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This edition of For the Record will look into the interconnectivity of digital subcultures though the lens of K-pop and K-drama fandoms. 

K-pop, or the Hallyu wave, has solidified over the past two decades as an increasingly transnational popular phenomenon. The genre represents a resistance to both Western media as well as the conservatism of Korean traditional culture. On the basis of iconic K-pop videos, poet, essayist and editor Momtaza Mehri will discuss the participation of young Eastern African women in K-pop culture, and how it reveals the interconnectedness of digital subcultures from the mid-2000s to now. Respondents are Natalie Nzeyimana and Juha van ‘t Zelfde.The evening will be moderated by Shay Kreuger.The evening will be moderated by radio-dj, reporter and host Shay Kreuger.

Momtaza Mehri

Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and meme archivist. She is the co-winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Her work has been widely anthologized, appearing in Granta, Artforum, Poetry International, Vogue and Real Life Mag. She is the Young People’s Laureate for London and columnist-in-residence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Open Space. Her chapbook Sugah Lump Prayer was published in 2017. 

Mehri’s interviews with young Eastern African women obsessed over Korean cultural products have raised some pressing questions around diasporic isolation within the home, the lack of control over your own body counteracted with a control over your own obsessions. K-pop culture is more than a cutesy fad relegated to the world of the weird and wonderful. For many, it’s been a fascination that has seen them through times of upheaval, the specific loneliness of life as children of refugees, and the shifts in digital landscapes driven by fan forum culture, early more impersonal forms of social media and the emergence of YouTube.  

Young women independently learning Hangul, immersing themselves in post-Korean War history and practicing dance routines in school bathrooms embody a kind of openness to transcultural exchange that is being contested globally in times of hardening borders and narrowing imaginations. These early, and current, K-pop fans challenge many of our conversations around culture that assume something has to be understood for it to be appreciated. 

Read Mehri's essay on the participation of young Eastern African women in K-pop culture in its entirety here

For the Record series

This evening is part of For the Record, a research project on the technologies, spatial design and forms of representation in contemporary video culture. The event will take the form of a public recording studio, visualizing the forms production and postproduction that are deployed in video and that shape our mediated realities.

Marina Otero Verzier, Director of Research Katía Truijen, Senior Researcher
Vere van Gool, curator Emma Macdonald, curatorial assistant
Shay Kreuger, moderator Koos Breen, set design and graphic design Jeannette Slütter, set design Tanja Busking, film production