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The Rhizome of Blackness

A Critical Ethnography of Hip-Hop Culture, Language, Identity, and the Politics of Becoming


Ibrahim Awad and Awad Ibrahim

The Rhizome of Blackness is a critical ethnographic documentation of the process of how continental African youth are becoming Black in North America. They enter a «social imaginary» where they find themselves already falling under the umbrella of Blackness. For young Africans, Hip-Hop culture, language, and identity emerge as significant sites of identification; desire; and cultural, linguistic, and identity investment. No longer is «plain Canadian English» a site of investment, but instead, Black English as a second language (BESL) and «Hip-Hop all da way baby!» (as one student put it). The result of this dialectic space between language learning and identity investment is a complex, multilayered, and «rhizomatic third space,» where Canada meets and rubs shoulders with Africa in downtown Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal in such a way that it produces its own «ticklish subject» and pedagogy of imaginary and integrative anti-racism.
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My thanks and gratitude go to a friend whose refusal to be a “big name” made him an awesome human being: George Dei. Thanks to my friends: Nicholas, Rebecca, Handel, Boulou, Emmanuel T., Tamari, Tim, Joel, Marie-Josée, Francis, Meredith, Carole, Emmanuel D., Douglas, and Giuliano. Thanks to my friends in Ottawa: Galal, Hamid, Fadil, Abugargas, Sayed, Osama, Hatim, M. Khalifa, Nashwa and the kids, T. Khazin, Hassan and Hiba, Hana and Haneen, Mohamed and Mojtaba, Samah, M. Bashir, and all our kids in Ottawa. My mother-in-law, big up! Hafiz, Elmala and Rayed, thanks for the many conversations we had on this book. Kelsey, Annette, Shenin, graduate students, keep the hope! Back home in Sudan, thanks family: my sisters Osailat and Aziza, my brother Hassan, and my nieces (Swsan, Ishraga, Najat, Selma, Oula, Roa, Alaa, Bona, Malaz) and nephews (Hatim, Mohaied, Hisham, Mohamed M., Ahmed, Mohamed A., Mohamed H., Musa, Mazin). Ihab, Yasir, Zeinab and Zeinat and the kids—much love. My family in Sennar and Halaween, love you. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the schools where I conducted my research. Without their permission and generous hospitality, this research would not have been possible. My friends, Shirley, Rochelle, Reenha, Hodari, Tricia, Pierre, and of the Freire Institute—thank you. You keep me smiling, and for this I am utterly grateful. Thank you Alim and Alastair very much indeed. I want to thank a mentor whom I met only once: the late Stuart Hall. His work has been...

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