Africa Rising: Hip-hop, Politics, and Religion in Senegal

Faculty Seminar Overview

The goal of this seminar is to provide a deeper understanding of the vitality, resilience, and global breadth of contemporary African communities through an experiential engagement with hip-hop and urban cultures as decolonial voices that engage the limits of coloniality.

The seminar will particularly focus on the ways hip-hop and urban cultures are changing the political, religious, and economic landscape in Senegal and, by extrapolation, in the African continent.

Using music as a political and aesthetic expression against Empire, we will also explore the way hip-hop and urban cultures offer disenfranchised Senegalese masses possibilities to critique and delink from coloniality in their everyday lives. Hip-hop and urban cultures will also be studied as means to create links and spaces of solidarity between African descendants and economically disenfranchised peoples from the Global North and the Global South.

Our ultimate objective is to question dominant narratives and underline the importance of a transformative consciousness about economic and cultural globalization, immigration, identity, nation, nationality, democracy, human rights, and equality.

At a Glance

Dates: June 5-13, 2021

Location: Dakar, Senegal, with excursions to Gorée Island and Saint Louis

Cost: $2,995

Who should participate? This seminar is interdisciplinary in nature and is open to all interested faculty participants. Faculty with a research or teaching interest in the following fields may find this seminar particularly valuable: African studies, African-American studies, anthropology, art history, black studies, communication studies, cultural studies, dance, hip-hop studies, musicology, global studies, and sociology.

How to Apply: Download an application (see below for the Admissions Process & Eligibility)

Application Deadline: January 31, 2021

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this seminar, participants will be able to:

  • Analyze the concept of diaspora and its corollaries (concepts of roots, nations, and nationality) from a decolonial perspective
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the vitality, resilience, and global breadth of contemporary African and African diaspora communities
  • Articulate the ways in which African urban hip-hop functions as a means for creating links, spaces, and solidarities between African descendants and economically disenfranchised peoples from the Global North and the Global South
  • Illustrate the pervasive nature of coloniality in Black Communities globally
  • Appraise the complex role of African urban hip-hop as a decolonial pedagogy that engages the limits of coloniality, global capitalism, and local political realities
  • Articulate how African urban hip-hop functions as decolonial pedagogical praxes and counterhegemonic movements against cultural and economic imperialism in the U.S., in Africa, and in Europe
Seminar Activities

Lectures and workshops may include:

  • History and Development of Hip-Hop in Senegal 
  • Slam and Cypher (at Africulturban)
  • Hip Hop, De-centralization, and Urban Cultures in Saint Louis 

Site visits, field-based activities, and excursions may include:

  • Tour of Dakar with focus on hip-hop spaces
  • Site visit to Africulturban: Africulturban offers a haven dedicated to musical creation. Through festivals and a training center for youth, Afrciculturban is a significant actor in motivating social change in Senegalese society.
  • Site visit to G Hip Hop: The G Hip Hop Center (Guediawaye Hip Hop) is a hip-hop collective that is engaged in social transformation, educational decoloniality, and sustainable development. The mythical neighborhood of Guediawaye, one of the most disenfranchised neighborhoods in Senegal, is an important center of production of urban cultures and an incommensurable source of talent, creativity, and innovation.
  • Documentary Screening: Y’en a Marre: This documentary will profile the story and work of Y’en a Marre, a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists, created in January 2011, to protest ineffective government and register youth to vote. They are credited with helping to mobilize Senegal’s youth vote and played a role in ousting former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.
  • Saint Louis: Frequently compared to New Orleans, Saint Louis is a Creole city that was created at the onset of colonization. Saint Louis defies the traditional understanding of Africa as rooted in precolonial cultures. A fundamentally hybrid land that emerged in the context of slavery and colonization, Saint Louis is, today, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Senegal. Its urban cultural scene is particularly diverse as it is situated at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Muslim World.
  • Gorée Island: From the 15th to the 19th century, Gorée was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast and the location where people of African descent transitioned before they were enslaved in the New World. Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, its architecture is characterized by the contrast between the grim slave-quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. Today it continues to serve as a reminder of human exploitation and as a sanctuary for reconciliation.
  • Saint-Louis Photography Museum: A new museum in Saint Louis showcasing photographs by Senegalese photographers, providing a viewpoint rarely seen in mainstream media: that of Africans in full control of how their images are captured and how they are represented.
Sample Schedule

June 5

  • Arrival in Dakar
  • Welcome dinner

June 6

  • Orientation
  • Tour of Dakar with a focus on hip-hop spaces

June 7

  • Masterclass: History and Development of Hip-Hop in Senegal 
  • Site Visit & Workshop: Africulturban – Slam and Cypher

June 8

  • Masterclass: Hip-Hop, Decoloniality, and Liberation, Malal Talla
  • Site Visit: G Hip Hop

June 9

  • Documentary Screening : Y’en a Marr
  • Visit to Gorée Island

June 10

  • Depart for Saint Louis
  • Visit to Saint-Louis Photography Museum

June 11

  • Site Visit: Saint Louis
  • Talk on Hip Hop, De-centralization, and Urban Cultures in Saint Louis
  • Performance

June 12

  • Final debrief and program evaluation
  • Free time in Saint Louis
  • Return to Dakar
  • Farewell Dinner

June 13

  • Departure
Seminar Faculty

Cheikh Thiam, PhD

Academic Director

SIT Senegal: Hip-hop, African Diaspora and Decolonial Futures

Photo of Cheikh Thiam

Cheikh has a BA from Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and an MA and PhD in comparative literature from Binghamton University. He comes to SIT with a strong background in US higher education. He is a founding member of The Dakar Institute of African Studies and an associate editor of Research in African Literatures, the premiere journal in African literature. Cheikh has also served as an associate professor of African American studies, African studies, and French at The Ohio State University and directed study abroad programs in Senegal over the last ten years. A leading voice in negritude studies, Cheikh is the author of Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude (Ohio State University Press, 2014), the first book focusing on the philosophical work of Leopold Sedar Senghor. He was also the editor of Negritude Reloaded, a special issue of Journal on African Philosophy. He has recently completed a second manuscript, Negritude Beyond Negritude: Glissant, Gilroy, Mabanckou and Senghor’s Africentered Philosophy and is currently writing a mytho-biography of Leopold Sedar Senghor from the perspective of the elders of Joal and Djiloor. His articles have appeared in literature and philosophy journals such as Ethiopiques, West Africa Review, La Revue Africaine, La Revue du Graat, French Review, Research in African Literature, Dalhousie French Review, and Journal on African Philosophy.

PhD, Binghamton University
MA, Binghamton University
BA, Université Cheikh Anta Diop

Admissions Process & Eligibility

To apply for the Africa Rising: Hip-Hop, Politics, and Religion in Senegal seminar, download the program application and email it as an attachment to Admission is on a rolling basis and applications are due by January 31, 2021.

Applicants will be notified of admission decisions within two weeks of applying. A nonrefundable $400 program deposit will be due within three weeks of notification of acceptance to confirm a spot on the program.

Eligibility and Admissions Criteria
This seminar is designed for active faculty from U.S. institutions of higher education. Admission decisions are based on the relevance of the seminar’s focus to the applicant’s areas of interest, academic background, research, and/or courses taught.

Preference may be given to applicants and/or schools with past experience on SIT’s programs or site visits. An applicant’s experience in the program location may be considered, but in-country experience is not essential.

Program Cost & Scholarships

The program fee for the Africa Rising: Hip-hop, Politics, and Religion in Senegal seminar is $2,995 per participant. This fee includes:

  • Accommodations in single rooms in tourist-class hotels
  • Most meals, including a welcome dinner and farewell banquet
  • Transportation for all program activities, including airport pick-up and send-off
  • All program activities, including lectures, workshops, site visits, and excursions
  • Travel insurance for the duration of the program
  • Pre-departure preparation materials, including informational materials, syllabus, and pre-program assignments

The program fee does not include:

  • International airfare to/from Senegal
  • Passport and/or visa fees, if required (visa not required for US citizens)
  • Immunizations, if needed
  • Personal expenses

A nonrefundable $400 deposit will be due within three weeks of notification of admission. Payment in full is due 30 days prior to the start of the program.

A limited number of scholarships are available for each seminar. Award decisions are based on financial need and other factors. To apply for a scholarship, please download and complete the Faculty Seminar Scholarship Application and email a completed copy to