Vice: M.I.A. pulls South Asia onto her world stage

November 9, 2013 - Music / Race

Love Vice’s Noisey Music article on M.I.A. – the piece argues how M.I.A. takes traditional imagery from South Asia, and other parts of the under-represented world, and forces it onto the world stage — to the confusion of Western journalists and sensibilities.

M.I.A.’s multiplicity soundtracks a very specific experience—one that doesn’t stop existing just because a white person can’t validate it… America has a sense of cultural blackness and a sense of cultural whiteness. M.I.A disrupts America’s nascent sense of South Asianess… 

M.I.A’s choice to borrow imagery from disparate groups and turn it into iconography isn’t appropriative; it’s the natural instinct of a diasporic identity. South Asians are already forced to invest in the panethnic  “other” constructed by the West; we keep getting beat up for looking like Arabs slash Muslims slash terrorists. Called all three, M.I.A subverts the conflation to her advantage.

Choruses of children evoking a crowded slum, humid jungles where Sri Lankan women bathe and wash their clothes, old Bimmers drifting in a Moroccan desert, the mutiple limbs of a Hindu goddess stretching behind her, the austerity of areas long occupied by military, a digital print burqa.

By lifting imagery associated with the global south and restyling it with an unapologetically gaudy insistence on its “otherness,” M.I.A empowers both herself and brown kids worldwide who had previously only been the subjects of Otherization, not the agents.

Awesome. And with visibility to these “others” come critiques of M.I.A.’s authenticity and connection, ignorant YouTube comments, and conversation. Conversation, even if it’s bad, it’s conversation that didn’t exist before – and that’s a good thing.

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› tags: Asia / Asian / M.I.A. / Matangi / Music / otherness / Race / South Asia / Sri Lanka / Sri Lankan / United States /

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