The article analyzes media accounts about and by international hip-hop artist M.I.A. to theorize the cultural production of racialized girlhood within transnational discourses on gender and sexuality. As a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, M.I.A. is positioned as an exotic outsider to dominant discourses on race and gender in popular culture, and to the emerging canon of girlhood studies. Using a transnational feminist framework, the article illustrates the complicated tensions of racialized and gendered subjectivity in the context of the globalization of media and post-9/11 identity politics. Through an analysis of M.I.A.’s representation in mainstream media, as well as her reception in the South Asian diasporic community, it demonstrates how the artist actively resists binary constructions projected on and through her body, which is constituted by “refugee chic.” Specifically, it illustrates how M.I.A. rearticulates her outsider position to challenge the boundaries of both racialized girlhood and transnational citizenship. The article argues that M.I.A.’s self-identified mode of “digital ruckus” is a form of guerilla pedagogy that provides an important space for critical sociopolitical debate in the global youthscape.


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pp. 115-142
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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