CRITICAL HIP-HOP CINEMA: RACIAL LOGICS AND ETHNOGRAPHIC CIPHAS IN DELHI
In this essay, I discuss how a group of young Somali men and I produced a film about the racism experienced by African students, entrepreneurs, and refugees residing in Delhi, India. The collaborative film project emerged out of field work I conducted in Delhi, India, from 2012-2014 on the city’s emergent hip-hop scene. As I spent time with rappers, dancers, and graffiti artists in the scene, it became evident that their interest in audio-visual production and circulation of their creative practices offered a platform for collaborative ethnographic projects to take shape. I use the term critical hip-hop cinema to theorize the process that emerged out of my relationship with this particular crew of aspiring rappers from Somalia which culminated in the making of the film Cry Out Loud. This process, as I narrate below, remixed Jean Rouch’s ideal of a shared ethnography using the improvisational, aesthetic, and epistemological practices of hip-hop. It also placed, front and center, the ways in which hip-hop continues to provide a means for young people across the world to articulate their experiences and connect them to larger social processes. The making of Cry Out Loud shows that ethnographic engagement, when infused with popular cultural sensibilities, can create collaborations that offer a novel look at how a political economy of difference related to a particular place but linked to many others is imagined, produced, and contested.
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