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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hip-hop, Streetdance, and the Remaking of the Global Filipino

  • Author(s): Perillo, Jeffrey Lorenzo
  • Advisor(s): Foster, Susan Leigh
  • Bascara, Victor
  • et al.

New York-based African American, Latino, and Caribbean immigrant youth of the 1960s and early 1970s gave life to one of the world's major contemporary cultural movements: Hip-hop. Initially misunderstood as a faddish form of Black male musical expression, Hip-hop's cultural resistance practices were quickly recognized as four core elements (emceeing, turntablism, graffiti art, and b-boying/b-girling). In the global context, Hip-hop has generated scholarly discourse that points to either the cultural globalization of American Blackness or a "global village." My project interrupts this conversation and focuses on the unique, multi-site cultural history of Filipino identity as constituted through practitioners of Hip-Hop dance. My work argues that a community of Filipinos, situated in different geo-political loci--Berkeley, California, Honolulu, Hawai`i, and Manila, Philippines--configure prevailing concepts of Hip-hop while remaking conditions of dispossession and displacement in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. My study advances its argument through a theorization of remaking comprised of three broad themes--Hip-hop dance is part of a repertoire for Filipino race relations; decolonization is tied to Hip-hop's institutionalization; and dance offers an alternative perspective of Hip-hop's globalization.

Using ethnography and choreographic analysis, I conduct close readings of select dances, dance events, and dancers in order to offer innovative views into the politics of race and culture. Specifically, I analyze the ways Filipinos in Berkeley remake the dominant racial paradigms of liberal multiculturalism and colorblindness with counter-hegemonic history and politics; Honolulu-based Filipinos creaate spaces for decolonization; and Filipinos in Manila rework the grammar of American neocolonialism to access otherwise proscribed spaces of gender and dance. Informed by fields of critical race studies, postcolonial studies, and performance studies, my dissertation uncovers the often neglected choreography of Filipinos to complement these fields and assert a practice-based approach to understanding global Hip-hop as a strategy for equality and social justice.

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