Vision: Ten Crunk Commandments for Reinvigorating Hip Hop Feminist Studies
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This past weekend, the CFC attended the important Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media Conference at UT San Antonio. We had a great time and were reminded of all the wonderful possibilities in the field of Hip Hop (and) Feminist Studies, and we thought we would share a summary of our presentation and our thoughts on what can move the field forward. Thanks to CFs Aisha, Susana, and Rachel for their contributions to this post.
- Know your history. – If you are going to engage in scholarship on Hip Hop and/or Feminism, know and cite the authors who have helped to shape the field—Joan Morgan, Gwendolyn Pough, Mark Anthony Neal, Tricia Rose, and others are a few good folks to start with. In the rush to incorporate the sexy theorists of the moment, don’t throw away important theorists like bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Anzaldua, Chela Sandoval and others in projects on Black and Brown feminisms. See a non-exhaustive, beginning bibliography here.
- Don’t Romanticize the Past . – There is no Hip Hop Eden. Resist the urge to act as though there has been a pure moment in Hip Hop where issues of misogyny, commercialism, opportunism have not been an issue.
- Positions—Know Yours/Take One . – Make sure as you are doing this work that you position yourself in relationship to the community. Recognize the need to acknowledge your race, gender, generational, and political positionalities. Be willing to take intellectual and creative risks, to question accepted orthodoxy.
- Contextualize and Situate. – Name the cultural, political, historical and scholarly contexts of your work and your arguments. Make sure to articulate the key political and social issues that frame this moment. Other scholars pointed to the 70s and 80s as the era of deindustrialization, the defunding of arts programs in public schools, the war on drugs, etc. But this moment is very different. It is characterized by unparalleled conservative backlash, near total deregulation of media and corporations, outsourcing, the economic and political dominance of transnational corporations, battles over the meaning of American citizenship, the War on Terror, the concretization of the prison industrial complex and massive economic downturn. These are the issues that have framed the creation of Hip Hop music and culture in the 21 st century, and new analyses must be attuned to these issues specifically.
- Avoid the pitfalls of presentism. — You cannot have this moment for life. Do work that will last. Do not merely discuss those artists whose work is hot in the moment but will have no lasting value. Make sure that your line of inquiry ascertains the broader relevance of the subject matters you choose, so that the formulations you offer will remain relevant even if the example you choose does not.
- Embrace ambivalence. – Reject false binaries. For instance, the line between mainstream Hip Hop and underground Hip Hop is at best blurry. Also reject formulations like the Madonna/Whore split when evaluating the contributions of women in rap music.
- Envision the possibilities. – Rather than merely deconstructing, Hip Hop scholars and feminists scholars alike, must ask “what kind of world are we creating or do we aim to create?” We must also ask new questions. Questions about misogyny in Hip Hop are fairly uncreative at this point. Projects should begin to address Hip Hop films, Hip Hop literature, Hip Hop fashion, Hip Hop and the arts, and Hip Hop’s epistemological relationships to other knowledge systems.
- Wield Technology. —Technological literacy is critical for scholarship, creativity and social movements. Open yourself to this world, and begin to ask questions about how the technological universe affects Hip Hop culture and feminist studies.
- Lived Realities Still Matter. —Scholarship must be accountable to the people. Hip Hop and Feminist scholarship must still be connected to movements for social change. Also, theory does not flow in one direction (i.e. from the top down.) In fact, scholarship needs to catch up to the culture, not the other way around.
- Recognize the Power of the Collective. —Collective organizing draws on the best creative, political and scholarly traditions of both Hip Hop and Feminism, and folks who actively move in these communities, must both remember and recenter the power of the collective in doing scholarly, political, and creative work.