Tag Archives: media

‘Raising Voice’ in Kathmandu: Sound, Publics, and Political Subjectivity

Laura Kunreuther (Bard College)
3/06/2014

In this paper, I explore practices associated with ‘raising voice’ (āwāj uthāune), a discourse that has become prominent in public media and popular speech in Nepal particularly since the democracy movements of 1990 and 2006. Āwāj uthāune clearly resonates with global discourses of the voice as a metonym of political agency, consciousness, and empowerment. But unlike the English term “voice,” āwāj also refers to material, “natural” or “non-human” noise and sounds that fall outside of discourse and sometimes defy intentional meaning. Many examples of ‘raising voice’ that I discuss here entail the broadcast of non-discursive sounds through various media – the FM radio, street protests, performance art. The discourse of āwāj and āwāj uthāune thus asks us to take seriously the connections between political metaphors of voice and the social politics of sound in understanding contemporary political subjectivity within Nepal and beyond its borders. What kinds of sounds do people associate with the notion of ‘raising voice’ and democracy – and what kinds of desires and subjects do these sounds animate? How might we rethink the global metaphor of voice by interrogating it through the concept of āwāj? By focusing on the materiality of the sounds of āwāj uthāune, I argue that sound plays a key role in the affective and embodied dimensions of political subjectivity. Moreover I suggest, sound itself must be recognized as having political dimensions.

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Intimate Witnessing: Mapping State Violence on the Social Body, Kingston 2010

Deborah A. Thomas (Penn)
10/30/2013

On 24 May 2010, Jamaican police and military forces entered the community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in order to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, purported leader of the Shower Posse and “don” of the community, but by the end of the week, Dudus had not yet been found and at least 73 civilians had been killed. Despite the activities of various civil society organizations and the release in April of an interim report by the Public Defender, those who lost their lives have not yet been publicly recognized, and officials and individuals responsible for these deaths have not yet been called to account. Since January this year, I have been working collaboratively on a multi-media installation project designed to provide a platform through which participating Tivoli Gardens and neighboring community members can recount their experiences during May and June 2010, and name and publicly memorialize loved ones they lost. The project is meant to contribute to a healing process in which historical silences are broken through audio and visual forms of storytelling, while also contributing to theoretical analyses of the relationships between spectacular and everyday forms of violence, the production of visual archives, and the gendered dimensions of witnessing.

In this paper, I focus on how bearing witness to state violence can give us windows into the world of the everyday in two senses. First, by listening to people recount what happened to them and what the effects have been, we get a sense of the everyday forms of structural violence that both provide the foundation for the exceptional eruption and shape how they experience aftermaths. And second, we can read between the lines of these kinds of testimonies in order to also understand how people have negotiated processes of governance, histories of simultaneous marginalization and exceptional excellence, and aspirations for themselves and their families. I am particularly interested, here, in the ways attention to the sphere of intimacy – the small, domestic, pedestrian stories – both gives us a window into the gendered dimensions of spectacular and structural violence, and produces particular desires related to social and political life.

Kawaii Me Not: Cuteness, Gender, and Language-Longing in Chicano Rap-Fan Videos on YouTube

 Norma Mendoza-Denton  (University of Arizona)
10/16/2013                    *in Rm. 345

This research intends to address the apparent paradox in the use of signifiers of cuteness (kawaii) in the visual culture of YouTube videos produced by young fans of Chicano (Cholo) rappers.  In these videos, we find the juxtaposition of kawaii visual representations with talk about violence that characterizes the hypermasculine style of Cholo rappers. I begin by revisiting some of Anne Allison’s arguments about cuteness as cultural capital in the international rise of Japanese Pokémon, as well as some of my own work on semiotic hitchhiking and hypermasculinity in the portrayal of cholos, especially through creaky voice. Data collected from YouTube video postings by fans of Chicano gangster rappers will be examined for the layering of semiotic elements, both visual and linguistic. I further consider a related question: could Homies be the next Pokémon?  Homies figurines and toys constitute material culture that both alludes to and longs for the 1920s zenith of Mexican artistic expression, and for the more recent Chicano prison and lowrider art. I will debate the question of the moral panics of Cholafied art by arguing that postwar Japan was in a particular space in its bid for participation in the global economy, and that Cholo references and the status of Latinos in the United States can not yet be “deodorized” (Allison 2003) in a similar way.