Hip Hop Culture includes many forms of expression – rap music, dance, graffiti art, slam poetry, fashion and film.  Beginning in the South Bronx in the 1970s as a combination of neighborhood rhymes and rhythms, it developed in the 1980s as a voice for social commentary on urban poverty and life in the inner cities. Today some commentators feel hip hop in the U.S. has lost its initial element of social consciousness as it grew into a multi-billion-dollar industry of music and images often criticized as glorifying drugs, violence, money and misogyny.

While colleges including, Harvard, Cornell and Stanford have offered classes on elements of hip hop, in 2012 the University of Arizona announced the country’s first degree designation: the hip hop concentration in the College of Humanities’ minor in Africana Studies. The announcement garnered a storm of interest and was picked up by major media across the U.S. and overseas. Some welcomed the program as a legitimization of an important cultural movement, while others deemed it unworthy of serious academic interest.

UA Professor Alain-Philippe Durand, Ph.D., who is director of Africana Studies at UA and author of “Black, Blanc, Beur: Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture in the Francophone World,” will be at Academy Village Wednesday (July 18) at 2:30 PM to talk about this worldwide cultural phenomenon.  Durand will give a general introduction to his topic and answer questions such as: What is hip hop culture? Where does it come from? What are its roots? Why did it spread worldwide and become such a global phenomenon? Why do the University of Arizona, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, and Cornell offer areas of study in hip hop culture?

Interviewed at a February 2013 UA symposium entitled “Poetics and Politics of Hip Hop Cultures,” Durand discussed the importance of including hip hop as a university program: “Hip hop is just like any of the other areas of study,” he said, emphasizing that hip hop has shaped local, national, regional and global issues. “Hip hop culture has become an all-pervasive key component to contemporary American society, culture and identity which warrants serious academic inquiry.”

Prior to coming to the University of Arizona in 2010, Durand was professor of French, English, and Film Media, and head of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Rhode Island. His interests include the contemporary novel (France, Brazil and U.S.), French cinema, hip hop culture and cultural and literary theory and criticism. He became interested in hip hop culture while at the University of Rhode Island. One of his favorite artists is Dr. Dre.

Submitted by Glenda Tonkin, Academy Village Volunteer

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Prof defends granting hip hop degree at UA: July 2013
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