Talk: Singing/Listening While Filipino (2018)

Here’s a public performance-lecture I delivered at City University of Hong Kong last month, as part of of the Southeast Asia Research Centre’s (SEARC) regular seminar series. I presented my research on Filipino migrant musicians, this time within the context of a larger, more reflexive project I am undertaking on the connection between the labour of performance (particularly singing), Filipino cultural identity, authenticity, and mobility. 

I’ll be presenting a shorter (hopefully sharper) version of this work next week in London at the Royal Anthropological Institute’s “Art, Materiality, and Representation” conference at the British Museum. I’m thrilled to be going to this conference as part of this panel on cultural  performance and/as knowledge production. My abstract:

Singing, Listening, and the Labour of Reflexive Research

What emerges in the act of singing to oneself, especially when one’s sense of that self is shaped by individual and racial-cultural boundaries of what “authentic” singing should be? How might listening to oneself while singing reveal the work of authenticity as embodied, provisional, difficult, and vital? This paper-performance reflects on the intimate practice of singing and/as listening, and proposes that it offers a site of reckoning with multiple subjectivities.

I present two instances of critical reflection. In the first I consider the findings of my research on migrant Filipino musicians, whose singing, valued for the imitative and affective capacities of entertainment, is framed by larger infrastructures of contemporary labour migration and colonial cultural history. In the second, I share/sing insights as a performer and facilitator of improvised chant with Manila-based artists in contemporary dance and music. In both registers, I propose that listening to oneself in song, whether alone or with others, offers an ambiguous but productive space in which to engage the lived aspirations of authenticity, whilst continually reconciling conflicting imperatives of the self in contemporary contexts of cultural identity.

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