AbstractsPolitical Science

Power to Represent: The Spatialized Politics of Style in Houston Hip Hop

by Christopher Michael Taylor

Institution: Rice University
Year: 2011
Keywords: Communication and the arts
Record ID: 1891729
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1911/70470


Combining quantitative sociophonetic methods and a qualitative, ethnographic acpproach to the study of language and social relations, my current research program focuses on the role of language in competing hip hop cultures. This research draws on early scholarship in cultural studies (Hebdige 1979), as well as what some have termed post- subcultural studies (Muggleton & Weinzierl 2003). Central to my own work are two theoretical concerns shared by these currents of scholarship, including: (1) How sociohistorical forces (including institutionally-mediated social action) shape cultural frameworks for symbolically staking out a position in the social landscape (2) How prominent social positioning in local cultral hierarchies shapes popular ideas regarding such intersecting notions as authentcity and indigeneity Regarding the first of these concerns, I examine how popular hip hop artists reflexively bring into focus a repertoire of spatialized social practices by rapping about them in their music  – a discursive practice I term metastylistic discourse. By selectively rapping about social practices indexical of their experiences of place, not only communicate a particular take on the local (i.e. their own); they directly position social and indirectly position soicolinguistic practices centrally among stylistic practices distinguishing Houston aeshetically from the cultural forms associated with other scenes. Central here is the second concern I share with current approaches to cultural studies, particularly, the significance of where social actors (i.e. established artists) find themselves in local social hierarchies. Established artists shape and reshape ways of talking about local life partly through econtextualizing prior texts. It is through the circulation of such texts that a discursive framework emerges, the product of a trans-modal series of recontexutalizations which serve to communicate an experience of Houston, what it looks and sounds like. In short, my current project works to close the gap between sociolinguistic approaches to the formation and interrogation of stylistic norms and research in cultural studies along these same lines (Hodkinson 2003, Piano 2003). By examining these processes in the context of hip hop, my work illustrates how social actors shape cultural norms through performance