n Critical Arts : A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies - Marking the unmarked : hip-hop, the gaze and the African body in North America

Volume 17, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-0046



Based on personal narrative and 'critical ethnographic research, ' this paper is about the process of '<I>becoming black, </I>' the interrelations between race, culture, and identity, and their impact on what, who and how we as social beings existing within a social space, identify with. It contends that, having arrived in North America, an immigrant and refugee group of continental Francophone African youths attending an urban Frenchlanguage high school in southwestern Ontario, Canada, enters, so to speak, <I>a social imaginary</I>, a discursive space where they are already imagined, constructed, and thus treated as 'blacks' by hegemonic discourses and groups, respectively. This imaginary is directly implicated in who they identify with - black America - which in turn influences what and how they linguistically and culturally learn. They learn, I will show, 'black English as a second language' (BESL) which they access in and through hip-hop culture and rap lyrical / linguistic styles. Translation and negotiation, I will conclude, are significant identity formation processes which in this study produced a hybrid, temporal and ambiguous 'African' identity existent in North America.

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