Monday, July 6, 2009

Neoliberalism and Reggaeton

Reuters recently published a pieced entitled "Reggaeton fever shakes up Cuba's culture" the article cites an now infamous (in reggaeton circles anyway) quote by Juventud Rebelde that calls reggaeton a "reflection of 'neoliberal thinking'."

I think the development and growth of reggaeton in Cuba has been fascinating (if you are interested check out Geoff Baker's work) and illuminates much about the ways in which different musical forms/genres circulate as cultural and ideological commodities.

The idea of reggaeton being a product of neoliberalism is intriguing. Clearly the flows of neoliberal capital and its circuits facilitated the spread of technologies and people that enabled the different permutations of reggaeton within the Caribbean, the Americas, and globally.

More than anything else, I wonder what seeing reggaeton as a neoliberal commidity says about how Cuban authorities think about the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico and the forces of diaspora (not only between Puerto Rico and the U.S., but broadly speaking) in forging reggaeton, essentially outside of the Cuban nation (and well any nation really). Reggaeton is largely positioned as outside of the Cuban nation, seen as an import from the yanquis via Puerto Rico, which is why Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto is quoted in the Reuters piece as saying that reggaeton needs to be "pushed away." Reggaeton is agringado, a corrupting influence on Cuba's revolutionary ideals.

While reggaeton is (often mis)understood as a Puerto Rican, or even an American phenomenon, the more authorities and cultural brokers attempt to place reggaeton within some kind of national frame the more obvious it becomes that reggaeton exist in between and outside of national boundaries.

Maybe that is what makes reggaeton so threatening, what incites all these national panics? Well, besides sex and race, but of course those things are tied up within the nation too...

Now I'm just ranting though....thoughts?


Gavin said...

Hi Marisol, really enjoying your thoughts on reggaeton. I see a tension between reggaeton as a national project as you put it, and reggaeton as part of neoliberalism. My understanding of neoliberalism is that it is in many cases opposed to the nation-state -- that it is an advanced case of "all that is solid melting into air," dissolving borders in the name of "free" markets (NAFTA, the EU). David Harvey would describe it as an alliance of ruling class forces across nations. I don't really have anything to add at the moment, but I find this apparent contradiction very intriguing.

w&w said...

i'm not so sure what to make of this article (& reggaeton's putative neoliberalism), esp given the article that reuters published 3 days later, about a reggaeton song composed for fidel.

perhaps reggaeton and the revoluciĆ³n are not irreconcilable after all?

Marisol LeBron said...

Hey Gavin,

Thanks for the kind words.

I think the connection between neoliberalism and reggaeton,as you point out, is that they both work in opposition to the nation-state (but I would add they can be co-opted very easily into its rhetoric). It is really interesting to consider the implications of these two seemingly disparate "things" being bedfellows in a way.

As I said, I think that the paths of globalization that neoliberalism helped to solidify created in roads for the exchanges of people, technologies, and commodities that facilitated reggaeton's development and growth (locally and globally).

But I really want to begin thinking about how reggaeton is not only a result of the forces of neoliberal flows and circuits, but also how it colludes with neoliberalism -- essentially see what would happen if we take seriously the accusation of Juventude Rebelde, not to discredit the value of reggaeton, but to better situate it.

It's definitely a lot to ponder!!

Thanks for your comments and I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.