International Pragmatics Association
TRANSLOCAL STYLE COMMUNITIES: HIP HOP YOUTH AS
CULTURAL THEORISTS OF STYLE, LANGUAGE, AND
H. Samy Alim
Another fascinating thing I observed with the Tibetans on Saturday was the way the young males styled and characterized themselves. Some were wearing traditional robes over matching jeans and sneakers, while others wore styles associated with the youth music scene - nice sneakers, ear piercings, gelled hair, etc. This article by Samy Alim decodes and explores the worldwide hip-hop phenomenon through a linguistics perspective, which is really where I noticed the chosen style of the teens at the march. Some of the kids I overheard used slang, vernacular, vocal register, and sentence construction drawn from hip-hop culture. It was flawless.
Samy Alim sums up the article nicely in the abstract, "Highlighting youth agency, the article demonstrates that youth are engaging in the agentive act of theorizing the changes in the contemporary world as they attempt to locate themselves at the intersection of the local and the global." This is exactly what I saw, and it blew my mind a little to have my suspicions confirmed in such an intense way (I'm used to my suspicions being blown apart, not confirmed). I cannot express strongly enough how identified these teens were with the hip-hop culture, at the same time that they were marching and participating fully in a freedom rally for their longed for homeland. It is possible that some were there just because their friends were, or just because their parents made them go, but from what I saw there was sincerity in their participation.
It reminds me of the Shapaley phenomenon - listen to this song. Guess, without looking at the lyrics, what it's about. The way the music and the rhymes are constructed is very much in line with American hip-hop, and the association of this sound with particular lyrical content is undeniable. Then read the lyrics, and let me know what you think.