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Can't hold us back! Hip-hop and the racial motility of aboriginal bodies in urban spaces

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Urban centers across Canada are partitioned by racial geographies that circumvent and circumscribe the movements of aboriginal bodies. This article examines how aboriginal youth experience and engage these racisms that organize Canadian social spaces. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken at a drop-in recreational centre in the inner city of Edmonton, Alberta, it documents the different ways in which indigenous youth employ hip-hop as a means to contest their subjection to these immobilizing racisms. First, it shows how these youth employ hip-hop as a technology of self-transformation through which they recreate their selves as meaningful, efficacious political actors capable of disrupting their relegation to criminogenic places. Second, it documents how the practice of a distinctly indigenous hip-hop allows these youth to innovate an aesthetic space disruptive of the historicist racisms that otherwise subject aboriginality to anachronistic spaces. Finally, this article shows that, by performing a hybridized, distinctly indigenous breakdance, these practitioners of hip-hop dramatize the physical and cultural motility of aboriginal bodies.
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Keywords: aboriginality; aesthetics; colonialism; hip-hop; mobilities; racisms; urban space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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