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AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Critical Approaches to Hip-Hop and Religion Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

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.

Call for Papers: 

Baduizm: Race, Class, Gender, and Experiences of the “High Life” in Hip-Hop Culture
“Badu is my last name, ‘izm’ is what should get you high and Baduizm [is] the things that get me high. Lighting a candle, loving life, knowing myself, knowing my creator, loving them both ... Using my melanin. Using my power, to get to where I need to go to do the creator’s work—that’s what I’m here for. And I’m still fly.”

For decades, Neo-soul goddess Erykah Badu has wed together Black women’s experience, new age and esoteric Black sensibilities, and an openness to altered states into a method of Baduizm. Beyond traditionally defined “isms,” Baduizm, as Badu describes, is here constructed as modes of the potentiality of embodied subjectivity that takes serious the political, the religious, the performative, transcendence, and “loving life, loving myself.” In this respect, Badu is representative of long-standing literary, musical, “religious,” and academic efforts to “know thyself,” efforts guided by methods attentive to intersectionality, social and psychical concerns, individual and collective knowledge and needs, etc. that are integrative and celebrative of the complexity of culture and identity. Possible submission topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Intersectionality, Hip-Hop, and the Religious

• Music, the Self, and Transcendence

• The relationship between social sanctions (laws, social mores, etc.) and personal health and self-medication.

• The creative impact of substances (e.g. Marijuana) on hip-hop cultural production.

• Hip-Hop and Goddess Worship

• Mysticism/Esotericism, Hip-Hop, and Altered/Altering States of Being/Consciousness

• Heterodox Methods Becoming Orthodox
For instance, the historical dismissal/illegality of Blackness, gender non-conformity, transness, queerness transmuting into a normative preoccupation with the “method” of identity/identification.

Co-sponsored Sessions:

• The Class, Religion, and Theology Unit and Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion Unit invite individual papers and panel submissions for a co-sponsored session exploring the varied connections between hip-hop culture and class. Possible submission topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

o How does hip hop allow us to better understand capitalism's functions as a religion?
o How does class allow us to better understand the political economy of hip-hop?
o The relationship between art and political activism/class consciousness.
o Hip-hop as a site for working class resistance.
o Comparing hip-hop and worker organizing as moral-cultural practices/embodied performances: the aesthetics of performative contestation against injustice (for example, how are strikes and hip-hop performances aesthetically similar? or textual analysis of worker songs and hip-hop lyrics).
o Comparing worker organizing and hip-hop battles as practices of community formation (for example, the role of conflict in each, attention to power, etc.).
o The complexities of racial justice in hip-hop and class: each offers examples of contesting white supremacy and other examples of being co-opted by white supremacy.
o Sanitation strike (in honor of MLK's last campaign): class struggle and hip-hop can both be seen as refusing to be treated like refuse — resistance to dominant social norms of who/what counts as "garbage"/worthless, making life/art out of what dominant social norms consider to be "waste."
o Emerging voices in hip-hop and grassroots worker organizing.

• Hip-Hop Culture and Black Theology
The Black Theology Unit and Critical Approaches to Religion and Hip Hop Unit invite individual papers and panel submissions for a co-sponsored session exploring the varied connections between Hip Hop culture and Black theology. Possible submission topics might include, but are not limited to the following: Hip Hop as prophetic critique, discourse and commentary, a quest for meaning, memory and identity, etc. How ought religion/race be theorized and discussed in the Trump era? What role does the sacred/profane binary play as a rhetorical strategy and political designator? How have rappers like Kendrick, Chance, and Lecrae created a space for “woke” rap? What is “Christian” or “Holy” Hip Hop? Pedagogically, how might we look at teaching Hip Hop and Black religion and theology? How have new media, (e.g., podcasts, YouTube, internet and radio shows such as the Breakfast Club) reconstructed Hip Hop culture and its future? How might we explore the intersections of White Evangelicalism onto mainstream Hip Hop culture?

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee