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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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Chapter Five: “Peace and One Love!” A Rhizomatic Third Space: Race, Language, Culture, and the Politics of Identity


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“Peace and One Love!”1

A Rhizomatic Third Space: Race, Language, Culture, and the Politics of Identity

Thus far, especially at Marie-Victorin, the modernist and unoblivious language of Black and White in the African student discourse is as irrefutable as the politics behind it. This pellucidity stems from students’ own consciousness of their racial, gender, sex, and class social locations which, I have argued, in the case of all immigrants, is a product of socialization and displacement. In other words, what one becomes is an accumulative history and memory that is built in and through one’s everyday interactions. In these communicative everyday interactions, at MV in particular, African students became aware of particularly their racial identity, which in turn was implicated in how they socialized their gendered, sexualized, and classed identities.

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