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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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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ibrahim, Awad. The rhizome of Blackness: a critical ethnography of Hip-Hop culture, language, identity and the politics of becoming / Awad Ibrahim. pages cm.—(Black studies and critical thinking; volume 68) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. African Americans—Race identity. 2. African Americans—Social conditions—1975– 3. African Americans—Languages. 4. African Americans—Education (Higher) 5. Hip-hop—United States. 6. African diaspora. 7. Identity politics—United States. 8. Ethnology—United States. 9. United States—Race relations. 10. Racism—United States. I. Title. E185.625.I27 305.896’073—dc23 2014000349 ISBN 978-1-4331-2603-1 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4331-2602-4 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-4539-1276-8 (e-book) ISSN 1947-5985

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

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