After Graceland: Can cultural transmission through music improve post-Apartheid racial relations in South Africa?


Logan Clark

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Through analysis of two stations that broadcast hip hop, and shadowing a specific break dancing troupe, I gained a full perspective of the forces encouraging and discouraging racial integration in Johannesburg's hip hop scene. The two stations on which I focused my attention were 5fm - a station catering to the white rock-listening demographic; which has recently hired a more racially diverse array of DJs who play hip hop, house, and some kwaito - and Yfm - the main station catering to blacks from all backgrounds. Each of these stations created completely different cultures, yet revolved around the same motivating force - the new and quickly growing black middle-class. I was also interested in involving the break dancing (or b-boy) scene that accompanied the hip hop culture propagated by these radio stations. I focused mostly on the white members of the b-boy scene. Their interaction in what started as a subversive form of minority expression reflects the trend of voluntary assimilation that the optimistic eye can pick out among white South Africans. The formation of identity in the Johannesburg hip hop scene is a controlled mix of uniformity and difference. While most b-boy's first answer would be that merit within the community is based solely on dancing skill, the community is able to function as an intercultural entity because of the retention of distinct racial identity. In this way, the hip hop community also creates a constructive matrix through which whites can form a positive integrated identity.


Deborah Mindry




The Paul K. & Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - International Fellowship

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