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Michelle Rivera

Michelle Rivera, PhD is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Center for Institutional Diversity and the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. Her research spans latina/o studies, digital media, popular music, and fan studies. Rivera is interested ways Latinidad is represented in mainstream media and popular culture.

“Postracial Orientations of Latin Crossover: A Case Study of Pop Star ‘Nigga’/Flex”
In “Postracial Orientations of Latin Crossover: A Case Study of Pop Star ‘Nigga’/Flex,” Rivera notes that both within and outside of the hegemonic structure of the music industry, racialized performers and artists are often confronted with ethnic, racial, and national burdens of representation. Particular to Latin crossover, artists are also asked to continually crossover into the U.S. mainstream—as if they are not already a constitutive part of it. In this complex matrix of identity and representation, Rivera examines the case study of a Panamanian reggae music artist known as “Flex” in the U.S. and as “Nigga” across Latin America. As part of the Latin music industry’s global launch of this artist, Internet fan outreach and viral marketing strategies were devised to rebrand him as “Flex.” And yet, this artist who was repackaged as Flex still maintained his former identity as Nigga across Latin America, which produced confusion across his audience base, but also revealed jarring postracial elisions of racism in Latin America. Through Internet discourse analysis, Rivera highlights four social networking fan pages maintained (2007-2008) under each moniker and analyzes how Flex/Nigga’s Latin-branded image is interpolated by fans and anti-fans online. This case study is particularly compelling, as it exposes pressures of race, nation, and representation on Latin crossover artists producing and globally circulating representations of Blackness and Latinidad; in relation to the ways in which these artists are being read by their audiences, fans, and anti-fans.

“Sentimiento Vocal to Fan Voces”
The interdisciplinary presentations on this panel approach the concept of musical voices in Latina/o popular music from the perspective of Media and Cultural Studies.  The panelists' methodologies, which range from textual/sonic analysis to focus groups to online audience studies, highlight their broad and diverse conceptualizations of musical voices.  Posited as a site of fan as well as performer agency, each presentation investigates the unique manner in which the voice complicates our understanding of Latina/o identity (or Latinidad) through the lenses of ethno-racial identity, gender, language, and nation.  Ultimately, the presentations on this panel challenge the parameters of "voice" in U.S. popular music, seeking instead to shift our focus to the transnational, transcultural voces that define popular musical performance and consumption for millions across the hemisphere.  

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