What my cousin’s explanation argued was not merely a plea for K-pop, it was essentially a plea for the world. Her testiment invoked Edouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation (1997) where every particular expression is but one particle of a world made up in constant relation, a chaotic dance, or a blurry painting of echoes of all sorts. K-pop is part of this dance. But to view K-pop as being in relation, as something of this world, we must not reduce it to something national, or even regional.
In comparison, we may follow Tsing (2005: 270), who argues that area studies as a field in the social sciences has a problematic tendency to exclude itself from the universal. When a phenomenon is studied it is excluded from its relation to other echoes. Echoes that have inevatibly been part of its coming about. In order for area studies become universal, we have to study these areas in relation to a continously changing world. For example, taking into consideration the field of Caribbean Studies, the places of study are often juxtaposed against their metropole, or in comparison with other islands. Such an approach reproduces socially contructed notions of how the world is sliced and divided. If we understand K-pop as merely Korean we see it as something that is closed off from the universal and may only want to relate to it in comparison to music styles commonly accepted, such as classical and rock. If you were to follow the histories of these sounds you would find that they were created through echoes of other sounds. You would end up on an endless search to find a root to these sounds. K-pop hints to the chaos-monde that Glissant described, reminding us that there is only disorder when one assumes there to be an order (areas, nations, genres). K-pop has no genre and the chaos-monde has no keys. Who is to say that K-pop is not Caribbean?
This post was also featured in the 2018 october issue of the Caribbean Studies Association newsletter.