University of Wisconsin–Madison

Course Spotlight: Global HipHop and Social Justice

Professor D was recently featured on a special episode of Le Journal Rappé (The Rap News)
hosted by Senegalese rap stars Keyti and Xuman to discuss the escalating tension between
Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un.

Course Description

Can HipHop help make the world more just? If so, what theory and practice best advance this aim? These opening questions drive this conceptual course. Our critical interrogation of the relationship between HipHop and social justice considers the culture from its U.S. Black Power foundations to its disparate contemporary “glocal” manifestations. We begin by asking what is “HipHop,” what is “social justice,” and what is their relationship, and proceed to consider how HipHop can be an effective force for social justice and what obstacles are in the way. We’ll check out HipHop songs and videos from around the world, including North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, and we will compare them with attention to their different social and cultural contexts. Our discussions will develop familiarity with important concepts in Black studies and social theory such as race and colonialism, imperialism and hegemony, structure and agency, identity and strategic essentialism. Weekly readings will typically pair writings specifically on HipHop with theory from across the humanities and social sciences including philosophy, sociology, cultural studies, and political economy. We will endeavor to consider the race/class/gender dimensions of our weekly topics. Students will acquire a broader familiarity with HipHop activism, and develop new conceptual tools and critical thinking skills.

Course Details

African Languages & Literature 233: Global HipHop and Social Justice
3 credits
Mon./Weds., 6:00-7:15PM
Spring 2018
This course is cross-listed with Afro-American studies and it satisfies the ethnic studies requirement.

Sample Readings

Kornhaber, Spencer. “What Makes Eminem’s Trump Diss Special (and What Doesn’t)” The Atlantic. Oct 11, 2017.
Sajnani, Damon. 2015. “HipHop’s Origins as Organic Decolonization.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. April 2, 2015.

About the Instructor

Damon Sajnani aka Professor D is a HipHop artist/activist/academic and a new assistant professor in the department of African Cultural Studies. He has released several critically acclaimed CDs and written numerous chapters and articles on HipHop and social justice in comparative global context. He is currently writing two books: The African HipHop Movement: Youth Culture and Democracy in Senegal, and Critical HipHop Theory. Find out more here.

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