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Karaoke Bar Hostesses and Japan-Korea Wave in Postsocialist China: Fashion, Cosmopolitanism and Globalization



Drawing on my ethnographic research with karaoke bar hostesses from 1998 to 2002 in Dalian, China, this paper discusses the Japan-Korea Wave in the context of China's entry to the global marketplace. It focuses on Chinese readings of the “local” and the “global” and the impact of these understandings upon individuals' consumption behaviors. Outlining Chinese theorizations of global consumerism, this paper explores how they are integrated into cultural categories of rural vs. urban, backward vs. cosmopolitan, modern vs. foreign in contemporary China. I analyze multiple globals and locals and demonstrate how people construct both spheres of identity and cultural flows in everyday life, particularly through fashion consumption and clothes talk. I argue that the Wave suggests a more complex, uneven, and multi-centered global cultural field. By reading Chinese sources, we attain a different picture of globalization of cultural processes and understand the complexities of how global exchange, cultural consumption, and cosmopolitan identity constructions occur.