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Blackness in the absence of blackness: white appropriations of Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in Newcastle upon Tyne - explaining a cultural shift

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posted on 20.05.2011, 08:19 by Andrew Laidlaw
In this study I am concerned to discover how and why local youth in Newcastle upon Tyne are appropriating black culture, in the absence of a local black population to act as a reference guide. In doing so, I provide a new approach to the analysis and interpretation of white identity in a globalised world. Central to this approach is the focus on new ethnicities where the local is fused with the global in order to create identities free of the radical underpinning of whiteness and Englishness. Thus, I argue, these identities are truly hybrid in nature, and can neither be labelled white, or black, as they are in equal parts influenced by Geordie and African-American cultures. I highlight this further by showing that this syncretisation and blending of cultures has been occurring in the North East of England for over forty years. The study is divided into two parts. The first begins with a substantive literature review of critical reflections on white appropriations. I then define hip-hop and rap, trace their origins, and beyond that analyse their antecedents. I also take a critical look at my location of study in terms of its social deprivation and struggle with post-industrialism, and introduce the techniques behind my fieldwork. In the second part I present an extended ethnography. During the course of four separate fieldwork chapters, I consider varying aspects behind these white appropriations, in terms of local sensibilities and cultural affiliations, cultural isolation and long distance black bonding, the denial of race and the need for authenticity, in the context of this specific urban setting. The thesis concludes with a summary of the information gleaned from my fieldwork.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Andrew Laidlaw

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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