Hip Hop Intelligentsia: The US and the World Through the Eyes of Hip Hop, Academia, and the Media

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

The world has become increasingly complex. This course tries to interpret some of that complexity through the eyes of hip hop artists (especially graffiti writers and rappers) and hip-hop culture, using mainstream news outlets and academic scholarship to provide added or alternative insights. This is a course about hip hop. But it is more than that: It is also a course about contemporary societies and politics, how they work, and how they are interpret-ed by hip hop artists (usually members of a subaltern group of grassroots, engaged, often minority and excluded, agents of social change), and two mainstream sources of opinion-making and knowledge production: media outlets, and academia.

In this survey of the contemporary societies and politics, we will study how hip-hop artists and activists, as well as academics and the media, have looked at relevant topics, central to studies in the social and political sciences: class, race, ethnic and gender inequality; peace, war and international conflict; the global mobility and trafficking of people (migration) and “goods” (opioids) and its effect for local communities; climate change and environmental disruption; or nationalist and populist politics worldwide, from Brazil to the United States and Europe.

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the complex world of today and address foundational topics in the social and political sciences through a range of perspectives (academic, artistic, grassroots, media), while practicing your English skills (using sources as varied as newspapers, scholarly texts, and hip-hop lyrics), then this is certainly the course for you.

Altogether, hip hop artists have produced an immense array of material on foundational social and political topics, national and global. In this course we will focus primarily on the following topics: (a) the causes and consequences of class, gender and racial inequality, discussing aspects such as white supremacy, the enduring legacies of colonialism and slavery, misogyny and gender roles, and poverty and social exclusion (expected duration: 3-4 days); (b) the recent surge in nationalist and populist politics all throughout the world, from Brazil and India, to the United States or Europe/United Kingdom (Brexit) (1-2 days) (c) global politics, peace, war and international conflict, discussing current geopolitical events like the 9/11 attacks, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the role of religion and ethnicity in contemporary politics (2 days); (d) the drivers and local/community consequences of the global mobility and trafficking of people (human migration) and “goods” (for example, drugs or other illicit substances) (2 days); and (e) climate change and the way social and environmental inequalities intersect at the global and local scales (1 day). If time permits, we may focus as well on other topics of interest to students enrolled.

For each class, students are expected to come prepared to discuss two or three readings (book chapters, papers), as well as a few newspaper articles or television news clips (provided ahead of time), and especially lyrics or art-works by hip hop artists (also provided before class) related to the day’s topic. Typically, classes will start with a brief lecture-type presentation on the topic, as well as a biographical introduction to the hip-hop artists whose works we will be analyzing. Following this, we will jump to a discussion of the topic and readings (or images/audios/videos) assigned. Depending on the topic and class enrollment, this might include open debate, small-group discussions, role-playing, or think-pair-share activities. This course also includes two (weekly) writing “labs” where students will have the chance to practice their English (and beyond) writing-skills by learning techniques on how to write and recite great hip-hop lyrics, learning from real examples of lyrics produced by some of the greatest rappers of all time and tutored by an instructor experienced in the craft.

As a result of completing this course, students will have learned or be able to: (a) attain a better and more nuanced understanding of the complex world we live in, (b) get acquainted with different perspectives on relevant social and political topics, which will empower them to develop their own (empowered/informed) views on those topics, (c) acquire a deeper knowledge in foundational topics in the social and political sciences, (d) develop their critical thinking, discussion and writing skills (in English and beyond).

Prerequisites: Aside from a basic knowledge of English, which allows people to engage with the readings, no prerequisites are expected for people enrolled. A basic knowledge about the hip hop culture is desirable, yet not necessary since we will cover some of that in the first class.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CESO0954
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

[email protected] for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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