Hip-hop and cultural citizenship on Kenya's 'Swahili coast'

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Abstract

The Muslim-dominated 'Swahili coast' has always served as a conceptual as well as physical periphery for post-colonial Kenya. This article takes Kenyan youth music under the influence of global hip-hop as an ethnographic entry into the dynamics of identity and citizenship in this region. Kenyan youth music borrows from global hip-hop culture the idea that an artist must 'represent the real'. The ways in which these regional artists construct their public personae thus provide rich data on 'cultural citizenship', in Aihwa Ong's (1996) sense of citizenship as subjectification. I focus here on youth music production in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa between 2004 and 2007. During this time, some local artists adopted a representational strategy that subtly reinscribed the symbolic violence to which members of the coast's Muslim-Swahili society have long been subjected. I examine the representational strategies that were adopted during this period by Mombasan artists who happened to be members of the Muslim-Swahili society ('subjects of the Swahili coast', as I name them), with an ethnographic eye and ear trained on what they say about the ways in which young subjects of the Swahili coast are objectified and subjectified as 'Kenyan youth' in the twenty-first century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-578
Number of pages23
JournalAfrica
Volume82
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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