Ghetto Romanticism: Essentialist Notions of Black Culture and the Neoliberal Welfare State

a talk by Amy Abdou (Sr. Lecturer Leadership and Entrepreneurial Behaviour, Intercultural Management and Transformative Business at Wittenborg University in Amsterdam, Open Set participant)

Hip hop is a constant rhythm in the urban environment and a stereotypical indicator of urban life. It pours out of store fronts, cafes, mobile phones, apartments and cars. It's also a global cultural phenomenon that is linked to black identity politics and resistance (Gilroy, 1993). Hip hop allows individuals the capacity to perform their identities and influence others, expressing style and belonging in repetition and creating a variety of recognizable rhythms on the street. In this regard, hip hop is a phatic and poetic symbol of urban cool and authentic black culture. Because these rhythms are evident in the cultural practices and behaviors associated with a particular type of urban experience, they can be extracted and commoditized as signifiers of an ethnic enclave. In this paper, I combine Debord’s insights on the ethnic spectacle with the Frankfurt school’s critique of the cultural industry to describe the means through which hip hop is co-opted into neoliberal social and political agendas. Using Amsterdam’s Bijlmer as a case study, I will discuss the commodification of hip hop and black culture in the renewal of the city landscape in order to illustrate the ways in which institutions profit from essentialist notions of racial classification in the culture industry.

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Afbeelding credits

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Icon afbeelding: talk - Amy Abdou