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UW-Madison hosts campuswide series on future of hip hop in academia

September 8, 2009

The University of Wisconsin–Madison will host a semester-long fall lecture series based on the scholarship and art of hip hop. The public and entire campus community are invited to attend the free lecture series, which is a cooperative venture of the UW–Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), the Havens Center and the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate.

For nine consecutive weeks, some of the nation’s top university and college experts on emerging field of hip hop will present their research and perspectives on a variety of themes in academic topics including sociology, history, women’s studies and communication arts. The series is tied to a hip-hop studies faculty hire initiative spearheaded by OMAI and supported by a growing number of senior faculty and university departments whose objective is to recruit new, diverse faculty members to the UW–Madison.

“We already know that students cross the performance and expressive skills involved in hip hop into their passion and academic discipline,” says Willie Ney, executive director of OMAI, “and these guest experts will explain how hip hop has not only been used as an expressive art of choice for a generation, but also has been intertwined in the evolution of political, social and even technological thought across the globe.”

At 7 p.m. every Monday in 1100 Grainger Hall, 975 University Ave., the campus and community are invited to attend an open lecture/discussion on the topic of the week. Faculty and staff from departments across the campus will join the experts in examining the interplay between hip hop and their academic discipline. Weekly campus faculty discussions are listed on the UW–Madison Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change Web site

Kicking off the series on Monday, Sept. 14, will be American Book Award winner Jeff Chang and Duke University professor of African and African American studies Mark Anthony Neal, who specializes in popular culture. Their inaugural lecture will lay the groundwork for the series on the future of hip-hop scholarship.

Additional lectures include:

  • Sept. 21: Guest expert S. Craig Watkins, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will address how digital technology has impacted hip hop.
  • Sept. 28: Dawn-Elissa Fischer, an assistant professor of Africana studies at San Francisco State University, Dawn-Elissa Fischer will discuss hip hop’s role in the human rights movement and how the emerging art form has become part of the political movement at a global level. Fischer has conducted award-winning research studies on hip-hop social movement organizations in Japan, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal, Sweden, China, Norway, Cuba, Jamaica and Russia.
  • Oct 5: Antwi Akom, an assistant professor of Africana studies at San Francisco State University, will discuss how the urban landscape and resulting human social and psychological toll embedded in hip hop has built a youth-driven environmental justice movement.
  • Oct. 12: Rachel Raimist, a filmmaker, scholar, educator, hip-hop feminist, activist, community organizer, and mother from the University of Alabama, will discuss the role of women in the hip-hop world.
  • Oct. 19: Lavie Raven, a social studies and language arts instructor at Chicago’s Multicultural Arts School, will discuss how the graffiti art associated with urban culture has evolved from the street. Raven has created strategies for integrating hip hop into community service projects and classroom education, working with youth on many community hip-hop arts programs and social-justice projects.
  • Oct. 26: UW–Madison administrators and staff experts will discuss the future of hip-hop studies at UW–Madison, where OMAI oversees the First Wave Learning Community, the first program of its kind in the nation to focus on hip hop and spoken word as an undergraduate rallying point for academics. Members of the panel include Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams, OMAI community education and outreach coordinator Katrina Flores, assistant professor of dance Chris Walker and the Department of Sociology’s Joseph Ewoodzie.
  • Nov. 2: Joseph Schloss, a professor at New York University, will discuss the musical, dance and ethnic science behind hip hop. He will also talk about the “big-break theory” of making it big in the music business.
  • Nov. 9: Professor William Jelani Cobb of Spelman College, who specializes in post-Civil War African American history, 20th century American politics and the history of the Cold War, will discuss how hip hop is tied to traditions in music and storytelling.