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


Fran Martin, Tania Lewis, Wanning Sun.


How can we understand the recent appearance of an Indian version of MasterChef, home renovation shows like 交换空间 (Swap Places) in China, personal makeover shows like Style Doctors in Singapore, and beauty and fashion advice TV like 女人我最大 (Queen) in Taiwan? This research project sees lifestyle advice programming as a barometer of broader cultural changes currently transforming social life in Asia. In such programs, entertainment media addresses itself in a uniquely direct way to the everyday practice of ordinary social life: these programs are etiquette manuals for the 21st century. We are interested in what the rise of such programming can tell us about broader shifts in contemporary Asian societies in relation to identity, culture and citizenship.

What kinds of tele-modernities are being represented and promoted through lifestyle shows across these varied locations? Does the rise of lifestyle advice TV in Asia prove the triumph of global consumerism and westernised taste cultures? Or does it instead indicate highly contested, contingent, and localised reworkings of market-based governance and cultural citizenship? To what extent does lifestyle advice television and culture travel between the various sites in our study as well as between these sites and others in the Asian region? Does the mobility of lifestyle advice media consolidate regionally specific formations of lifestyle culture within capitalist East and South Asia?

This project addresses these complex questions through a large-scale comparative study of lifestyle advice programming in China, India, Taiwan and Singapore. We apply a three-pronged method at each site, focusing on industry, textual and audience analysis. Hundreds of hours of television have been recorded and interviews have been conducted in all four sites with key TV industry professionals (in Delhi, Mumbai, Shanghai, Bengbu, Singapore and Taipei) and with TV audiences (in Mumbai, x, Shanghai, Bengbu, Taipei and Singapore). Based on analysis of this data, this project will produce the first ever large-scale, transnational comparative study of life advice television in Asia as indicative of globally interconnected yet specific formations of media modernity.


Australia Research Council, Discovery Project