African 220: HipHop, Youth Culture, and Politics in Senegal

Instructor: Dr. Damon Sajnani

3 credits

Course Website:

“Soldier” by All Right featuring

Course Description:

This course explores how HipHop, a quintessential manifestation of African American culture, is adopted and adapted by African youth to fight for social justice and democracy in their local contexts, while at the same time constructing a diasporic African sensibility and “cultural citizenship” that transcends boarders and oceans. Beginning with the history, culture, and politics of HipHop in the U.S., we compare and contrast HipHop’s development in Africa with specific attention to Senegal. Students will develop a familiarity with youth culture and politics in Senegal and study the ongoing process of cross-cultural flows and hybridity.

A decade after HipHop’s fabled 1970s origins in the Bronx, New York, the culture began to take hold in South Africa and Senegal. Several decades later, HipHop has become a major cultural force across the African continent. While scholars and journalists commonly lament the decline of overtly political rap in the U.S., African HipHop—from South Africa to Tunisia, and Kenya to Senegal—is associated with political protest, democratic movements, and the toppling of regimes. This course explores the history, politics, and political economy of HipHop in Africa with particular attention to its Wolof language variant in Senegal. We will engage debates concerning globalization and democracy, international political economy, culture industries, and transnational cultural studies.

FIG Description

This course is the primary seminar for the First Year Interest Group (FIG) entitled “HipHop Abroad: Youth Culture, Politics, and Language in Africa.” This FIG introduces students to the study of contemporary Africa through a focus on Senegalese HipHop, youth culture, and language. It is of particular interest to students interested in international development, democracy and social justice, and those interested in learning about other cultures. Students who enroll in this course will simultaneously take “African 277: Africa: An Introductory Survey” and “African 391: First Semester-A Language of West Africa: Wolof.” African 277 offers a macroscopic survey to the history, cultures, and politics of Africa. This course helps to historically and geographically contextualize African 220. African 391 provides a language component that enriches students’ engagement and appreciation of the materials covered in African 220 and delivers skills useful for future travel, study, and/or work in West Africa.

This FIG is suited to students interested in international studies and issues of development, democracy, globalization and social justice. It is also geared to those who enjoy learning about overseas cultures, especially those interested in doing research or volunteer work in Africa. Each of the three courses in this FIG may satisfy undergraduate degree requirements. Additionally, this FIG provides students with 12 credits towards the 15 credits needed for the certificate in African Studies.

For more FIG information and full schedule, click here.



FIG students and panelists at Community Control Over Police Symposium