaced and restructured the Taiwan Chinese family. In the process, Martin, like Sarkar, simply steps over prepackaged protocols of media critique. Rather than accepting the old theory about “the global spread of . . . neoliberal (and ‘postfeminist’) ideology that figures (feminine) self-making as an ‘empowering’ entrepreneurial project,” Martin shows, using viewer responses, how people consider Queen to be an imaginative project of transnational consumption in which the consumer pushes her way into a renewed sense of social belonging.
So, too, Benjamin Tausig’s “A Division of Listening: Insurgent Sympathy and the Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military” creates a term he calls “sonic culture of protest” or “sonic campaign of crowd control.” Simply put, rather than placing the broadcast into the politics of Red Shirt protests against the Thai military regime in 2010, Tausig shows that by employing the disciplines of ethnomusicology and sound studies he can analyze how cultures are, paraphrasing him, structured as interventions into modernization and self-production, to say nothing of the painful drama and wounds that the encounters inflict. Just as Sarkar and Martin have done, Tausig situates his analysis inside the unfolding events. There is, he demonstrates, a dimension of sound in David Harvey’s notion of “insurgent sympathy,” and these sounds are calibrated to mobilize insurgents along regional or ethnopolitical identifications. Military music, the music of rural labor, migration and [End Page 338] nostalgia, the sounds of marginalization are, he argues, both “cultural symbol and volatile presence.” In drawing on what he terms a paradoxical role, Tausig shows us how to occupy the immanent space of sound while tracking the delicate dance of censorship, mobilization, co-option, crisis, and refrain. There are claims to make here. Sound, Tausig believes, has proven in his case study to be “more potent than nationalist sentiment.” This implicit drive to push critique beyond the crucial but now relatively flat notions of imaginary community of print capitalism rests on Tausig’s insistence that we accept corporeal, haptic affect. Sympathetic resonances to the social divisions (class, probably gender, no doubt regional) that sound conveys are part of this argument about insurgent sympathy and space-driven loyalties.
On the more familiar sensorium, dealing with sight, Daisy Yan Du contributes a critique and set of observations about cartoon movie characters during the...