All posts tagged: Masculinity

Aspirational Desire, Migrant Masculinity and “Dao Lang”

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on Sichuan-born singer Luo Lin, a.k.a. Dao Lang. As I wrote previously, Luo Lin’s voice and melodies are extremely catchy. In a true sense of the term, he catalyzes — that is, he channels energy toward, and thereby accelerates — an aspirational ethos for many migrant workers in Northwest China. I also noted that Uyghurs often resist his catalytic charge by jealously guarding their indigenous cultural heritage. Yet, clearly, critiquing Luo Lin’s “Dao Lang” persona does not deny the very real force of his voice. He is an immensely talented performer; he has proved himself to be very adept at tuning in to desires particular to a Chinese rendering of an alien environment inhabited by displaced people. Since a majority of his fans, like himself, are earnest, hard-working men who come from elsewhere — Gansu, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, and Shandong, just to name a few common natal homes — Dao Lang centers his more recent work on stories of lack inscribed over Xinjiang’s landscape. Migrant workers in the oil fields, …

Abdulla, King of Uyghur Women

This is the third post in a multi-part series on Abdulla Abdurehim hosted by The Art of Life in Northwest China Abdulla, the undisputed king of Uyghur pop, receives 1000s of love letters from Uyghur women. According to those who traffic in insider knowledge of Uyghur models of masculinity, Abdulla’s effect on women first became a subject of manly discussion in the early 2000s when his song “Ranjima” was released. As you will see in the linked music video of that song, the camera lingers on a young woman while Abdulla, clad in a bad-ass Harley-Davidson t-shirt, crones lines such as “Don’t be sorry, let’s just be friends” – a clear allusion to a failed illicit affair with the distracted young woman. Young Ranjima swoons. Abdulla basks in love letters which rain down around him from his female admirers. Despite this direct appeal to his sexuality in the images of the song, Abdulla carries on a line from Sufi poets who were devoted to “one true thing.” He sings: “Our souls cannot share the same flame.”  Thirteen years …

Aspiration, Masculinity and the City

Hezriti Ali’s film short and music video “With Me” Within the marriage market of the urban Uyghur community it has become almost a cliché to discuss the moral aptitude of young men in terms of their frequency of prayer. When introducing a potential boyfriend, the line given is “he prays five times a day” (Uy: u besh namazni jayida üteydu). Although this description often overlooks other moral failures such as drinking, smoking and general carousing, the overall connotation conveyed is “this guy is a good, responsible guy.” In the short film “With Me,” Hezriti Ali, another self-made migrant actor-muscian from the Southwest edge of the Taklamakan Desert, tackles this problem in an unusually subtle and implicit way. In the ten minute narrative film which proceeds his performance of the song, Hezriti lays out the context which migrant young men face in the city. Since, as for all Chinese men, the first duty of sons (particularly, for Uyghurs, younger brothers) is to one’s parents, rather than to one’s wife and her family,  underemployed strivers in the …