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Critical Approaches to Hip-Hop and Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

In Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, Lord Jamar of the Brand Nubian recounts the history of Hip-Hop music as one where, “We took the f—-ing record player, the only thing that’s playing music in our f—ing crib and turned it into an instrument.” A similar story could be told of the bricolage-like study of religion and/in Hip-Hop. What’s more—the past decade has witnessed an explosion of works which have pressed the case that the genre, culture, and people that constitute Hip-Hop present a legitimate object of study worthy of careful and critical analysis. The success of these efforts have culminated in pedagogical innovations, monographs, anthologies, journal publications, conference programming, and archive developments that have changed the institutional landscape in which our scholarship is carried out.

This year, we invite paper proposals that consider how these gains shape the theories and methods we employ, especially when Hip-Hop is not our data.

Our main session will take Richard Newton’s Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures (Equinox 2020) as an example of a work that takes a Hip-Hop sensibility to “the texts that people read but that also seem to read them back.” Mixing ethnographic autobiography, intellectual history, close reading, and discourse analysis, Newton tells a transgressive story about the category of scriptures unbound by disciplinary standards.

Topically, we welcome papers that engage the following topics in various theoretical and methodological contexts, and with divergent hip hop sensibilities: Afrofuturism; Kanye West; Reformed theology, White Evangelicalism; contexts; colonialism/ post-colonialism, and constructs of identity/difference.

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.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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