Tommy 2017

Dr Tommy H L Tse

Assistant Professor
+852 3917 8532

9.09, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus


Tommy Tse is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The University of Hong Kong. He specialises in Asia’s media and cultural industries, consumer culture, creative labour and fashion.  Advocating epistemological pluralism, Tse’s research programme fills a significant research gap between theory and practice of the predominantly ‘Western-centric’ studies of cultural production, mediation and consumption and facilitates intellectual dialogues in a global, ‘ex-centric’ perspective. Through gaining rare access to the fashion, advertising, media and entertainment sectors in Hong Kong, China and Korea, Tse conducted interviews with over 170 creative industry professionals. His work has been published in top international journals, including Information, Communication and Society; Journal of Consumer Culture; Journal of Cultural Economy; International Journal of Fashion Studies and Sociology. His recent co-authored book Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia: Use of Celebrity and Its Influence on Society, Culture and Communication (Intellect, 2017) represents the first major work that has achieved a direct connection to Asian celebrities and the industrial apparatus that surrounds them, demonstrating an integration of the growing research on celebrity from cross-disciplinary perspectives.

Previously, Tse worked in various media and creative companies, including Art Map Ltd., ADO and TBWA. Tse also worked as a project-based copywriter for various global fashion, luxury and pharmaceutical brands for over six years. Before joining HKU, Tse taught at the Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication; Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London; the Culture and Media Domain, HKU SPACE; and Hong Kong Design Institute. He was a Visiting Scholar at the National Center for Radio and Television Studies, Communication University of China, Beijing; the Fashion Institute of Design, Donghua University, Shanghai; Department of Anthropology, University College London, and School of Media and Communication, London College of Fashion.

From 2015 – 2017, Tse was the Director of the faculty’s flagship summer institute Asia as the Global Future: an annual four-week study programme in Hong Kong (HKU), Beijing (Peking University) and Seoul (Korea University) showcasing the Faculty of Social Sciences and HKU as an Asia’s global university, and an ideal platform for international collaboration, academic exchange and social innovation among the global partner universities. He is also the Academic Director of the faculty’s 3-Campus East Asia Program (2015 – 2017; 2019 – now).

Currently, Tse is the Vice-President (2019 – 2021) of Hong Kong Sociological Association and an Associate Board Member of British Sociological Association’s journal Work, Employment and Society (Sage).

Research Agenda

My scholarship has focused on three intertwined areas which are prominent in sociology and cultural studies, namely (i) cultural production and mediation, (ii) creative labour studies and (iii) consumer culture. As a practitioner-turned-sociologist, I have extended the traditional research agenda by bringing together the seemingly disparate worlds of culture and commerce and theorising their convergence in the globally surging cultural and creative industries. My sociological study of cultural economy originally and distinctively reforms and refines core social theory to illuminate how divergent types of “cultural professionals” systematically co-create, commercialize and mediate cultural goods in contemporary East Asian societies, (re)shaping our sense of value, social relations and meanings of life in unprecedented ways. In particular, my research unpacks and conceptualises the nuances and contradictions behind the meteoric rise of Korea’s and China’s creative industries and popular culture.

As an insider-ethnographer, I have extended the research agenda to the intricate inner working of cultural production and generally “hard-to-reach” cultural producers/labourers, providing a distinctive conceptual understanding of their social lives and the new meanings of creative labour through “walking their walks, talking their talks”. Over the years I gained rare access to the fashion, advertising, media and entertainment sectors in Hong Kong, China and Korea and conducted interviews with over 170 creative industry professionals. The sociocultural specificity of my research fills a significant research gap between theory and practice of the predominantly ‘Western-centric’ studies of cultural production, mediation and consumption. Through rethinking the social and cultural milieus of East Asia in a global context, my research program reconceptualises key sociological theories that have been primarily developed from Euro-American experiences (e.g. Pierre Bourdieu’s “cultural intermediaries”; George Ritzer’s “prosumption”) and facilitates intellectual dialogues in a global, “ex-centric” perspective.

My excellent track record is exemplified by my success in securing funded research, top quality research publications and international recognition of my scholarship. Since joining HKU, I have successfully secured 2 external competitive research grants (an ECS examining fashion and creative industries in China and Korea, and a PPR studying creative workers in Hong Kong – both completed) and 5 internal research grants (3 completed and 2 ongoing). Amid the upsurge of creative industries in Hong Kong and worldwide, my project serves as the only PPR (since 2003) conducted addressing the Hong Kong government’s specified interest in its development, also informing the local creative worker conditions and its public policy implications. I have written extensively totaling 56 outputs (e.g. book/book chapters, journal articles, research & policy reports, conference papers), including a number of original, high-quality articles published in top international journals in sociology, cultural studies and fashion studies, all ranked by external reviewers as 3*/4* publications in the terminology of 2020 RAE. I have also been invited to present such work across renowned British and Australian tertiary institutions that specialise in my fields of study, including King’s College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, London College of Fashion, Central Saint Martins and University of Sydney.

I have actively established my reputation as a leading scholar in the field of sociology of culture, consumption and creative labour through attending 20-plus international conferences and visiting four universities as Visiting Scholars (University College London; London College of Fashion; Communication University of China, Beijing; and Donghua University, Shanghai). My strong connections with key international and local scholars in my area and contributions to the international interdisciplinary academic community include my current role as an Associate Board Member of Work, Employment and Society (a UK ABS 4* journal in sociology) and a convenor of the HKU-WES International Symposium: Worlds of Work: Urbanisation, Technology and Sustainability (Sep 2019), which is the first scholarly event by the British Sociological Association that is ever held out of the UK.

In terms of my future research plan, building on my strong, focused research program in Hong Kong, China and Korea, I shall expand my multi-sited ethnography to cover the cultural economies of and the transnational cultural flows between other countries located in the Global South (the “South-South interactions”), including Southeast Asia and Africa. Another line of research enquiry would be the investigation of how urbanization, technology and the rise of sharing/gig economy change the nature of work and workers’ wellbeing in cities across the global North and South.

Courses taught


PhD Sociology
The University of Hong Kong

MPhil Comparative Literature
The University of Hong Kong

BA Comparative Literature
The University of Hong Kong

Research interests

Advertising and society
Celebrity culture
Creative labour
Cultural and creative industries
Cultural studies
Gender and sexuality
New media and digital culture

Current research

De-Westernising Fashion: An Ex-centric Perspective on Creativity, Authenticity, Cultural Mediation, and Consumer Agency along Chinese-African Fashion Value Chains. HKU Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research.
Project Date: 01/07/2020 – 30/06/2021.

‘Creative Workers in 2019 Hong Kong Protests: A Critical Investigation of the Causes, Motivations and Relations between Socio-Economic Factors and Political Participation.’ Funded by Public Policy Research Funding Scheme [Special Round] (SR2020.A8.028). (PI: Prof. Pun Ngai [HKU Sociology]; Co-I: Prof. Jack Qiu [CUHK Journalism & Communication]).
Project Date: 01/05/2020 – 30/10/2020.

Working in/out the Automated ‘Smart’ Cities: A Comparative Study of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Media Professionals’ Psychological Wellbeing. HKU Faculty of Social Sciences Strategic Research Clusters Seed Funding.
Project Date: 01/06/2019 –30/11/2020.

Digital Labour and Wellbeing: A Qualitative Exploration of Digital Workers’ Job Insecurity and Mental Health in Mainland China. University of Leicester Research Development Fund. (PI: Dr. Yimei Zhu [Media, Communication and Sociology, Leicester].
Project Date: 01/03/2019 – 31/12/2019.

‘Cultural/Creative Labour and “Neo-Precarity”: Emerging Challenges and Responses of Precarious Workers in Chinese Cultural and Creative Industries’. HKU Seed Fund for Basic Research. Project Date: 01/09/2018 – 30/11/2018.

‘Food for Thought, Food for Globe – Reduction of Meat Consumption in Hong Kong’s Schools’. Funded by Knowledge Exchange Project Fund (KE-ID-2018/19-80). Project Date: 01/09/2018 – 30/06/2019.

Green a Difference: Reduction of Animal Consumption in Hong Kong.’ Funded by Knowledge Exchange (KE) Impact Project Funding (KE-IP-2017/18-66). Project Date: 03/08/2017 – 30/06/2018.

Size Does Matter: Reflecting Our Attitudes and Knowledge about Non-Human Animals in Urban Hong Kong.’ Funded by Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange (KE) Project Fund (KE-ID-2015/16-20). Project Date: 01/09/2016 – 30/08/2017.

Creative Industries in Flux: A Critical Investigation into the Challenges, Agency and Potential of Cultural and Creative Workers in Hong Kong.‘ Funded by Public Policy Research Funding Scheme (2015.A8.035.16A).
Project Date: 01/07/2016 – 31/12/2017.

Good Work, Bad Life? Demystifying the Glamour of Creative Labor in Advertising Industry.‘ Funded by HKU Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research.
Project Date: 01/06/2016 – 31/05/2017.

Co-creating Fashion in the Post-Industrial Society: A Comparative Analysis of Creative Industries in China and South Korea.‘ Funded by Early Career Scheme (ECS/27610115).
Project Date: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2017.

Selected publications


Cheng, K., Leung, V. & Tse, T. [in alphabetical order] (2017), Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia: Use of Celebrity and Its Influence on Society, Culture and Communication.Bristol, UK; Chicago, USA: Intellect.

Cheung, D., Tang, J. & Tse, T. [in alphabetical order] (2006), Bodywise, English & Chinese, Hong Kong: Kubrick; Taipei/Kaohsiung: Ju liu tu shu gong si, 183 pages. [ISBN 988-992-462-5]

Journal articles:

Pun, N., Tse, T., Shin, V. & Fan, L.L. (2020). “Conceptualising socio-economic formations of labour and workers’ power in global production networks”, Sociology (published online first) [ISSN: 0038-0385].

Shin, V., Tsang, L.T. & Tse, T. (2020, accepted). “Bridging structural and micro-level factors in cultural labour studies: A multilevel analysis of performing arts administration professionals in Hong Kong”, Social Transformations in Chinese Societies (the official journal of The Hong Kong Sociological Association) [ISSN: 1871-2673].

Tse, T., Shin, V. & Tsang, L.T. (2020). “From Shanzhai chic to Gangnam style: Seven practices of cultural-economic mediation in China and Korea”, Journal of Cultural Economy. (published online first) [ISSN: 1753-0350]

Iaquinto, B., Kim, J.E., Serban, F. and Tse, T. (2019). “Worlds of work: Implications of urbanisation, technology and sustainability”, The International Sociological Association E-Symposium (Sage), 9(3): 1–6.

Tse, T. (2019). “Chinese styles in pluralities: Destabilising the Western-centric fashion discourse in ‘multiple China(s)’ [Book review: Fashion in Multiple Chinas: Chinese Styles in the Transglobal Landscape (by Wessie Ling and Simona Segre-Reinach, 2018)]”. China Quarterly. [ISSN: 0305-7410]

Tse, T. & Tsang, L.T. (2018). “Reconceptualising prosumption beyond the ‘cultural turn’: Passive fashion prosumption in Korea and China”, Journal of Consumer Culture. (published online first) [ISSN: 1469-5405]

Tse, T., Leung, V., Cheng, K. & Chan, J. (2018). “A clown, a political messiah or a punching bag? Rethinking the performative identity construction of celebrity through social media”, Global Media and China. Vol 3, No.3. 141-157. [ISSN: 2059-4364]

Leung, V., Cheng, K. & Tse, T. (2018), “Insiders’ views: The current practice of using celebrities in marketing communications in Greater China”, Intercultural Communications Studies. Vol 27, No.1. 96-113.. [ISSN: 1057-7769]

Pun, N., Tse, T. & Ng, K. (2017), “Challenging digital capitalism: SACOM’s campaigns against Apple and Foxconn as monopoly capital”, Information, Communication & Society (published online first). [ISSN: 1468-4462]

Tse, T. (2016), “Four myths of fashion—An ethnographic research on the fashion media industry in Hong Kong and Mainland China”, The International Sociological Association E-Symposium (Sage Publication), Vol 6, No.1. 1-16.

Tse, T. (2016), “Consistent inconsistency in fashion magazines: The socialization of fashionability in Hong Kong”, The Journal of Business Anthropology, Vol. 5, No.1. 154-179. [ISSN: 2245-4217]

Chan, K., Tse, T., Tam, D. & Huang, A. (2016). “Perception of healthy and unhealthy food among Chinese adolescents”, Young Consumers. Vol. 17, No.1. 32-45. [ISSN: 1747-3616]

Tse, T. (2015), “An ethnographic study of glocal fashion communication in Hong Kong and Greater China”, International Journal of Fashion Studies, Vol. 2, No.2. 245-266.[ISSN: 2051-7106]

Tse, T. (2015), “Two different tales of fashion media industry development in Mainland China and Hong Kong”, Clothing Cultures (Intellect), Vol. 2, No.3, 257-274.[ISSN: 2050-0742]

Tse, T. (2014), “Fashion media communication in Hong Kong”, International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education (Special Issue: “Fashion and Communication”), Vol. 7, No.2, 66-74. [ISSN:1754-3266]

Tse, T. (2014), “Negotiations between fashion marketers and journalists in Asia”, Asian Journal of Business Research, Vol. 4, No.1. 30-42. [ISSN: 1178-8933]

Book chapters:

Tse, T. & Tsang, L.T. (2017). “From Clicks-and-Bricks to Online-to-Offline: The Evolving E-tail/Retail Space as Immersive Media in Hong Kong and Mainland China”, Retail Design: Theoretical Perspectives, edited by Anthony Kent and Ann Petermans, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Tse, T. (2015), “Beyond Freudian narcissism and the cowboy myth” in Ways of Queering, Ways of Seeing, Edited by Jo Grzelinska & Jill Cox, Oxford, United Kingdom: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 205-224.

Tse, T. & Wright, L.T. (2014), “Luxury brands and deriving fashion meanings in a media context in Hong Kong” in Luxury Brands in Emerging Markets, edited by Glyn Atwal and Douglas Bryson, Palgrave Macmillan, 155-165.

Media interviews:

How Hong Kong’s Protest Uniform Changed a Market (Business of Fashion [BoF], 17 November 2019)

Kacey Musgraves Faces Criticism for Cultural Appropriation after Wearing a Vietnamese Dress (CNN Style, 17 October 2019)

Why Do Internet Challenges Like the Bottle Cap Challenge and the Harlem Shake Go Viral on Social Media? (Young Post [SCMP], 19 August 2019)

Global Currents: Why Luxury Is Banking on Tomboy Influencers (Business of Fashion [BoF], 1 August 2019)

Do Clothes Maketh the (Wo)Man? (#Legend [Rock Media Group, NYC], 18 July 2019)

Rihanna’s Harper’s Bazaar China Cover Sparks Questions of Cultural Appropriation (CNN International, 14 July 2019)

The First Lady Effect on Fashion: How Their Choices of Outfit can Transform a Label’s Fortunes (SCMP, 22 September 2018)

Collaboration with UN ESBN Youth & Women Entrepreneurship Taskforce (Young Entrepreneurs/HKU Common Core Research and Innovation, 6 August 2018)

Sphere of Influence (TVB Pearl, 30 July 2018)

Makeup app showdown: Meitu versus YouCam (Abacus by SCMP, 9 February 2018)

Celebrity Culture in the Modern Age (HKU Bulletin Vol. 19 No.2, January 2018)

MeToo Has Reached China, but Will It Have an Impact? (The Hollywood Reporter, 8 January, 2018)

From Hong Kong hit Bride Wannabes to the Kardashians and Love Island, what is our fascination with reality TV? (SCMP, 14 October 2017)

Triple Alumnus in a Special Niche – Alumni Interview with Dr Tommy Tse Ho Lun (The HKU Graduate School Newsletter, P.7, August 2017)

Why Start-ups Thrive behind China’s Great Firewall More than in Hong Kong, its Freest City, and How to Change That (SCMP, 19 January 2017)

【腐女想甚麼?】BL漫畫「攻」「受」關係滿足女讀者情慾想像 (HK01, 18 August 2016)

Emoji 尋性新語言?(HK01, 21 July 2016)

Digital Natives in the Wild (China Daily, 22 April 2016):

Living the Stream (SCMP, 14 March 2016):

Melancholic Melody: Cantopop Remains in a Mist (China Daily, 19 October 2015)

Love at First Click (China Daily Asia, 11 September 2015)

The Anti-Intellectual Generation [反智世代] (MetroPop, 23 April 2015)

Newspaper articles:

Tse, T. “香港文創產業一片風光背後”, Hong Kong Economic Journal, 21 November 2015. Print.

Tse, T. “搞「好」創意 談何容易?審視文化及創意產業的業內實況”, Hong Kong Economic Journal, Nov 28.2015. Print.

See all publications in HKU Scholars Hub →

Office opening hours adjustment