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Douglas S. Ishii

Douglas S. Ishii is the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his PhD from the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. His manuscript-in-progress, Dissembling Diversities: Asian Pacific American Arts Activism and the Racialization of Sophistication, examines Asian American activist media representations through their dual influences of grassroots social movement organizing since the 1960s, and the liberal politics of “diversity.”

I Am Not a Hipster and Other White Lies: Seeing the Voice of Indie Rock”
One of the trajectories in which indie rock music locates its voice is protest rock and folk revival, even though U.S. “indie” became the most visible in the 2000s when its anti-corporatist production standpoint became aestheticized as an acoustic sound, often for the mass consumer it originally critiqued. As scholars including Wendy Fonarow and Matthew Bannister have identified, the discourse surrounding indie elevates the music via cultural capital: its consumers are seen as more educated, its practitioners as artists without artifice—unlike their pop contemporaries.

In this presentation, I analyze the diegetic use of music in Destin Daniel Cretton’s film, I Am Not a Hipster (2012), as emblematic of indie’s knot of racialization and cultural capital. Hipster introduces a San Diego music scene that worships white protagonist Brook Hyde in ways he does not reciprocate. The film critiques how indie’s art-inspired settings have turned into uninspired consumer spaces, partially due to the contaminating influence of digital technologies. Cretton’s backdrop of consumerism overrepresents white participants, characteristic of indie rock’s association with whiteness, but it also includes Asian Americans. Hyde’s most visible sexual encounter is with an Asian American hipster, illustrating the hipster’s transition from emulating Normal Mailer’s “white Negro” to tolerating Asian Americans’ proximity to whiteness.

This presentation uses this racial diversity alongside the soundtrack to interrogate the racialization underwriting Hyde’s melancholy for artistic purity, asking: How does Hyde’s search for art represent a backlash digital media’s incorporation of globally and racially plural influences in U.S. music? What are the conditions, both in the film and in indie rock, that align Asian Americans with white artists and gentrifiers, and how can identifying art discourse in relation to racialization locate where race enters the indie voice?

“Digital Prosumers Vocalize Identity”
This panel is interested in how digital media and mobile technologies have enabled musicians and fans to navigate the restrictions of social location.  Against the liberal humanism that presumes music a universal mode of expression, the three presentations of this panel take queer of color and women of color feminist analytics to illuminate the racialized and sexualized scripts underwriting popular music performances, genres, and spaces.  Working in the varied and often embattled genres of pop, indie rock, and R&B, the papers of this panel acknowledge that digital technologies have enabled consumers to act also as cultural producers, and argue that this shift has invited modes of silencing and expression that are simultaneously novel and preexisting.  Collectively, we ask: How has 21st century digital prosumption enabled those at the margins of the musical marketplace to negotiate racial and sexual identifications and desires?  Jessica Pruett begins by examining how lesbian-identified One Direction fans’ posts on the blogging platform Tumblr challenge monolithic images of the white, heterosexual girl-fan.  Douglas Ishii continues this inquiry by interrogating the philic and phobic relations between whiteness, Blackness, and Asian American identity in Daniel Destin Cretton’s film about the decaying indie rock scene, I Am Not a Hipster (2012).  Elaine Andres concludes by analyzing Jhene Aiko’s line, “He gotta eat the booty like groceries,” and its reception in radio and social media, as an articulation of race-based sexual politics based on Aiko’s multiracial Black/Asian body.  This session will be moderated by Seattle-based musician and director Christopher PaperSon Woon, whose independent documentaries on hip-hop engage the same issues of digital media, difference, and community that this panel aims to engage.

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