I am really happy about this pub and, more importantly, the venue it is appearing in. This essay, “Refugee status: Tracing the global flows on M.I.A.,” takes a view of Sri Lankan pop artist M.I.A. informed in equal parts Homi Bhabha’s understanding of hybridity and Arjun Appadurai’s work on global flows and argues that M.I.A. offers an ideal site for studying the enunciation of critique from within popular culture texts. This was a tricky theoretical move to make, but I found that if we are to treat media objects as more than inert texts, then it is important to turn to the historical and political conditions these texts emerge from, engage with, and obscure. Discourses of terrorism and violence dictate the terms by which M.I.A.’s popular critique of state power might be understood, but these terms also have a specific historical and material existence beyond the epistemological limits they place on media texts. For anyone looking to engage with popular texts as more than just entertainment objects, the aesthetic process stylizes these concerns, and in the case of M.I.A., obscures them in a way that allows them to move across global boundaries via popular media markets.
Abstract: This article argues that Sri Lankan pop star M.I.A. forms an ideal site for the textual study of globalized identity, particularly amid discourses of state power, terrorism, and violence. Rooted in the literature of media and terrorism and grounded in postcolonial theories of hybridization, this study analyzes M.I.A. and her music as globalized media objects, looking at how they use hip-hop as a cultural form to esthetically engage with discourse of violence in order to launch a critique of state power. The factors that enable this critique (globalized media systems, technologies, and cultural forms) help to create a discursive position from within popular culture where new forms of critique can be enunciated and popularized.