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Surveillance | Society | Culture

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Edited By Florian Zappe and Andrew S. Gross

What only a few decades ago would have been considered a totalitarian nightmare seems to have become reality: Surveillance practices and technologies have infiltrated all aspects of our lives, forcing us to reconsider established notions of privacy, subjectivity, and the status of the individual in society. The United States is central to contemporary concerns about surveillance. American companies are at the forefront of developing surveillance technologies; and government agencies, in the name of security and law and order, are monitoring our words and actions more than ever before. This book brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the implications of what many consider to be a far-reaching social, political, and cultural transformation.

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Rap vs. Big Brother: The Conscious and the Comical

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Abstract: The intimate and abusive relationship between the surveillance state and rap has repeatedly been a focus in both popular and scholarly discussion. Rap is the genre with the largest number of songs dealing with a sense of being watched, being followed and with visions of an Orwellian future. This is not surprising given that the hip hop scene has been monitored closely by the authorities from the start. The “hip hop police” proved to be very real: a law enforcement unit operating under the premise that the black body always is a potential threat to the body politic, and that holds true particularly for (black) masculinity in rap. The result of this has been an internalization of the Panoptic gaze by the actors in the hip hop scene, which in turn has helped shape the identity of its preferred musical genre. In recent years, it has been a trend among intellectuals to employ the genre for— broadly speaking—educational purposes, not least for education about surveillance. “Rap vs Big Brother” will concentrate on contributions by two rappers cum academics: Shahid Buttar, MC, human rights lawyer, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (USA) and Giordano Nanni, creative head of Juice Rap News and historian at the University of Melbourne (AUS). The article explores the ways in which the two above-mentioned artists offer their critique of the surveillance state, and the tensions that arise when rap is relocated and seemingly reduced to its ‘usability by association’...

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