Speaker: Sophia Walker (PhD student, Joint program: Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Department of Cinema and Media Studies)
“Hunnu Rock: Mongolian Metal and a Global Folk Metal Subculture”
Discussant: Ethan Waddell (PhD student, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations)
Wednesday, Feb 24th, 2021
4:45 – 6:45 pm CST, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)
“Wolf Totem,” Mongolian heavy metal band The Hu’s second single, was posted to Youtube on November 16, 2018. Despite the band’s newcomer status, the video was an immediate international hit, and by January of 2019 had already accrued an impressive 7 million views and a fervent international fan base. The Hu’s debut album, The Gereg, opened at the top of Billboard’s Top New Artist chart and second place on the UK’s Rock & Metal album chart. In this paper, I will apply Dick Hebidge’s theory of subculture and style to the English-language reception of The Hu’s viral hit. I will apply this framework against Edward Said’s theory of the “Oriental Other” to argue that The Hu’s English-language fan base offers a mode of resistance against Western narratives of East Asia.
My argument has two strands: first, I will discuss The Hu’s reception in English-language media. Second, I will compare this reception to The Hu’s popularity among heavy metal listeners, particularly fans of the folk metal genre, by examining Spotify data, Youtube comments, and Facebook fan communities. Through these endeavors, I will sketch out the English-language folk metal subcultural terrain to point toward a rejection of these hegemonic narratives about not only the west/east binary but national/cultural boundaries themselves in favor of a unified aesthetic—or “style.” This is an ongoing project, so I will be presenting my findings thus far and pointing toward avenues of future research.
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Sophia Walker is a PhD student in the joint-degree program in the departments of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Cinema and Media studies, focusing on Japan. She is interested in the intersections between local, national, and trans-national medias and audiences; representations of the supernatural and the ghostly in cinema and new media; and, very broadly, the representation and reinterpretation of history onscreen.
Ethan Waddell is a PhD student in East Asian Languages & Civilizations. His research is in modern Korean literature. Currently, he is interested in relationships between genres and cultures of writing and music.