Bart Barendregt, Associate Professor, Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University

Princes Siti and the Particularities of Post Islamist Pop: Gender, Music, and Publicity in Malaysia and Beyond

The Voices of Asian Modernities Project (VAMP), a recent collaboration between Leiden and Pittsburgh university, focuses on how popular music increasingly has provided women with the means to articulate the modern. Female entertainers, positioned at the margins of intersecting fields of activities, created something hitherto unknown: they were artistic pioneers of new music, cinema, forms of dance and theater, and new behavior, lifestyles, and morals. They were active agents in the creation of local performance cultures, an emerging mass culture, and the rise of a region-wide and globally oriented entertainment industry.

The career of Malaysian pop diva Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin, one of Asia’s bestselling female artists illustrates how Asian modernities have increasingly come to be articulated within an Islamic context. Her post Islamist pop transgress traditional values, especially with regards to the desired behavior of young women; at the same time, it is keen to constantly draw new boundaries, as it is defining new codes of gender relations. Siti’s life and works, and its reception by a wider Asian audience shows the ambiguities modern Malay Muslim star performers face, caught as they are between the particularities of local, national, transnational, and global Islamic music industries.

Bart Barendregt is an associate professor at the Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Sociology, where he lectures on media, popular and digital culture. Bart has extensively written on Islamic pop culture as well as (religiously inspired) social media use in Southeast Asia, and is co-author of Banal Beats, Muted Histories; Popular Music in Southeast Asia (Amsterdam University Press, 2017) and co-editor (with Andrew Weintraub) of Vamping the Stage Voices of Asian Modernities (University of Hawai`i Press, 2017). Bart is currently finishing his monograph on what is the world’s most popular, commercial and gendered of Islamist musics, nasheed and its mixing of religion, youth culture and politics.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.

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