Women of Color Creating Change: Taiko, FandangObon, and Asian American Arts Activism

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Deborah Wong

Ray M. Longyear Lecture, Musicology/Ethnomusicology

Women of Color Creating Change: Taiko, FandangObon, and Asian American Arts Activism

Deborah Wong (University of California, Riverside)

How do some Asian American women use the arts to create change? How do they work for, with, and beyond their own communities? I explore two case studies from my current work in the public sphere. One is a group of women – cis, queer, straight, trans, mostly but not entirely Asian American, mostly but not entirely based in North America – who want to address gendered values within the taiko community. The other is FandangObon, an ongoing Asian American/Chicanx collaboration between the legendary Japanese American activist Nobuko Miyamoto and the East LA band Quetzal, who have found a vibrant connection between the contemporary son jarocho movement and the post-internment efflorescence of Japanese American summer festival dance. 

The praxis of encounter and group collaboration is the heart of both efforts. I reflect on those details to consider the power of interethnic collaboration that is explicitly theorized, using ideas from feminism, decolonial theory, and community organizing. Who is ‘at home’ and who is a guest in the living room? What are the politics of aggrieved communities choosing to work together? How and why doesmusic and dance create such powerful means for connection?


Deborah Wong is an ethnomusicologist and Professor of Music at the University of California, Riverside. She specializes in the musics of Asian America and Thailand and has written two books, Speak It Louder: Asian Americans Making Music and Sounding the Center: History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Ritual. Her third book, Louder and Faster: Pain, Taiko, and the Body Politic in California, is currently under review. She is a past President of the Society for Ethnomusicology. She is a series editor for Wesleyan University Press’s Music/Culture series and a research team member for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI). Very active in public sector work at the national, state, and local levels, she is the Chair of the Advisory Council for the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is currently involved in two public sector projects: she is the project manager for the Great Leap Online Archive (for the well-known Asian American non-profit arts organization in Los Angeles founded and directed by Nobuko Miyamoto), and is deeply involved with a loose North American collective called Women and Taiko, working to create structural change in the taiko community.

 

 

Apr 6 2018, 3:30pm
Niles Gallery
Free

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