Chapter 5 – M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”

Chapter 5 – M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London

Chapter Abstract

This chapter further examines the gendered valences of consumer culture through the “third world” feminist heuristic, “terrorist chic.” It argues that the feminizing and dismissive term, which was widely applied to the music of M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam), reveals a deep ambivalence structured around fear and condescension. Through a close reading of the Sri Lankan Londoner’s first album, Arular, and the discourse it generated, I argue that we can hear the very thing we are afraid we might—the sound of the authentically inauthentic. The chapter thus follows bell hooks’s direction in suggesting that “fierce critical interrogation is sometimes the only practice that can pierce the wall of denial consumers of images construct.” The chapter further theorizes hip hop commerce through the lens of sexism and its intersections with racism and Islamophobia, while theorizing South Asian Brits into black Atlantic cultural politics, thus considering the book’s first and second pillars through the lens of gender politics.

Chapter Keywords:  M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam), terrorism, third world, consumerism, gender, feminism, Arular (music album), South Asian Britons, London, immigration

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Chapter Media

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”


Brixton Uprising News/Images




Bradford Twelve News/Images

Bradford12-2        Bradford12-1


Album Art for M.I.A.’s Arular



M.I.A. Arular Playlist – All Tracks


M.I.A.’s “palm tree silhouettes” from the Album booklet artwork for Arular: stenciled aerosol spray-painted graffiti conflating the tropical image with military imagery (tanks at left) and the valence of “fire” (right)

chi-rollefson-Fig11a     chi-rollefson-Fig11b


Quincy Jones, “The Dude”