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"Bad Gal" and the "Bad" Refugee: Reading Neoliberal Critique and Refugee Narratives through Cambodian Canadian Hip Hop


This project examines the intersections of refugee discourses and neoliberal critique through the analysis of the 2013 hip hop music video “Bad Gal” by Cambodian Canadian artist Honey Cocaine. By utilizing the concept of the “bad refugee” as a subjectivity that refuses to reconcile imperialist wars in Southeast Asia, rejects developmental narratives of progress and uplift, and contradicts neoliberal multiculturalism, this project demonstrates how “Bad Gal” is a countersite that reveals neoliberal ruptures. I observe “Bad Gal” for its audiovisual content, use of digital editing techniques, and themes of deviance and blackness, in arguing that it expresses an alternative refugee narrative and temporality, and a refusal of neoliberal subjectivity through the identifications of blackness and hip hop. This project draws from Critical Refugee Studies, cultural studies, and comparative racialization scholars in delineating the processes of gendered racialization for the Cambodian refugee diaspora, and the ways in which cultural productions provide a lens in understanding their relationship to the neoliberal state.

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