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.

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

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.
June 6 Arrival in Dakar
  Welcome dinner
June 7 Orientation
  Tour of Dakar with a focus on hip-hop spaces
June 8 Masterclass: History and Development of Hip-Hop in Senegal 
  Site Visit & Workshop: Africulturban - Slam and Cypher
June 9 Masterclass: Hip-Hop, Decoloniality, and Liberation, Malal Talla
  Site Visit: G Hip Hop
June 10 Documentary Screening : Y’en a Marr
  Visit to Gorée Island
June 11  Depart for Saint Louis
  Visit to Saint-Louis Photography Museum
June 12  Site Visit: Saint Louis
  Talk on Hip Hop, De-centralization, and Urban Cultures in Saint Louis
June 13  Final debrief and program evaluation
  Free time in Saint Louis
  Return to Dakar
  Farewell Dinner
June 14  Departure

Cheikh Thiam, PhD

Academic Director

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

Photo of Cheikh ThiamCheikh 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

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