Abstract: AAG 2015

So, on April 21-25 I went through every neophyte geographer’s rite of passage and attended the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Chicago. I was very fortunate and happy to be part of the panel Doing Creative Economies: Social Justice and Transformative Governance, organized by Phil Jones, Saskia Warren, and Melanie Frische. Learned a lot, both from sharing my work with an exceptionally sharp yet encouraging audience, and listening to some insightful, thought-provoking research on topics as varied as community art projects among underprivileged and informal urban communities in the UK and Brazil, and the contradictory imaginaries of “creative” tech clusters in London. Here’s the bit I contributed, which unpacks the notion of precarity in creative labor within the peripheral creative and migration context of overseas Filipino musicians.


Live from the Margins: Music Performance in Leisure Venues and the Migrant Creative Labor of Overseas Filipino Musicians

This paper considers the linkage between peripheral economies and precarious labor in the creative/cultural industries through an account of overseas Filipino musicians (OFMs) performing in leisure venues in Asia. Current research on popular music performance by migrants in/from Asia and the global South has focused on the production of “original” or “authentic” music to develop creative economies, based on the distinctiveness of local and national cultural products (Connell and Gibson 2003; Brandellero and Pfeiffer 2011). Less attention has been given to the diverse cultural and labor geographies of popular music outside these basic assumptions of place-as-identity and authenticity-as-commodity. One such example is the regular live performance of “Western” music in hotels, theme parks, and cruise ships in Asia by OFMs. Drawing from qualitative data collected from 2012 to 2013 in the Philippines, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, I argue that live music entertainment constitutes an overlooked but significant creative industry, notable for its complexity as a migrant labor economy unevenly segmented by race, gender, and other sociospatial categories of differentiation. The precarity inherent in this niche of creative work is intensified through transnational class processes of racialization (McDowell 2008; Kelly 2012), as the migrant creative labor of OFMs is rendered symbolically and economically subordinate to that of their “Western” and local counterparts. In investigating the intersection of peripheral products and precarious labor, I aim to reexamine the ways in which race, place, and migration shape popular music from the margins of “mainstream” creative economies.

Brandellero, A.M.C. and K. Pfeffer. 2011. Multiple and shifting geographies of world music production. Area 43:495-505.
Connell, J. and C. Gibson. 2003. Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place. London: Routledge.
McDowell, L. 2008. Thinking through work: Complex inequalities, constructions of difference and trans-national migrants. Progress in Human Geography 32:491-507.
Kelly, P.F. 2012. Labor, movement: Migration, mobility, and geographies of work. In Barnes,T.J., Peck, J. and Sheppard, E. (eds) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, 431-443.

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