Moving the Academy to Hip Hop Music: Repurposing Canadian Universities with Black Radical Traditions

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Stitski, Maya
Black Studies , Hip Hop , Canadian Academy , WondaGurl , Black Canada
This project analyzes the important and knotted interventions that hip hop artists bring to the Canadian academy. I think through how university institutions preserve white supremacist values alongside diversity mandates and show that the displacement of black histories and black knowledges—which in fact favour myths of a colour-blind and benevolent Canada—creates barriers to learning. This displacement is coupled with the ways many universities in North America often commit to teaching hip hop music on neoliberal terms; these institutions often put forth multicultural policies that centre normative ways of knowing and a politics of inclusion that undermines black intellectual work. This dissertation theorizes that the teachings of black popular culture and hip hop interrupt and recast these kinds of white supremacist educational practices. Hip hop pedagogies can and do restructure the classroom in the wake of ongoing antiblackness and colonialism. I address how black Canada is a contested historical site that informs learning practices and I think through radical classroom spaces that are founded on black activism. I pair these historical contestations and radical learning sites with analyses of the sub-discipline of Hip Hop Studies as well as the pedagogical underpinnings of hip hop. Interviews with faculty also comprise part of my research and uncover the complexities of teaching hip hop and black studies in North America. Points of my dissertation take up Canadian producer WondaGurl whose beats, flows, and samples allow me to engage the question of pedagogy through aesthetics and music-making and centre how music and music-making are connected to emancipatory practices. My dissertation ends with a syllabus designed for an upper year undergraduate course that focuses on WondaGurl. I imagine this course as a pedagogical moment for (co-)production, wherein the students listen to her work and position it in conversation with academic texts that centre black histories and radical imaginations. In this way, my dissertation concludes by enmeshing theory with practice, and highlighting the pedagogical and emancipatory possibilities of black popular cultures.
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