Liberation and Contagion in the Music of MIA (with Ronak Kapadia)

In this week’s episode, guest Ronak Kapadia discusses his article “Sonic Contagions: Bird Flu, Bandung, and the Queer Cartographies of MIA” which analyzes the work of Sri Lankan diasporic musician, producer, and designer Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam (a.k.a. MIA). MIA’s music offers an opportunity to explore the unlikely intimacies between the diverse histories and political agendas of social movements and radical uprisings across the globe. Kapadia argues that prioritizing the sonic realm in MIA’s work makes available alternative utopian possibilities, offering other ways of hearing and conceptualizing queer collectivity, belonging, and pleasure in the midst of the devastation wrought by security panics and constant warfare.

“We can’t just let contagion be the domain of the specter of things that we fear, which is precisely how we are being forced to think about contagion now. Contagion is also the forms of fellow feeling that have produced the kinds of protests that we’re seeing all across North America today. So I want to hold on to the utopian, radical, and de-colonial visions of contagion, even as we very much deal with and address the material violences that the devastation of natural worlds have produced as well.”

Episode Transcript (opens as PDF)

Show Notes

03:05 Insurgent Aesthetics by Ronak Kapadia

05:00 Unruly Visions by Gayatri Gopinath

06:05 The Intimacies of Four Continents by Lisa Lowe

09:50 brief explainer about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

16:34 Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices by Ella Shohat

21:30 about the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

23:20 Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

30:23 brief explainer about the 1955 Bandung conference

31:58 “The Gender of Sovereignty” by Lisa Lowe

36:20 Epidemic Empire by Anjuli Raza Kolb; Bioinsecurities by Neel Ahuja

43:10 MIA’s comments on vaccines amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

About the Guest

Ronak K. Kapadia is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Art History, Global Asian Studies, and Museum & Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kapadia is an interdisciplinary queer cultural theorist of race, war, security, and empire in the late 20th and early 21st century United States. His research is guided by the historical, materialist, and anti-racist thought of Black, Indigenous, and Third World Marxist feminists and queer and trans people of color. He is author of Insurgent Aesthetics: Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War (Duke University Press, 2019) and at work on a new book about the critical potential of healing justice movements across multiple transnational sites of security, terror, and war titled “Breathing in the Brown Queer Commons.” He lives and works in Chicago, IL.