Spotlight: Hip-Hop Studies

Hip-hop is alive and well at Wellesley, and we play it loud and proud in the American Studies department!

AMST 315:  Beats, Rhymes, and Life: Hip-Hop Studies

According to Assistant Professor of American Studies Michael Jeffries, the seminar on hip-hop studies is designed to do a couple of things. First, Jeffries aims to give students a solid foundation in the history of hip-hop, especially important considering the ways hip-hop cultures are bastardized and misunderstood in the broader public sphere. Students move through each of the elements of hip-hop–rapping, DJing, graffiti writing, and b-boying (sometimes called break dancing)–to get a sense of how these practices are connected to and dependent on each other.

The second major goal of the course is to use hip-hop as an avenue to discuss pressing issues in culture and politics. Seminar discussion engages questions of race, gender, class, poetry, resistance, consumption, and globalization, with the aid of a burgeoning body of fantastic academic and popular writing on these topics. Discussions are especially rich because the subject demands that students bring their own experiences to the table. "When we talk about the scholarly work, we approach the material as musicians, pop culture fans, and scholars who major in disciplines from English to astronomy," Jeffries says. "The seminar changes every year, because we’re learning from each other and we’re propelled and inspired by the latest hip-hop happenings."

Nichole Fermanis photo“Professor Jeffries' classes are a wonderful representation of interdisciplinary study. This seminar combines academic literature with current events, encourages students to express their opinions freely, and creates a focused, yet fun atmosphere for exploring the dynamic world of hip hop.”

—Nichole Fermanis '12

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Michael Jeffries

Michael P. Jeffries

Assistant Professor of American Studies
B.A., Swarthmore College; Ph.D., Harvard University

Research and interests include race and ethnicity, and American popular culture.
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