Hip Hop Politics

Recognizing southern complexity

Authored by: Jenny F. Mbaye

The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  March  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415818650
eBook ISBN: 9780203387832
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678202


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The urban ‘south’ is built through practices that are necessarily multiple. Here, culture is conceptually foundational. Not simply context, it is a field that allows for productive participation in urban space; as such, it works as a device to activate citizenship in the city symbolically and pragmatically. In this chapter, I draw on the practice of hip hop in Dakar, Senegal, to explore these complex processes and debates. In doing so, I distance myself from previous work on hip hop based on race (Forman and Neal 2004; Neate 2004; Rose 1994) and/or age (Kitwana 2002; Watkins 2005). Such a racial explanation for hip hop is a geo-historical framing of hip hop as a Black American culture, which can be confronted in its forms elsewhere with the actual experiences of Latinos living in American ghettoes, of Portuguese or Maghreb immigrant descendants stigmatized in French banlieues, of Algonkin Natives parked in Canadian reserves; or, in this case, even young Africans marginalized in gerontocratic societies such as Dakar. Drawing on Chang (2005), I also question the definition of hip hop as a contemporary youth culture. In fact, ‘generations are fictions’; they are ‘used in larger struggle over power’ and stand as ‘a way of imposing a narrative’ (ibid.: 1). In reality, hip hop pioneers in the USA, France or Senegal, who still actively participate in this movement, are a variety of ages: in their forties, and in some instances, over fifty! 1

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