Snap, Crackle, K-Pop Transcript


Megan Figueroa: Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.

Carrie Gillon: I’m Carrie Gillon.

Megan Figueroa: and I’m Megan Figueroa. And here we are!

Carrie Gillon: It’s fall.

Megan Figueroa: it creeped up on us. Well here, maybe not, maybe not in Vancouver. Maybe you knew it was coming.

Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah, no, it’s, it’s been kind of Fallish for a while now. Thankfully. I’ve never been so grateful for it to be fall.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Since it was so hot there.

Carrie Gillon: It was, it was way too hot for a few periods. particularly June, it was terrible. Terrifying.

Megan Figueroa: Just like our monsoons were kind of terrible. A couple of them, two of them are pretty terrifying.

Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah. I mean, they’re always kind of scary, especially when they’re right overhead.

Megan Figueroa: No, this was like, should we get into the tub? Scary. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was horrifying. Our shed flew away.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, that’s right. The wandering shed. I also I realized we waited another month for this episode to come out and I think maybe we should just admit to ourselves that a once a month is what we can we’re capable of once again

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. I know. I mean, what is even capacity? Like what?

Carrie Gillon: yeah, exactly. Everything just feels like. It sounds very delicate. Everything just feels very delicate. Like one wrong thing could happen and everything’s going to fall apart. And it’s probably always been true, but it just really feels that way right now.

Megan Figueroa: Oh yeah. The cascading effect feels like a more true these days, the bad, the negative cascading effect, not something leading to something good. And then even more good. That’s not happening.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I’m sure people who understand like how networks work could explain why it’s, why that’s actually probably true that like a cascading effect leads to negative effects rather than good.

Megan Figueroa: I mean, 10 years from now, they’re going to be teaching this era in textbooks. That’s like a dark era.

Carrie Gillon: yeah, definitely. Definitely a bunch of things will be in the textbook. Oh, well, if it’s an honest textbook.

Megan Figueroa: Yes, of course. Which is,

Carrie Gillon: which is not a guarantee. No, especially in the US right now.

Megan Figueroa: Absolutely.

Carrie Gillon: Anyway, I thought since it is maybe by the time this comes out no longer, but it is the International Week of Deaf People, 2021, one of my mutuals on Twitter. And I apologize in advance if I pronounce this incorrectly because I haven’t heard it only seen it written Ọpẹ́yẹmí A he tweeted “deaf rights to language, expression, literacy and education have been marginalized throughout history and sign languages have taken second place to spoken languages.” While he also tweeted “the genocide of sign languages, protecting the linguistic rights of Africa’s deaf children.”

Megan Figueroa: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, just with some, some articles that I’ve been writing and even thinking about podcasting too our, our front of the pod Dr. John Hemner, he mentioned that even transcripts of podcasts, aren’t the same as having access to a podcast because it flattens out the dynamic between the cohost. And so it’s like, there’s so many ways that, okay. We think that podcasting, which I love is, you know, makes science more accessible to other people, more people. And that’s true, but it’s not the most accessible medium there is.

Carrie Gillon: Well, I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a most accessible, there are differing types of accessibility.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah, absolutely.

Carrie Gillon: Cause I was listening to 20,000 Hertz yesterday and the episode was about described video there was this blind man on who was talking about his experience, watching TV, growing up and how things changed because suddenly there were some descriptions for some things and how some companies do better, a better job than others. And it’s just really fascinating. So it’s, there’s no one perfect way.

Megan Figueroa: No, you’re right. Because there are different ways that a person might need access to things. And I mean, as simple as that.

Carrie Gillon: you can’t do it in all languages, so you’re never 100% accessible, accessible.

Megan Figueroa: It’s true.

Carrie Gillon: We just have to be better. Not perfect. That’s what I think.

Megan Figueroa: yes. And constantly thinking about how we can be better. I mean, yeah. Yeah. And I was just thinking about how so many just wildly, wildly popular podcasts do not even try to have him have transcripts at all. they have, they have loads and loads of money, loads of money, and don’t even try.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. But they don’t feel like they have to because they’re so popular. Like they just, there’s no, nothing really putting pressure on them to even attempt because they already have enough. They’re fine – in their heads.

Megan Figueroa: and their heads. Yeah. I’m like what a terrible way to reason.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, I agree!

Megan Figueroa: Yeah, I know you do. Absolutely.

Carrie Gillon: So, yeah. So this article is about, you know, I know the history is more complicated than this, but I don’t know the full story. So whatever. So the 1880 Milan Convention basically convinced a lot of people that Deaf kids should only speak language, use oral language rather than sign

Megan Figueroa: oralism?

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Oralism.

Megan Figueroa: wait 18, 1800?

Carrie Gillon: 1880.

Megan Figueroa: Wow.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. And I know, again, it had different effects on different populations. So I can’t remember who was tweeting about this like a few weeks ago, but and so I apologize, but. In the United States, white kids were forced to use oral language, but Black kids weren’t. So yeah, it wasn’t like this blanket thing that worked for across the world, but this, decision still does, that did have effects that rippled across the world. And it continues to be felt today.

Megan Figueroa: I can only imagine it’s a racist reason? Yes.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. They just didn’t think that the Black kids were going to do that well. And so it didn’t matter if they got oral language.

Megan Figueroa: and like, they’re like these white kids are going to make something of themselves. We better make sure they, you know.

Carrie Gillon: they at least have the potential.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. So this article is more about how actually even within sign languages, there’s like differing levels of prestige, basically. So there’s developed sign language in quotation marks and under or less developed sign languages. And so. The developed sign languages are used for wider scientific discourse and are better studied. And the under or less developed ones are understudied and only used more conversation or, well, you know, more interpersonally, I guess I should say. So if there’s a, if there’s a dominant sign language that can still marginalize other sign languages and it’s just like, it just shows that all these hierarchies are working all at the same time and we can’t lose sight of this intersectionality, I guess.

Megan Figueroa: Well, yeah, in America we have ASL, but then we also have BASL, Black American sign language. I bet you can guess where the high, like where they stand in the hierarchy and I’ve actually, there’s been some TikTok stars at least one.

Carrie Gillon: Deaf Hottie?

Megan Figueroa: Yes. She was in the New York Times talking about Black American Sign Language. So like there has been some, at least a little bit more of the acknowledgement that, you know, these things exist. and I get, you know, TikTok, it’s, it has it’s good in the world.

Carrie Gillon: Oh no. I’m, I’m mostly pro-TikTok. I know that there are some problems and some bad actors on there, but yeah, I enjoy it. Yeah. Another thing that this talks about is that, you know, the Indigenous sign languages in Africa, most, if not, all of them are marginalized, dominated and suppressed by foreign sign languages. So ASL and BSL, which is British Sign Language, et cetera, there are lots of smaller sign languages that don’t get any attention and they are potentially going to be suppressed to the point where no one uses them anymore.

Megan Figueroa: I mean, it’s a good thing to think about like kind of how same, where we’re trying to, you know, be cognizant of what the Indigenous languages are around us, where we are, perhaps, you know, checking out and see what the Deaf communities use around you. It might not be ASL, it might be some minoritized sign language.

Carrie Gillon: And in Canada, there’s at least three. Well, no, sorry four.

Megan Figueroa: Québec has a different one?

Carrie Gillon: It’s complicated. But yes, most of Quebec, people who are in a Francophone community are going to use the French one. There’s an Inuit one. And then there’s also a Maritime one and the Maritime one is very understudied.

Megan Figueroa: Wow. Interesting. Cool. And then there’s the, what’s the fourth.

Carrie Gillon: ASL.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, okay. Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m being, I’m being a US American right now. And assuming that American means only the US and not Canada.

Carrie Gillon: I mean, the naming convention is: where did it develop? And it did develop in the United States.

Megan Figueroa: Okay. All right.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. We should talk about America, the word America at some point and how I annoyed I am that everyone wants Canada to be America and I’m like, no, it’s not.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, okay. Yeah, no that we should. Get away from us as far as you can metaphorically.

Carrie Gillon: but yeah, so I just thought this was a really interesting article and I’ll, I’ll put it in the show notes and just like, like all of us should think of. Just there’s so much more out there than even what we know about. I didn’t know. I, I mean, according to this article, there’s like 300 sign languages around the world. I knew there were lots, but I didn’t know that number.

Megan Figueroa: And I realize I really don’t know what’s happening in Mexico in terms of sign languages.And I’m like, what? 90 my or 90 miles away from Mexico, you know? So, yeah. Yeah. I was asked to take 90 minutes and I’m like it’s 90 miles. Is really that far? It’s not that far. I think it’s about 60 miles. Okay. Nogales, to Tucson 66.4 miles. One hour.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Okay. 60 miles.

Our episode today is about BTK. Sorry. It’s actually about K-Pop and not serial killers.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. But you can listen to BTS because they are a K-Pop group.

Carrie Gillon: Yes.

Megan Figueroa: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Yeah. I admit that I have not yet listened to K-Pop and gotten into it, but now I’m going to have to, I’m going to ha

Carrie Gillon: I still haven’t listened to it. I think I’ve heard snippets on like Twitter or something, but I haven’t really gone out of my way.And I probably should. I know that our guest talks about that. There’s like from every genre you can possibly think of pop. The pop part is not really what we think of as pop in North America. It’s more just popular and from Korea.

Megan Figueroa: Exactly. It doesn’t have to sound NSync or Backstreet Boys or

Carrie Gillon: Britney or any of those.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah, exactly.

Carrie Gillon: but they can and some of them do.

Megan Figueroa: and that’s cool. We hope you enjoy.


Stephanie Zielenkievicz: Hey Carrie and Megan. It’s Stephanie Zielenkievicz. I am kicking myself cause I didn’t realize that there was this send the Vocal Fries a message link in your show notes. So sorry. and then I also was having problems, trying to attach the video of me saying my name. So instead of seeing my pandemic exhausted non makeup mom face maybe you’ll be able to hear this. And so, like I said, I’m super, I love the show. You guys are great. I love all the swearing Keep it up as another woman who, who swears a lot. I moved from New Jersey, South Jersey. So the nice Philly accent down to Georgia, and I get a lot of crap for swearing, so I love it. So anyway, Stephanie Zielenkievicz, you guys are awesome. Thanks. Bye.


Megan Figueroa: hi. So I am really excited because we have a newly minted PhD with us today. We have Dr. Joyhana Yoo Garza, who is a socio-cultural linguist, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. Uh, her work examines the role of language, affect and the body and mediating flows of popular culture

online transversing the fields of linguistics, semiotics, anthropology, Asian-American studies and feminist studies. Her secondary research area examines the racialization of Asian-American students on college campuses. Hi Joy. We’re so happy to have you.

Carrie Gillon: Thanks for


Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Hi Megan, hi Carrie.

Megan Figueroa: We’re going to start with a question that really haunts both carry on. I, what the heck is semiotics and why can’t I ever remember what it means? You don’t have to answer that last part.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. Why can’t you remember it, Megan? Yeah. I’m not here to shame anyone. you know, so semiotics is hard to remember, I think in part, because like, honestly as linguists, we’re not really, there’s not a whole lot of training, I would say in semiotics analysis and a lot of linguistics programs, but, you know, semiotics of, I really want to do it justice here, but I would say most broadly, it’s just like the study of signs and sign processes. And by signs of course, I mean like anything that communicates meaning and as linguists, of course, like we’re trained to look at linguistic signs, but semiotics crucially for my purposes goes beyond just like linguistic form. And I feel like the maybe robust uptake of semiotics has been really with linguistic anthropologists? I’m thinking about, you know, like Roman Jacobson and his late his student, the late Michael Silverstein who really gravitated towards this, like Percian tradition. Theorization of signs. And they were looking at language and going, like, there’s so much more here than just linguistic form and like referential semantics. There’s also this obviously poetic side to language. And so they really theorize what we now know today as like indexicality and indexical functions of language and really paying attention to specific like socio-cultural dimensions of language use.

Carrie Gillon: Can you explain indexicality? Just cause I don’t think all of our listeners will know.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Oh, that’s a good one. So I will say like maybe the canonical example that’s used to describe this is that, you know, when you look at say smoke? Smoke is indexical of fire? So when we think of that in terms of like indexical relations, like, you know, like someone might say, oh, I don’t know, like let’s take greetings for instance, right. You might say like, “Hey,” you might say “what’s up.” You might say “hello.” And all of those things arguably have like a similar function, but they say very different things about those speakers? Depending on the social context. So that’s what indexicality really gets at.

Mr. Burns: Cappuccino, Simpson? Ahoy hoy? No, you have the wrong number. This is 5246. I suspect you need more practice working your telephone machine. Not at all! Ahoy.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah, thanks for that question, Carrie. I feel like I’m taking my comps again

Carrie Gillon: that’s what this is: a very informal comps.

Megan Figueroa: So a sign as a linguist, I think of it could be like a word? So like “dog” and it signifies the fluffy four legged domestic.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: exactly. Exactly. I know. But crucially. Like, depending on even your relationship to dogs, you could have a very different dog in your head. You see what I’m saying? So it brings into question? So all of the different dimensions of language of who’s doing the interpreting for instance?

Megan Figueroa: Oh, so if I’m loved dogs, I think of something lovely about dogs. Like that’s, semiotically created in my head?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Well, I would say, for instance, like, oh, I don’t know, like as someone that didn’t grow up with dogs myself. I might think of like a popular culture dog. Like Lassie or or something. And you might think of your dog that you grew up with. I don’t know. Right. I’m just thinking of an example. Yeah. But crucially, for the point that I’m trying to make about semiotics, I think the sort of social orientation to the sign matters. Right. For its interpretation.

Megan Figueroa: Oh yes, I get it. Okay. And so this can really play into like overt and covert forms of linguistic racism and

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: absolutely. Yes, absolutely. We see this a lot, like in, you know, media cycles. Where people will feign ignorance because they say, “oh, I’m not trying to say that.” But when we dig deeper and we look at maybe the histories of language or the social functions of language, we know we can kind of uncover these covert meanings of language that in fact are often, you know, like problematic or whatever.

Carrie Gillon: Can you  give us an example?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: That’s like, great. Hmm. Let me think. I actually think a really good example right now is Critical Race Theory. you know, there’s sort of this whole backlash against Critical Race Theory by critics who really don’t even know the history of Critical Race Theory or what it is what theorists are all involved with the history of it. Right. And I really think Critical Race Theory is actually a proxy for racialized epistemologies? Epistemologies from a tradition of minoritized peoples. So I think that when we talk, when we invoke something like Critical Race Theory, in fact, we’re talking about like these marginalized knowledges and histories. but people are people won’t say that. And when you sort of put them to task, they might feign ignorance. Like, “oh, I’m not talking about that.,” When in fact, okay. When we look at sort of how you’re using language to dismiss Critical Race Theory there’s an argument to be made.

Megan Figueroa: That’s a really good example and really salient right now, probably for most of our listeners.

Carrie Gillon: Okay. So let’s talk about K-Pop because what we were really wanting to have you on for. So can you, first of all, explain K-Pop to people who might not have heard of it at all and you know, just a little bit of its history, would it be helpful too

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: sure. Yeah. So K-Pop of course like stands for Korean pop and it’s sort of this catch all term or all popular music coming out of South Korea. I would say much to the dismay of some artists. Who don’t want to be associated with K-Pop, but crucially, I would say, you know, K-Pop is much more than just music per se, like a musical genre. it’s considered oftentimes by scholars to be a multimedia text, which means that there is like the visuality, the visual component is just as important, if not more important than the actual music. Right. and there’s a historical reason for this. K-Pop has existed since the early nineties, but you don’t really see this explosion until the late 2000s into the 2010s. And there’s a clear reason for this? It’s the advent of YouTube. So K-Pop really explodes with the accessibility afforded by YouTube and in terms of K-Pop history, K-Pop in South Korea is often attributed to this one band Seo Taiji and Boys, and they were this like unmistakably hip hop group, you know, like they were using samples and styles that were based in the US you know, like identifably U- American and their lyrics though importantly address really specific issues in South Korea at the time. So, you know, their lyrics there was a lot of social critique, you know, T teenage angst, a lot of like uncertainty of the future. And that was, you know, that’s a direct sort of product of the precarity of young people at the time, because of the rapid industrialization of South Korea of the seventies and eighties. So beyond Seo Taiji’s sort of, you know, explosive moment in the early nineties I would say that Black music and the influence of Black music has had a very long history in South Korea dating back to US militarization of the Korean peninsula in the forties and fifties. So I think that, you know, K-Pop is really interesting because there are so many players or actors, there’s producers, artists, and songwriters, many of whom are actually not Korean and not based in Korea. So even the extent to which K-Pop is considered quote unquote, truly purely Korean is really contested, I would say, in the literature.

Megan Figueroa: So does that actually then lend itself to its global popularity?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Right? I mean, even your question Carrie, like who doesn’t know about K-Pop right. I think the global reach is so palpable in recent years. and I would say that, you know, like even fandoms? Like have really interesting history in South Korea. Like they have been, you know, there’ve been fandoms really vibrant fandoms of K-Pop since the early nineties. there’s actually an ethnomusicologist from Santa Barbara, her name is Stephanie Choi, excellent dissertation about female fandoms in South Korea. and she talks specifically about, I actually think she uses the word fanhood as a way of like ascribing a little bit more agency to fans. but I would say fan culture of K-Pop globally, like there is such a really vibrant literature on that. And you know, like, I think, I don’t know if either of you are fans or like know much about K-Pop history. In the US I think the BTS’s like first live performance on the Billboard Music Awards, which was, I think in like 2017 or 18, that was kind of like a watershed moment for K-Pop in the US. You know, like it, it not only marked this crossover into the American market, which is like notoriously hard for K-Pop artists, but I also think it showed non K-Pop fans, like, the enormity of K-Pop fandom. You know, you saw these fans crying on camera or they were like dancing every single move of the choreography to the tee.

Megan Figueroa: that sounds affirming, as a fan.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. Right, exactly. Cause I think that fan culture, it’s not just this unilateral, like consumerism or consumption of the media. Fans really drive K-Pop. Like there’s a real uh, demand and and fans really drive content as well. So I think that, not to jump the gun, but I think that is what kind of lends K-Pop a little bit to appropriation as well, because it’s so driven by these fan demands and expectations,

Megan Figueroa: Why is it so notoriously difficult for K-Pop to break through in the US?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: So I will say that some K-Pop artists have done really major collaborations with American artists, like dating back to the nineties.

Right. So like, there’s this K-Pop artist named Rain, who did a collaboration with Usher, like back in the nineties or early 2000s. there’ve been a number like the artists that I study in my paper, she’s done a number of really visible collaborations with US artists and producers, right, and DJs. So it’s not that these crossovers or PR or collaborations are not happening. I would just say that BTS sort of represented yeah, like a major crossover. I don’t think it was as visible? Like there were definite crossovers before, but not to this extent, I would say.

Carrie Gillon: Okay. So let’s talk about about cultural appropriation. Like what is it and how does it manifest in K-Pop?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: yeah, this is a really big question. You know, the question of cultural appropriation and I don’t pretend to be like the expert on cultural appropriation. I think that, you know, some folks might define it as a kind of theft, you know, others might define it in terms of injury, you know, like does the injured party have more or less social power. I guess definitions are not entirely satisfactory to me. I think oftentimes because they depend on really overdetermined ideas of culture and power. Because power can be contested. And culture is sort of unstable, so, and always in flux. So you know, as I kind of write overtly in the paper, like I’m not actually interested in “Is this appropriation or not” just for the sake of like condemning a single artist. I’m really much more interested in why appropriation is happening at this like larger scale? Like it’s so pervasive in K-Pop and then what’s the history of this, and then what are its effects in the present day? I’m always really inspired by bell hooks’ essay, “Eating the Other,” where she talks about the commodification of difference, right. And she calls this consumer cannibalism. And I think that picture of consumption is so like so appropriate and vivid because she talks about this desire to like consume a racialized other, but in a way that really bolsters your oneself and doesn’t actually do much to like contest power, right. so yeah, in the case of K-Pop specifically. I don’t think appropriation is a secret, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t think it’s even really controversial to say that appropriation is like a common practice in K-Pop. so as I wrote in the PA PA in the paper, it’s not really like a matter of if appropriation is happening, but rather like, you know, how, and to what effect. So that’s kind of my interest my overt interest.

Megan Figueroa: What are some of the aesthetics that appear in K-Pop performances?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. So, you know, K-Pop is really known for its explosive, like almost sensorial experience. So you really have oftentimes like mix and mixing and matching of styles that are sometimes hard to locate. Like what, what is this just explosion of color and lights and style? So I think K-Pop really takes the visual components not just of bodily adornment or clothing, things like that, but the set? Like how is this presented in a video? it’s not, you know, it’s common knowledge that K-Pop singles and videos are often dropped on the same day. Whereas in the past we used to see like musical singles coming out before. So that’s not the case. Oftentimes with K-Pop they’re like meticulously timed to be released at the same time. Again you know, bolstering this idea that the visual component is just as important. and beyond that, I think the like popularity of K-Pop dance. And there’s the whole phenomenon of dance. I think that really attests to the importance of like the visual dance component as well.

Megan Figueroa: I am really wanting to watch some videos. Have they moved from YouTube to TikTok?. Or

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: I’m actually not on TikTok, so I can’t say with confidence I would say that the, I think YouTube still dominates, you know, because it’s that long, there are certainly I’ve seen snap. I see. I’ve seen snippets of K-Pop music or, you know, like choruses being recycled on TikTok. But I still think YouTube is where, where K-Pop lives.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. You can’t do whole songs on TikTok, so it’s, it’s got a different function.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: there’s also the intertextual component. Like, I, I’m not, like I said, I’m not on TikTok, but I would not be surprised if there were sort of like teasers happening on TikTok. because there certainly are on there’s a ton on Instagram. So that sort of like I guess porousness between these different media platforms is certainly like a big strategy of these K-Pop companies.

Carrie Gillon: So can you explain the ways that cultural appropriation show up in K-Pop? Like, what, what are they doing or what, what are they taking or what are people taking from them? How’s this working.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. Well, I don’t think it’s in any like straightforward way, you know, I don’t think it’s in any sort of unidirectional way. but I think that, you know, because K-Pop as an industry is quite well-known to be pretty cutthroat. that’s pretty euphemistic, I would say. K-Pop artists, even some of the most well-known K-Pop artists really only have like a public life, you know, sort of life in the limelight,, of an average of five to eight years. Right. So they really have to figure out ways to constantly be new and constantly be trendy. which is why I think. appropriation is so pervasive because you see something on YouTube or you see something on Instagram and you see what’s trendy and it’s, you know, it’s a craft. For the K-Pop industry. Like they really mastered how to identify trends and what’s going to sell. So ultimately it’s a commodification, like, machine. Right. so I think that’s in part what sort of yeah, what is kind of causing these practices more broadly? Which of course I also want to emphasize per your question, Carrie, this is not unique to K-Pop. This is in many ways like a product of globalization, but but it is, I think because K-Pop has this sort of like newer emergence and hegemony in the realm of popular culture. It’s very noticeable.

Megan Figueroa: Not to like, I mean, I’m a fan of very many doms, very many fandoms, but I’m just thinking about how we consume these things. Really like -not struggling – but like going through some of I like what I like.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. And, and to be fair, like I think K-Pop like popular music broadly is made to sound good. Like, like it’s not a secret that we listen to this and we’re like, wow, that is really catchy. Like, I don’t understand anything that’s happening, but something about it, that’s just like really like it lends itself to repetition, right. And that’s very purposeful. Right. That’s not just us sort of suddenly becoming like a K-Pop fan. Like these songs are really designed and engineered to be the most catchy.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah.  I mean, how else are you going to get like a million fans?

Megan Figueroa: You said that producers and songwriters often are not even Korean. do you think that that is lending itself then to some of the linguistic appropriation?

Carrie Gillon: or style.

Megan Figueroa: or style, aesthetic.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s no secret. I think that US Black American cultural production broadly, but certainly in the realm of music has been appropriated like in so many global contexts. And so of course, like I do think the, the involvement of these sort of multinational producers definitely play into that. I will say in the context of- some of the most visible, famous well-known producers in the Korean context are actually Korean American and have spent time in the US, have been hip hop artists themselves. So they’re tapping into these globalized networks as well. There’s really no such thing as these like geographical boundaries that are like keeping them from not appropriating.

Megan Figueroa: So, can you tell us about some linguistic examples? and I’m referencing specifically here your paper on the whole Bad Bitch vibe in K-Pop.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah, I’d love to. So I really want to shout out this group of linguists who did this fantastic 2013 survey. It was Moon, Lee and Star, and they did this like quantitative analysis of phonological variation in English and Korean among two well-known K-Pop bands. And they found that the members used a lot of what they called Anglicized Korean, which was heavily influenced by African-American English, right. Unsurprisingly the rappers? The rapping members of these two bands had higher rates of /ai/ monophthongization and uses of what they call Anglicized Korean. So in my paper, I talk about two AAE features, zero copula and monophthongization, but also like crucially generic features of hip hop, like call and response and the performance of braggadocio, which is taking on this persona of like I am the best, I am the richest, or I’m the most attractive or whatever, right. But taking, performing this kind of braggadocio. And like, what I try to highlight in the paper was that yes, there’s appropriation of these linguistic features happening, but it’s not just the linguistic features in and of themselves that matter, but rather like these other semiotic features, right. and so I spend a lot of time analyzing embodied actions that also contribute to this Bad Bitch persona. and so, and also if I had only focused on the linguistic form, it would really not have done justice to the multimedia texts, as I mentioned, that is K-Pop. You really have to also analyze like the visual component. so yeah, I think that what I argued was that, at least for Korean femininity, like one could interpret this as like a particularly agentive kind of femininity, if not like pretty individualistic and classist. but I think the broader point I’m trying to make is that if I had studied like just the linguistic form, I don’t know that I would have been able to make the claims that I made in any sort of convincing sense, without the other semiotic features.

Megan Figueroa: And some of those other semiotic features might be for example, dressing in the whole so-called Chola aesthetic, or perhaps B girl style. So having like body adornments, you put on your body that contributes to this multimedia experience is perhaps associated with, you know, the Chola asthetic is like very Los Angeles, Chicana.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah, exactly. And you know, there’s a really vibrant literature on Chola appropriations by us white artists. White femme artists. Right. I’m thinking like Madonna, Lana Del Rey, Gwen Steffani, et cetera, et cetera. But the list really goes on. But I think what happens in K-Pop oftentimes is these styles get sort of chopped up. Like you see sort of the hoop earrings here, and then you see like a particular kind of makeup style here, or you might see like the long nails over there, but they’re not there, they’re often these descend bodied styles. And so what I tried to do in the paper was go like, actually, the styles have historical Uh, a historical emergence that we can look at and track and see how K-Pop has an industry kind of sutures them together to create this other sort of this new sort of femininity.

Megan Figueroa: And so importantly, they’re coexisting with the linguistic forms.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Exactly.

Megan Figueroa: Which I think is a very important thing for us, as linguists to remember who didn’t focus on like socio or anthropological linguistics, because so many people, so many linguists have the problem of forgetting that there is a human behind the language and what all of that contributes to the language and how it might show up on any given day or any given hour of any given day.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: I mean, embodiment in general, I think in linguistics is sort of sorely understudied. and, and that makes sense in a lot of ways in terms of like the way that the focus that we have as linguists. But I think remembering that there is sort of the specific socio-cultural context in which, you know, language is produced it’s really important. But also I think what’s what I find really encouraging is like, there is sort of this really vibrant, newer interests within the field of scholars who want to study like mediatized discourse. Or popular culture. And in those contexts, you really can’t just look at linguistic form, right. You really have to look at like the media platform kind of look at who all who are all the other actors in place. So, yeah. So I think it’s kind of, it’s encouraging, I would say to see like scholarship happening now,

Carrie Gillon: when you talk about body adornments, can you tell us what all of that is? Cause I assume it’s quite a vast array of things.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Sure. Yeah. I guess don’t buy bodily adornment. It’s not like, I, I don’t think it’s a phrase that I coined or to the it’s just like some something I use probably in passing in the paper. but we might think of it as like a visual styles perhaps, you know, Th that encompasses everything from like accessory choice to, you know, what we would call fashion, you know, what is the person actually wearing to the way that their hair is fashioned or whatever. So it could be like embodied adornment is what I mean by that.

Megan Figueroa: this like bodily adornments, considering those plus the linguistic features is this disrupting some sort of stereotype of femininity in South Korea?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: I say in the paper that you know, this artist’s performance, you know, provide sort of one alternative form of femme of doing femininity, right. what I’ve not trying to say in the paper is that, you know, the appropriation of the Bad Bitch persona is somehow inherently liberatory or feminist in a, in a way that doesn’t currently exist in South Korea? Like that is certainly not true. Like there are many forms of femininities, different ways of performing femininity, I would say in the South Korean context. but I do think that you know, my argument was that it does reproduce a think of reductive forms of like racial, Black and brown specifically femininities by sort of selectively borrowing these markers to then bolster up your own you know, femininity. Your own version.

Megan Figueroa: It’s not like you’re giving back at all. When you take these, these things, you’re doing it to create something for your an identity for yourself.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: And to be clear, with K-Pop artists, like, as I mentioned before, like I, I don’t think the responsibility of like representation or like ethical choices. And putting those in air quotes should fall squarely on the shoulders of K-Pop artists, right. Because there is a whole machine behind them. but I do think that K-Pop as an industry is not out to produce some sort of like authenticity, you know, like it’s not to fashion like authentic meanings or, you know, experiences. that’s not really- like authenticity is not something that is particularly like close, you know, are meaningful to the genre in a way that it might be for say a genre like hip hop, So, you know, as you know, I think the way that you phrased that Megan was like it sort of out to gain absolutely is like the K-Pop industry is out to commodify, like as much as possible. And that means not only of these like, you know, racialized forms and the communities that racialized forms represent, but also like the K-Pop artists themselves is also exploited. so that’s also like a well-known fact of the industry.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Uh, can you tell us a little bit of, I saw that you did some work on this, about the linguistic appropriation that shows up in Ali Wong’s “Baby Cobra,” which I believe is a Netflix special? Like a standup special. Okay.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yes. She has two specials actually. Yeah. “Baby Cobra” and “Hard Knock Wife” and yeah. Thanks for asking me this question. This is a really fun to kind of pivot to that project, which is very new. This is a collaboration I’m doing with Kendra Calhoun. My colleague. Who’s now UCLA. Yeah. Yeah.

Megan Figueroa: Who’s been on the show.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. Oh yeah. And it’s, again, one of these, one of these analyses that I think require more than just attention to language. Because we talk about how, you know, Ali Wong may use features that are canonically associated with African-American English, but we really have to look at what she’s doing at like at a broader scale? So what’s her body doing? You know, what gestures is she moving, making? What is she doing with her face? but also, and crucially, I think this is borrowed from, you know, Kendra’s own work. Like the genre of stand up really has its own set of norms. And in specific. The standard comedian has to be, sort of can be over the top, but still has to sell the sense of authenticity. So in our preliminary analysis, we focus on the perf her performance of what we call this sassy persona that is certainly legible and racialized as a form of like Black femininity. But when we consider Ali Wong’s own race and gender, given that Asian-Americans are popularly, you know, maybe raciolinguistically imagined as having, you know, accents or being language less. Right. So what does it mean for this like tiny pregnant Asian woman to perform that persona? Right. So we tentatively argue that she performed this like stand-up persona that is raunchy, you know, takes no shit and specifically Asian American type of femininity. So again, like, we’re not saying that Ali Wong is this in real life. We’re saying that that is the stand-up persona that she’s performing.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. That really does come through. And the stand-up in the Hard Knock Wife that was after and she wasn’t pregnant or was it before and she wasn’t pregnant.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: She was pregnant. She was pregnant with her.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, I wonder that’s a purposeful choice by her.

Carrie Gillon: It was.

Megan Figueroa: okay.

Carrie Gillon: I think she’s talked about it. I don’t remember what she said about it, but I’m pretty sure she’s talked about it.

Megan Figueroa: huh. Well, I feel like that is kind of subverting some norms too. I mean, women are often expected to fill some sort of role. Usually a little more, I don’t know, you’re not out doing stand-up when you’re about to quote unquote burst or whatever, you know, I feel like that’s subverting some norms too

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: yeah. And I think she plays with those norms pretty overtly. By like weaving them into her jokes. And oftentimes like her jokes are aimed specifically at male stand-ups, you know, as well as white women, like more broadly. So she does do a lot of that. subverting through her jokes, I think pretty overtly like, like she’s very aware of, I think what she what she’s performing.

Carrie Gillon: So there’s another Asian American. Who’s also been accused of appropriation. I don’t know if you have anything to say about it and it’s okay if you don’t, but Awkwafina.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Oh yeah. Yeah. I think with Awkwafina I think she’s criticized oftentimes because there’s a couple of things, you know, she, her rise to fame was really through these viral hip hop videos. She’s a rapper and rap- hip hop in general, but rap specifically -being associated with as a US black cultural form, I think it sort of begs a question of like, you know, those lines. I think at least it at least brings into question her own yeah, her own experience in doing rap and I don’t need to go into that, but that’s certainly one argument. That’s, that’s one point of critique that’s been that I’ve been privy to. And then there’s also the question of her so-called accent. The critique, I think, has been that it sort of a strategic one that sometimes it appears, sometimes it disappears, you know in the movie Farewell for instance, which is a fantastic movie.

Carrie Gillon: It is, I really loved it.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. So it was sort of like conspicuously not there. Right. So it kind of begs the question question of like, who gets to perform particular kinds of linguistic features and when, and for what benefit. Right. So that I think has been a lot of the critique with her. And interestingly, like in that TA in a talk that Kendra and I gave her about Ali Wong, we mentioned specifically like, because Ali Wong Is sort of operating within the confines of stand-up like what is deemed appropriate might be a little bit more not maybe not malleable, but certainly the, the norms are different. Within the context of this performance. So I think that’s why we suggest that that’s why Ali Wong has not been sort of the subject of critique as much as someone like Awkwafina.

Megan Figueroa: That makes sense.

Carrie Gillon: I mean, I would expect her not to have like that for her accent to change for that movie. Cause it was a different role, whether it’s her authentic accent or not. However, it does seem to be not for other reasons.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: no, 100%. And I think this begs sort of a broader question as well of like Asian American quote unquote language, like what is that? And I don’t mean that in any like codified, like let’s take out the linguistic identify the linguistic features sense. I mean like how are Asians in the U S imagined or not imagined to possess language. And so when Asian Americans speak, quote, unquote Standard, Standardized English, they’re accused of speaking white. And when they are using, you know, African-American language, they’re accused of appropriation. So then what, you know, I think there’s like a- it’s a much more complex picture, but has to be contextualized by like histories of racialization.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Absolutely. How can we be conscientious consumers of media that may be viewed as appropriative?

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: You know, like making I really vibed with what you said earlier, which with that, you know, you like what you like sometimes? Yeah. Even if you’re sort of judging yourself a little bit and listen, like I’m, I’m the last person to, you know, police anyone’s behavior related to media consumption. But I think like I’m more invested in getting folks to move beyond these debates of like, is this appropriation or not, you know, do we decide to cancel this artist or not? but I really think it’s more about interrogating, like the ideal, like ideological work that these seemingly harmless performances actually can do. Right. And I think for me anyway, for me personally, it becomes increasingly difficult to un-see certain patterns, you know? and it really, that really affects my consumer choices. So I think in the case of K-Pop, it’s difficult because K-Pop is such an emotional, affective experience, I mean, is as, is all music. Because of the fandom component, it can feel like really like an attack on K-Pop fans, but I think at least interrogating, you know, sort of what is this industry what are these representation of, what are the effects of those representations? and then making those choices, you know, ultimately for yourself,

Megan Figueroa: well equipped, I feel well-equipped now to like, take your K-Pop references or recommendations and thengo search for them and listen and know what’s happening. I feel like I’m going to be like a, like a conscientious consumer.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: And, you know, I think one of the things that’s that I find most fun about studying popular culture is, you know, having these conversations with friends of like, you know, who are a huge K-Pop fans, like, what did you think? And oftentimes, you know, they are, they’re, they’re open to the critique, you know, they just want to hear, like, what do you think? Like, what do you think from this perspective, or what did you notice happening with the language over here? So I think those conversations hopefully can just open up, you know, more areas of like nuance and maybe attention paid to things that we didn’t pay attention to before.

Megan Figueroa: Totally open up to nuance.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah, it’s okay to like things that even have problem, like elements, as long as you’re aware, that’s just like, that’s always what we were talking about too. It’s just like be aware.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Yeah. And you know, it’s funny. Cause a lot of my friends, I think, especially after when this article is sort of being written or revised, I think they were nervous to tell me that they were like interested in BTS and they were like, they were interested in, you know, getting into these different fandoms. But I try to remind folks, like it’s really not about behavior management. I would say it’s really about like, again, like having to have these conversations that at least take into consideration these broader forces and perspectives. and as I said, like the different ideological ideological works that’s happening. I’m not just like, do I say yes or no to, you know, this artist or this song, things like that.

Megan Figueroa: Absolutely. Awesome. This was such a lovely conversation and listeners don’t know that we had a bit of technical difficulties before.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Oh my God.

Megan Figueroa: You were worried. No worries. Necessarily. Cause this was an amazing convo.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Sometimes things go wrong. Doesn’t mean that it’s going to go wrong the whole time.

Megan Figueroa: Otherwise like podcasting wouldn’t exist. Oh, well congratulations. Uh, on recently filing Dr. Joy.

Joyhanna Yoo Garza: Thank you so much. It was really nice to meet you, Carrie.

Megan Figueroa: We always leave our listeners with a final message. Don’t be an asshole.

Carrie Gillon: Don’t be an asshole. Even about what other people like to listen to, or watch or whatever choices. Let them enjoy.


Carrie Gillon So for this month we would like to thank John H Tice.

Megan Figueroa: Hey John,

Carrie Gillon: Mary Shapiro,

Megan Figueroa: Mary. Hi

Carrie Gillon: Mary had Megan, come and teach a one-week course at Truman State.

Megan Figueroa: Yes. That’s why I was tweeting from Missouri

Carrie Gillon: and Maria Hearing.

Megan Figueroa: Thank you. I am so grateful for all of you.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Thank you. And just as a reminder, you can join us at fries pod, and we have different tiers, including one where you can get a mug and there’s a picture on Twitter.

Megan Figueroa: Yes.

Carrie Gillon: And you get all the bonus episodes and the sticker, and there there’s different tiers where you get different things.

Megan Figueroa: So, and, and pretty soon there’ll be a special Patreon, a bonus of a recording of one of our episodes.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, yes. Yeah. What do we want to say about that? Do we want to give a hint?

Megan Figueroa: Yeah.

What’s the hint.

Carrie Gillon: I don’t know. What’s what’s like something obscure enough that would sort of give it away if you really- like a deep cut. Is there anything like that? I can’t think of anything.

Megan Figueroa: I would just say, if you like Welcome to Night Vale, it might be fairly interesting to you? I think that doesn’t give it away, but it could be intriguing.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I think that’s a good hint because honestly, I didn’t know that there was a connection there until you brought it up.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. And I think a lot of nerds highly know that that’s connection right away. So, oh yeah.

Carrie Gillon: Perfect.


Carrie Gillon: The Vocal Fries podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillon for Halftone Audio. Music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @vocalfriespod. You can email us at and our website is

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