Transculturality in Top Model: An Analysis of a Global Television Format and its Audiences in Different Cultural Contexts
This dissertation project investigates the transculturality of global television formats by conducting an analysis of Top Model, and its audiences, in different cultural contexts. Top Model is a global television format that, since 2003, has been successfully produced in more than 17 different country versions. The overarching research question is Why the Top Model format is , despite cultural differences ,successful in so many countries throughout the world? The hypothesis is that the Top Model format possesses a specific transculturality, which allows audiences from several cultural contexts to relate to it. In particular, the format is part of a global neo-liberal narrative, which is articulated through the invocation and reproduction of the enterprising self in the television shows. However, this does not mean that the format has a standardised meaning and that audiences relate to it in exactly the same way. Rather, there exists a multitude of negotiations, contradictions, and audience oppositions that can be described as culturally specific. This dissertation project is based on different theoretical approaches. First, the concept of transculturality is used as a research perspective from which the data from different countries is compared. Transculturality is understood as a research perspective that examines the similarities across, or beyond, cultures without neglecting local differences. Secondly, the enterprising self is conceptualised within the approach of Governmentality Studies, based on the ideas of Michel Foucault. In the center of this analysis lies the relation between processes of neo-liberal subjectivation and forms of domination and authority. Methodologically, a multi-method research design is used. First, a television analysis of the original format of America’s Next Top Model, and versions in other countries, is conducted to determine what topics and narratives are present in the format that can be related to, transculturally. Secondly, qualitative audience research, in the form of focus groups, is conducted in different countries to determine how audiences from different cultural contexts negotiate and appropriate the format. The aim of the project is to identity the processes of transculturality, within the format, and to show how global narratives and topics are negotiated and appropriated by local audiences.