Pop and Politics in East Asia (Masters)

Key information

Module not running
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Music

Module overview

The course will be taken by MMus Ethnomusicology or MMus Performance students who wish to specialise in East Asia, and may also be taken as a complementary course by those whose primary focus is another region. The course is designed to pair with the other half unit course being introduced: Traditions of East Asia, which provides a more musicological overview of East Asia’s musical genres and styles, but it may be taken as a free standing unit, both by Music and other students. The lesser emphasis on musicological approaches is expected to give the course greater appeal to area studies, politics and anthropology students.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the development of contemporary musical genres in 20th and 21st century China, Japan and Korea. Topics will include popular styles, classical composition, the modernisation of local traditions, and the treatment of traditions as intangible cultural heritage.

Through this course the students should gain critical understanding of issues surrounding the manipulation of music for political ends, the impact of political ideology on musical aesthetics and form, the relationships between music and political power structures, nationalism and local identities, gender, and globalisation. They should have a basic understanding of the workings of the pop music market in East Asia, and be able to deal critically with issues of distribution, marketing and copyright and various forms of technological mediation including the internet.


  • One hour Lecture. one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

Outline of lectures:

  • The global and the local in East Asian contemporary music
  • China: 20th century revolutionary politics and music
  • North Korea: music and ‘socialist realism’
  • The professionalisation of Chinese folk music
  • Intangible cultural heritage in East Asia
  • The music business in East Asia
  • The politics of Chinese rock music
  • J-pop and underground
  • Korean pop and fusion
  • Ethnic minority music: China’s ‘world music’
  • Online music scenes of East Asia

Method of assessment

  • One 2 500 words essay or 20 minutes radio programme (worth 75%)
  • One 20 minutes seminar presentation (worth 25%)

Suggested reading

• Chun, Rossiter & Shoesmith eds. (2004) Refashioning pop music in Asia: cosmopolitan flows, political tempos and aesthetic industries. Richmond: Curzon.
• Condry, Ian. "Yellow B-Boys, Black Culture, and the Elvis Effect." In Hip-Hop Japan and the Paths
of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
___. 2001. Japanese hip-hop and the Globalization of popular culture. In Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of the City, edited by George Gmelch and Walther Zenner. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press pp. 357-387.
• Fung, Anthony (2008) ‘Western Style, Chinese Pop: Jay Chou's Rap and Hip-Hop in China’, Asian Music 39/1:69-80.
• Harris, Rachel (2005) ‘Reggae on the Silk Road: the globalisation of Uyghur pop’, China Quarterly 183, 627-643.
• Ho Wai-Chung (2003) ‘Between Globalisation And Localisation: A Study Of Hong Kong Popular Music’, Popular Music, pp143-157
• Keith Howard, 2002. ‘Exploding Ballads: The Transformation of Korean Pop Music’, in Tim Craig and Richard King (eds), Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia: 80-95. Vancouver: Uni. British Columbia Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules