AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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This Unit’s purpose is to provide a space for interdisciplinary, sustained, scholarly reflection and intellectual advancements at the intersections of religion and hip-hop culture. We believe the Unit will assist religious and theological studies to take more seriously hip-hop culture, while expanding the conversation of hip-hop culture beyond a thin analysis of rap music. To these ends, this Unit is marked by an effort to offer critical reflection on the multiplicity of the cultural practices of hip-hop culture. We also see something of value in advancing the field of religious studies through attention to how hip-hop might inform these various disciplines and methods. Understood in this way, scholarly attention to hip-hop will not transform it into a passive object of the scholar’s gaze; rather, through our attention to hip-hop, it also speaks back to the work of the AAR, offering tools by which to advance theory and method in the field.
Gurus and Gangstas: Capital, Charisma, and Making the Sacred/Profane
Kick rhymes without rehearsal, I cross the burnin' sands
Now I stand here with virtue, of course I could hurt you
Simply with my point of view, and I knew
That many would come, that's why I've chosen.
-Keith “Guru” Elam
The Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion Unit solicits paper and panel proposals that explore the construction of sacred and profane identities in/through/with hip hop culture. Boston is home to one of the most legendary emcees in hip hop, a “rapper’s rapper,” the late Guru of GangStarr. His name meaning “Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal,” his legacy and namesake give attention to the relationship between modes of capital, charisma, and hermeneutics in constructions of the sacred (i.e. Gods/Gurus) and the profane (i.e. “wack”) in hip hop. GangStarr is remembered as presenting a strong dialectic between their sense of self and the construction of competing artists as “wack.” They are by no means alone; among artists, figures such as Kanye West or Lil’ Wayne have (in recent years) played with the boundaries of Sacred and Profane. Take West’s effort to rebrand the confederate flag or his late 2016 celebration of Trump’s victory. Or Wayne’s suggestion that he’s never faced racism in his life and open rejection of the Black Lives Matter movement. What we’ve come to know as hip hop “antics” offer an embodied deconstruction of assumptions about distinctions between this or that, white or black, profane and sacred. These embodiments of the profane and sacred are also rooted in forms of capitalism—they sell, people download, and people pay good dollar to attend concerts of these rap artists. What, then, might be the line between reality, truth, and the sacred/profane within the hip hop cultural continuum?
In the spirit of GangStarr’s constant traveling along the sacred/profane borders, we invite papers and panel proposals that press social scientific approaches to their limits. Possible proposal topics include, but are not limited to:
• Capitalism’s impact on interpretations of the sacred
• Self-Referential “God” talk in Hip Hop
• Defining and quantifying Spirits of Hip Hop
• Modes of Sacralization
• The convergence and influence of economic capital in the promotion of the sacred; in other words, is the religious used merely to “sell records?”
• Underground Hip Hop’s creation of the sacred/profane
• Black bodies in an age of the sacred/profane
Religion and Science Fiction, Sacred Texts and Ethics, and Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion also invite paper (and panel) proposals at the nexus of sacred texts, science fiction, and comic books, and hip hop culture. We invite proposals from a range of disciplinary and methodological approaches.
Hip Hop Studies is growing exponentially every year. Moreover, the subfield of religion and Hip Hop is being taught widely. Therefore, we also invite papers which engage the pedagogical components to “teach” Hip Hop and religion. What are the philosophies, authors, practices, and curriculum one uses to construct a course on and around the subject matter of Hip Hop, religion, theology, and spiritualty?