Conference Paper White Nationalist Discourse on Hip-Hop: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Otherness Construction

Rivers, Damian

Paper presented at the Third ISA Forum on Sociology, The University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
With roots stemming from “underrepresented black teenagers living in the South Bronx in the late 1970s” (Flores, 2012: 1), within the performative genre of hip-hop discursive expressions of dissatisfaction and dissent are a common means of opposing political power, authority and governance. Despite embracing Black Nationalism during the 1990s (see Decker, 1993), various observers have since documented the hip-hop's ability to “translate across cultural, ethnic, racial, geographic and generational boundaries” (Abe, 2003: 264). This transcendence into mainstream popular culture has not been universally recognized and certain nationalist identities, based upon racial otherness, have remained in close association with hip-hop. Furthermore, the centrality of black youth within the contemporary hip-hop imagination of many (see Collins, 2006) has prompted expressions of dissatisfaction and dissent among collectives on the political “outside” of the genre. Within a framework of us-them intergroup dynamics, this presentation showcases a sociolinguistic analysis of online data collected from a White nationalist discussion forum. Concerned with detailing intersections of politics, racism, extremism and the construction of links between nation-state identity, otherness and the performative genre of hip-hop, more than 200 individual discussion posts were analyzed. These posts were written in response to three main topics including attitudes toward white nationalist hip-hop, the social conversion of hip-hop cultures among white youth and suggestions regarding how to replace black hip-hop culture with pro-white hip-hop. The most significant conflicts emerged in discussions concerning how to “combat” black hip-hop culture with many posters supporting the idea that “we don’t need pro-white negro music, we need to educate the youth so they realize there’s no value in this ‘music’” (forum post). The implications of such extremist discourse and the race-based nation-state identities of otherness constructed through reactions to hip-hop are also explored.

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