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Gayatri Gopinath, associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of California at Davis, says that many of these young Asian-Americans who join artistic subcultures are individuals who cross over from one country to another in addition to not fitting into the norm of gender, sexuality or psychology. A first-world homosexual transnational has difficulty finding rights of citizenship or dual citizenship in any geographical locations of a diaspora where heterosexuality is the accepted or expected norm. These youths can never return home and, at the same time, they cannot find a place in their new world.
Traditionally, diaspora was defined strictly as those people who migrated and did not have the option of returning to the homeland. Safran (83-84) has extended this definition of diaspora as a group of ethnic expatriates who have the following characteristics in common: 1) they or their ancestors traveled from a specific original center to two or more peripheral or foreign, regions; 2) these individuals maintain a collective memory or story regarding their homeland; 3) they feel unaccepted by their new society and thus alienated and alone; 4) they perceive their former land as the ideal home and as a place where they or their descendants will someday return when the times allow; 5) these arrivals believe they must remain committed to the maintenance or restoration of their native land; and 6) they regularly relate in one way or another to that homeland and their ethnic consciousness and is defined by this relationship.
Queer Asian-Americans are marginalized individuals who cannot find a homeland. Gopoinath (120-121) stresses the difficulties involved in perceiving a diasporic or transnational South Asian queer sexuality. Queers of color must continually navigate numerous, conditional, national spaces to find strategic negotiations. Part of this consists of the recognition of new forms of queer desire and pleasure that are essential in the process of maneuvering a space for queer intimacy in the diaspora (123). Such queer intimacy takes place where similar members of the diaspora have socialized as citizens that consist of their ever changing global positions.
Deborah Wong also sees the Asian-American youth as a special subculture who have difficulty fitting in with other cultures. For example, she compares them to the African-Americans, who formed their own subculture of hip-hop and rap. She suggests that physically African-American bodies have been historically perceived as being associated with music, rhythm, and performance throughout American history. However, if Asian-Americans were to duplicate these same bodily movements, they would appear awkward and out of place. Thus, they took other culture's and race's music and transformed it into their own.
The media have painted Asian-Americans very different than African-Americans and other minorities. For example, if one looks at how Asian-American males have been visualized in the mainstream media, it is easy to see how rap or hip hop would be alien to identity. Traditionally, representation of Asian men was the opposite of manly and virile. The Asian body is displayed in contrast to white male masculinity and becomes completely the opposite historically and socially of Black masculinity.
Thus, in order to find their way, Asian-Americans have developed their own music and genre to follow. Wong says that it is its own form of music "we have asserted into existence, through projects like Ninja Pants and Boston Progress Radio, and its central organizing theme seems, at first glance, to be the racial identity of its artists." It is interdisciplinary, and there's really no musical consistency that one can find through browsing a hypothetical "Asian-American music" section at a local record store.. In her book, Speak it Louder: Asian-Americans Making Music, she stresses that Asian-American music is not a typical genre with a beat or lyrical structure that others can follow or possibly the myriad practices of an identifiable geographic region, such as the hip hop from the Bronx. Instead, it is just what she calls "music that Asian-Americans make."
On the other hand, just because someone is Asian-American does not mean that he or she can "do"Asian-American music. There are individuals who say they are Asian-American musicians, but are not interested in making overtures to specifically race-based music communities. Playing music to Asian-American audiences is more than just having parents from Asia, because of the political nature of the term "Asian-American." Those who participate in Asian-American music have a social responsibility to identify and be literate about the issues of power and privilege and how these are synonymous with the issues of race.
Likewise, Bhangra Asian music combined gender and sexuality in the middle of the diasporic and the changing world. Throughout the end of the 20th century, Bhangra music was heard worldwide, showing an intensified anger against the political situation in the U.S. And England and a strong wish to find a homeland. Despite this radical music, Gopinath stresses that this group gave a way for Asian youth culture who were searching for identity to find a means of discovery. discourse in the early 1980s, a site for Asian youth culture acquiring a sense of identity and visibility. As Gopinath notes, Bhangra, a transnational performance of culture and community, shows how the processes by which multiple diasporas intersect both with each other and with the national spaces by which they are continuously being negotiated and challenged. Bhangra was reestablished as pan-Indian or pan-South Asian music by this subculture, because it was very percussive, had a strong, steady beat and lent itself to dance as well as provided a means of expression and release from discontent.
Gopinath, Gayatri. Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke, 2005
Hartley, J Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: Key Concepts, New York: Routledge, 2002
Sanfran, William. Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return a Journal of Transnational Studies 1.1(1991): 83 -- 99.
Wong, Deborah. Speak it Louder: Asian-Americans Making Music. New York: Routledge, 2004.[continue]
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