Planet Hip Hop: Learning about current politics and social challenges through Hip Hop (and more)

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

Course Description

This course looks to interpret some of the increasing complexity of today’s world 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 culture and artistry. But it is more than that: It uses hip hop to explore contemporary societies and politics, and how they are interpreted by hip hop artists (who are 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 (mainly newspaper) outlets, and academia.

In this survey of 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 and environmental change; 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), in a creative way and using sources as varied as newspapers, scholarly texts, and hip-hop lyrics, then this is 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) racial and ethnic discrimination, and how this intersects with other dimensions such as sources of discrimination like gender, sexual orientation or class (expected duration: 2 days); (b) global politics, peace, war and international conflict, discussing relevant geopolitical events like the 9/11 attacks, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the role of religion and culture in feeding (or justifying) contemporary politics (1 day); (c) 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) (1 day); and (d) climate change and how 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 imag-es/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.

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.

Prerequisites: A basic knowledge about hip hop culture is desirable, yet not necessary since we will cover some of that in the first class, along with an interest in the social and political issues they address in their work.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CESO0957
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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