Heritage and the Politics of Culture
This research analyses the discursive construction of Pan-Asian ideals as represented through beauty advertisements in Singapore and Indonesia. We see advertisements as a way of exploring how culture, class, ethnicity, colour and race is encoded and visually represented. The Pan-Asian look has witnessed an explosion in visibility, fueled largely by advertisers and the media, so much so that the Asian face which sells beauty products in Asia, is now predominantly Pan-Asian. While the Pan-Asian look refers to a blend of European and Asian facial features, the look is used by those who participate in the economy of image production as a marker of global integration and a sense of cosmopolitanism. This is not to mean cosmopolitanism via association with the West, but rather via the strategic incorporation of European elements with a predominantly Asian look for the sake of appearing worldly; as a flexible citizen (Ong 1999). Other scholars (Hoang 2014) argue that the Pan-Asian desired outcome is a ‘modern Asian look’ as opposed to Western emulation. Then there are those who argue that the Pan-Asian look is a consequence of its utility for cost-effective cross-market advertising appeal (Harris 1994; Zhao and Belk 2008), and that these images invoke elements of aspirational marketing and thus implicitly affirm Western influence and hegemony (Iwabushi 2014; Park and Abelmann 2004). We contend that there are nuanced motivations and outcomes at play, intersecting with marketplace dynamics, sentiments of Western resistance, cultural flows and Asian modernity that scholars are yet to fully consider.