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HIP-HOP AND CULTURAL CITIZENSHIP ON KENYA'S ‘SWAHILI COAST’

  • Andrew J. Eisenberg
Abstract

The Muslim-dominated ‘Swahili coast’ has always served as a conceptual as well as physical periphery for post-colonial Kenya. This article takes Kenyan youth music under the influence of global hip-hop as an ethnographic entry into the dynamics of identity and citizenship in this region. Kenyan youth music borrows from global hip-hop culture the idea that an artist must ‘represent the real’. The ways in which these regional artists construct their public personae thus provide rich data on ‘cultural citizenship’, in Aihwa Ong's (1996) sense of citizenship as subjectification. I focus here on youth music production in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa between 2004 and 2007. During this time, some local artists adopted a representational strategy that subtly reinscribed the symbolic violence to which members of the coast's Muslim-Swahili society have long been subjected. I examine the representational strategies that were adopted during this period by Mombasan artists who happened to be members of the Muslim-Swahili society (‘subjects of the Swahili coast’, as I name them), with an ethnographic eye and ear trained on what they say about the ways in which young subjects of the Swahili coast are objectified and subjectified as ‘Kenyan youth’ in the twenty-first century.

La côte swahilie à majorité musulmane a toujours servi de périphérie conceptuelle et physique pour le Kenya postcolonial. Cet article voit la musique de la jeunesse kenyane sous l'influence du hip-hop mondial comme une inscription ethnographique dans la dynamique d'identité et de citoyenneté dans cette région. La musique de la jeunesse kenyane emprunte à la culture hip-hop mondiale l'idée qu'un artiste doit « représenter le réel ». Les manières dont ces artistes régionaux construisent leur personnage public fournissent ainsi une richesse de données sur la « citoyenneté culturelle », dans le sens que donne Aihwa Ong (1996) à la citoyenneté en tant que subjectivation. L'auteur s'intéresse ici à la musique de la jeunesse produite dans la ville côtière de Mombasa entre 2004 et 2007. Pendant cette période, des artistes locaux ont adopté une stratégie représentationnelle qui a réinscrit avec subtilité la violence symbolique à laquelle sont soumis depuis longtemps les membres de la société swahilie musulmane. Il examine les stratégies représentationnelles adoptées au cours de cette période par les artistes de Mombasa qui se trouvaient être des membres de la société swahilie musulmane (appelés ici « sujets de la côte swahilie »), en portant un regard et une écoute ethnographiques sur ce qu'elles disent sur les manières dont les jeunes sujets de la côte swahilie sont objectivés et subjectivés en tant que « jeunesse kenyane » au vingt-et-unième siècle.

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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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