week 1: music, immigration, transnationalism

So I’m currently reading Mohanty and Alexander’s Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures. In the book, ‘third world’ and ‘first world’ women of colour challenge the construction of feminism as a “white women’s social movement that has no concrete link to black women or the black community” (Rose) by writing about “the underlying theoretical perspectives and organization practices of the different varieties of feminism that take on questions of colonialism, imperialism, and the repressive rule of colonial, post-colonial and advanced capitalist nation states.” I started reading the book in agreement with Rose that the most familiar brand of white liberal ‘feminism’ fails pretty spectacularly to address how ethnicity, class and race intersect to “fracture gender as a conceptual category” (Rose). Coming from that perspective, here are some of the main things that this week’s articles brought to mind for me.

          1. Keny Arkana and M.I.A.

These are the first two artists that came to mind when thinking about (my pretty limited knowledge of) diaspora rap. Arkana is Argentine-French and M.I.A is Sri-Lankan-British. Both deal with a range of complex political issues in their work.


           2. Also, lets talk about Beyonce for a second.

Beyonce’s ‘Flawless‘ (while more hip hop/pop than rap), is also pretty interesting to think about in the context of these articles and their discussion of black women and the family in the US. ‘Flawless’ features a monologue by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in which she defines a ‘feminist’ (“a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”) and questions society’s gendered expectations of marriage. Referencing her marriage and new baby, Beyonce sings “I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife, don’t get it twisted, this my shit, bow down bitches.” Very cool to see an empowering collaboration like this, plus the song is just damn catchy.

          3. The amazing bell hooks’ commentary on rap

bell hooks has some really great commentary on rap music and it’s dominant perception as a primarily violent and misogynistic art form in which she takes an intersectional perspective to examine how capitalism and racism inform this reading:

Rap music is so diverse in it’s themes, it’s style, it’s content, but when it becomes a vehicle to be talked about in main stream news, the rap that gets in national news is always the rap that perpetuates misogyny, that is most obscene and then this comes to stand for what rap is. Really for me it’s a perfect paradigm of colonialism. That is to say, if we think of rap music as a little third world country that young white consumers are able to take out of it whatever they want, we would have to acknowledge that what young white consumers, primarily male, oftentimes suburban, most got energized by in rap music was misogyny, obscenity, and pugilistic eroticism and therefore that form of rap began to make the largest sums of money.”

hooks argues that the demonization of rap is a “sensationalist drama of demonizing black youth culture in general and the contributions of young black men in particular” while ignoring the greater context in which “the sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society.”

More from hooks on that theme here.



One thought on “week 1: music, immigration, transnationalism

  1. Thanks for all the great links. I knew Keny Arkana’s work, but not M.I.A. I hope you’ll tell us more about her work and post some lyrics for the shared discoveries next week. As I was listening to bell hooks, I see her point that many rappers are cashing in (just like performers in white-dominated genres) on what sells, and unfortunately what sells in U.S. culture is the exploitation of women’s bodies. But I wouldn’t let them off quite that easily. It may be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. After all, as Light (“about a salary or reality?”) reminds us in his article, many rappers make a claim for political relevance. If you’re criticizing economic and racial discrimination and continuing to engage in violent mysogyny, there’s a serious inconsistency. But then again, this is the history of radical political movements: women’s issues are left until after the “real” revolution. But to come back to the migration focus of our class, I’m wondering if rap focusing on minorities in Europe put less emphasis on sexual exploitation… It’s certainly the case with C-it, which is probably one reason I think is music is worth listening to. 🙂

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