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Meredith Schweig and Rebecca Dirksen: “Taiwanese Rap and Haitian Music and Reconstruction”

Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Meredith Schweig photo
Meredith Schweig
Meredith Schweig

In this presentation, Meredith Schweig explores the gender politics and practices of the Taiwan rap scene. Drawing on long-term fieldwork with the island’s hip-hop community and invoking emergent scholarly discourses on East Asian and global masculinities, she argues that rap’s identity as men’s music renders it a productive site for exploring, unsettling, and transforming prevailing models of Taiwanese manhood. In the context of shifting gender roles driven by dramatic social, political, and economic change over the course of the last three decades in Taiwan, Schweig considers how rap has created new spaces for male sociality, avenues for male self-empowerment, and opportunities for the articulation of multiple masculine identities not otherwise audible in the island’s popular music.

Schweig is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT. Her research explores twentieth- and twenty-first-century music of East Asia, with a particular emphasis on popular song, narrativity, and cultural politics in Taiwan and China. She has received fellowships and grants from the Asian Cultural Council, Whiting Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, and the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University.

Rebecca Dirksen
Rebecca Dirksen

In Haiti from the colonial period to the present, music has been a critical means for public dialogue when other avenues have not been possible. Mizik angaje, literally, “engaged music,” a genre-crossing expressive form featuring pointed lyrical commentary on political and social issues, has accompanied key moments in Haitian history, from the Haitian Revolution to the downfall of the Duvalier regime and subsequent rise of Aristide to power. Increasingly in recent years, mizik angaje has been re-imagined to reflect current realities: any understanding of this musical phenomenon must now go beyondexamining how ordinary Haitian citizens use musical dialogue to critique infrastructural weaknesses and abuses of authority to demonstrating how a growing number of social groups employ music as an explicit and fundamental tool for strengthening their local communities. Independent of state or NGO support, these groups are tackling non-musical neighborhood concerns by promoting social programs that simultaneously entertain music-making and community service. This leads us to ask, what happens when Haitian musicians implicate themselves in the processes of development?

Rebecca Dirksen, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, completed her PhD in ethnomusicology at UCLA in 2012. Her primary research concerns music and grassroots development in Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake. Concurrent projects revolve around creative responses to crisis and disaster, intangible cultural heritage protection, cultural policy, and Haitian classical music.

This event is co-sponsored with MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Cool Japan Project.


Thursday, February 27, 2014
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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MIT Media Lab, Room 633
75 Amherst St.
Cambridge, MA 02139 United States
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Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre