March 3, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 11

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    First conference on hip-hop culture will assess how that culture portrays women

    By William Harms
    News Office


    While the effects of hip-hop culture on young people have been widely debated in newspapers, magazines and general conversation, few opportunities have arisen for open debate and discussion of how it impacts the sexual, gender and racial understandings of young people around the world.

    In response, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture has organized “Feminism and Hip-Hop,” the first national conference to assess how hip-hop culture affects and portrays women, particularly African-American women.

    The conference, which is scheduled for Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9, with activities taking place at both International House and Mandel Hall, already has drawn over 1,000 registrants, including some traveling from Europe to attend.

    “This conference will provide a forum where scholars, students, artists, activists, community members and members of the media can gather to discuss the relevance of feminist agendas to the hip-hop generation,” said Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

    The conference is free and open to the public, and pre-registration must be completed online at http://csrpc.uchicago.edu by the Friday, March 18 deadline.

    The conference will provide researchers an opportunity to engage in scholarship and discussion with sessions formatted as roundtable discussions, rather than the typical presentation of papers followed by an academic response. The audience will be encouraged to raise questions at the conclusion of each session, also becoming participants in the exchange.

    “People who are considered experts on hip-hop also will have the opportunity to learn from people in the audience, those who are immersed in hip-hop culture,” Cohen said.

    Conference participants will explore how hip-hop serves as a political force that provides an opportunity to seek equality, resist state-imposed limitations on women and fight sexism, Cohen said.

    The conference will be videotaped, and the center’s staff hopes to use some of the footage to develop a curriculum on feminism and hip-hop that can be used in high schools and colleges. Cohen also said there are other possibilities that are being discussed to extend the life and impact of the conference, such as an edited volume or a special issue in a journal produced from the material gathered at the roundtable sessions, as well as the open discussions with audience members.

    The conference opens with “Hip-Hop and Feminism on Screen,” from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at International House, 1414 E. 59th St.

    When the conference resumes Friday, April 8, at International House, the first roundtable discussion will feature graduate student work on hip-hop culture from 10 to 11:30 a.m. A second roundtable from 12:30 to 2 p.m. will cover the topic “Hip-Hop Archive,” followed by “Progressive Women’s Caucus” from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m.

    Sessions will then move to Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., where an opening plenary panel titled “From Blues to Hip-Hop: Rethinking Black Women’s Sexuality” continues the conference from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Another plenary session, “Feminism and Hip-Hop,” will be held from 7 to 9 p.m.

    Picking up on Saturday, April 9, the conference will continue with four roundtable discussions in Mandel Hall: “Media Representations of Women in Hip-Hop” from 8:30 to 10:45 a.m.; “Sexuality and Agency in Hip-Hop” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; “Masculinity, Heterosexism and Hip-Hop” from 2 to 3:30 p.m.; and “Feminism, Politics and Hip-Hop on the Ground” from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

    The conference will then return to International House for a closing roll call, open mic performances and featured artist performances by Jessica Care Moore, Rokafella and other artists from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Registration for the open mic performances will be taken at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 9, in Mandel Hall at the conference registration table.

    A detailed conference schedule is available at http://csrpc.uchicago.edu. For additional information call (773) 702-8063 or e-mail csrpc@uchicago.edu. People with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the center in advance for accommodations.

    The “Feminism and Hip-Hop” conference is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly. The University’s Arts Planning Council also supported the conference through one of its UChicagoArts grants.

    The Andrew and Gail Brown Fund for Undergraduate Initiatives, the Center for Gender Studies, the Committee on Cinema & Media Studies, the Department of Music, the International House Global Voices Program, the Office of Minority Student Affairs, the Organization of Black Students, and University Theater provided additional conference funding.