It is well recognised that people negotiate the complexities of colonisation and globalisation by constructing, negotiating, and hybridising different identities. What remains virtually foreign to music research is the extent to which positive identity flips over into its absence, which I term self-alienation. Departing from the obsession with fitting peoples into identities corresponding to territories on a world map, I argue that colonisation has left behind racial stereotypes and a regime of values that result in repulsion from ethnic identity. Chinese composers and listeners find themselves in the position of refuting their ethnic identity because of the association with slitty eyes, kungfu panda, or even just noodles.
This paper is an expansion of the racial alienation long recognised in critical race theory from W. E. B. Dubois’s double consciousness to Franz Fanon’s epidermal-racial schema. In Singapore, a large range of music-makers and listeners accept their self-alienation, having constructed a new colonial identity known colloquially as “banana,” i.e. “white inside, yellow outside,” referring to someone who speaks primarily the English language, which is correlated with Western musical preference. In China, on the other hand, self-alienated listeners aim to recover their Chinese identity through Sinicising discourses. In the midst of all this are faint but distinct signs of a decolonial consciousness as seen in Ken Tay’s evoking of “fake prada” to criticise the attitude that “Western culture is our God.”
Dr Gavin Lee