Session/Séance 5d: IASPM Panel 1 Diasporic Identities and Belonging in Canada

Session/Séance 5d: IASPM Panel 1. Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017. 11:00 am – 12:30 pm, EJB 330.
Diasporic Identities and Belonging in Canada
      Moderator: WILL STRAW (McGill University)


1. “A Fag Like Me”: Sounding Audiotopia in the Face of Xenophobia
     Craig Jennex, McMaster University

In “More Than Aware,” a single from his 2013 album Turban Sex, Kanwar Anit Singh (aka Sikh Knowledge) offers a critique of the progressive, queer liberal narrative that has gripped the Canadian imaginary. Through his complex, potentially audiotopic musical performances, Singh links ostensibly disparate languages, sexual desires, religious experiences and musical genres to challenge this pervasive homonormative narrative. Ours is a moment in which gayness, particularly when it collides with whiteness, ostensibly proper gender performance, wealth, and normative behaviours, aligns closely with the projects of the State. This phenomena was particularly apparent in Singh’s home province of Quebec during the legislative discussion around Bill 60 – the proposed “Charter of Values” – in which certain religious garments (and the individuals wearing them) were presented as a threat to the safety of LGBTQ citizens. This event is symptomatic of what Judith Butler argues in Frames of War, that representations of “terrorist masculinity” are at their most salient when juxtaposed with the acceptable, productive gay and lesbian Westerners who embody progressive ideals. And, as Jasbir Puar argues, the turban (especially after 9/11) is “accruing the marks of a terrorist masculinity” as the turbaned man “now inhabits the space and history of monstrosity, of that which can never become civilized” (175). While these politics are ascribed to Singh’s body, through his spectacular performance of self this conventional framing collapses. Singh effects this collapse in his music, which critiques the simplistic narratives of progress that deem him both pre-modern (by virtue of his religion) and properly modern (through his gayness). “More Than Aware” features layers of political commentary: English and Punjabi, Sufi devotional music and early hip-hop influenced emceeing, and contrasting grooves that feature slippery, intentionally confused, rhythmic signification and musical temporalities. Shifting between English and Punjabi, as well as a short break that emphasizes ska-influenced, pan-West-Indian patois vocality and slang, Singh makes audible the complexity and consistent failure of static notions of identification and refutes the queer liberal ideals that pervade Canadian culture.

Keywords: queer music cultures, audiotopia, Canadian xenophobia, diasporic culture, homonormativity


2. The Nu-Tarab Soundscape: Diasporic Arab Identities and Performative Spaces in Canada
     Jillian Fulton, York University

This research concerns the changing identity politics of Arab-Canadian diaspora communities in Toronto within the context of nu-tarab, a performative space and community. Situating my project within theories of “performative space” (Skinner 2014) and “worlds of sense” (Classen 1993), I will ascertain how music – as the meeting point between people and space – has the ability to establish and recreate individual and collective identities (Cohen 1995) and how it can either generate a sense of belonging or a lack thereof. My research will explore the extent to which nu-tarab music and culture mirrors contemporary North American underground dance music culture. I examine the way that intense emotional connection to this music serves to recall and reinforce collective Arab identities that bind past and future (Danielson 1997, Shannon 2003) through the following questions: How does the music’s new media and counter-cultural context affect the meaning of the performance and its resulting tarab experience for participants? How and why do these affectual experiences shape the collective identities and narratives of Arab people today? Through an analysis of these experiences, I investigate the implications of nu-tarab culture’s effect on current socio- political, religious, and cultural landscapes and domains with a view to understanding how such performances shape identity-formation away from “Home”.

Keywords: identity, Arab diasporas, underground dance music scenes, sensory anthropology, performance


3. The World Has Gong Crazy! Filipino-Canadian Gong Fusion and Identity-Building
     Juro Kim Feliz, McGill University

This paper will explore an emerging scene of Filipino-Canadian artists in Toronto amidst the increasing immigrant Filipino populations in Canadian cities. As cultural spaces have migrated along with peoples, the kulintangan, as an indigenous gong ensemble in the Southern Philippines, managed to cross borders as well. Canada’s values on multiculturalism and diversity cultivated the conditions for diasporic communities to construct complex imaginaries of citizenship for themselves, streaming from an intricate web of identities that can be contextualized by Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities” (2006) and Aoileann Ní Mhurchú’s rethinking of “citizenship” (2014). Which identities do Filipino-Canadian artists uphold? How does Canada and being Canadian play a role in their aesthetic and political stances? How do they invoke belongingness within diverse spaces? As the kulintang gongs in Toronto slowly gain visibility not only through its fusion with hip-hop beats but even with its inclusion in sound design for video games, examining the role of the kulintang and the cultures of hip-hop and spoken word in intergenerational interactions among Filipino-Canadian artists potentially unveils an existing musical platform where both Canada and the “homeland” is reconstructed, experienced and even objectified within Canadian spaces. A study of the relationship between the artist and the cultural object also comes in play as the compositional process involved in producing music tracks utilizes the kulintang not only as colour, melodic and textural material, but also as an embedded signature of identity, whether operating on reviving a “past” identity or glorifying a “present” one.

Keywords: gongs, Filipino-Canadian, belonging, diaspora, identity

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