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Tanya Tagaq’s Vocal Interventions: Notes on the Cultural Politics of Wish Sounds

Sat, May 27, 11:00 to 12:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 3, Aqua Salon D

Abstract

Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq blends the traditional vocal practice of katajjait with cross-genre contemporary musical improvisation. Critics laud Tagaq’s sound but struggle to describe her voice, typically characterizing it as animalistic or otherwise non-human. We would not be wrong to interpret these characterizations for their colonial provenance, as reiterations of the racist association of racialization with animality. We would be similarly justified interpreting Tagaq’s favorable reception as an instance of “eating the other,” whereby even those who desire her art’s decolonial dimensions are beholden to its false reconciliation in the market. However, her popular reception also points to a fantastical anticipation of a social world relieved of classification. Non-human characterizations of Tagaq’s voice cannot be fully explained as racist euphemism or innocent empirical description; they are also evidence of a wish for a world that current forces of production cannot realize.

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