Spectacular Vernaculars

Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism

By Russell A. Potter

Subjects: American Culture
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791426265, 208 pages, August 1995
Hardcover : 9780791426258, 208 pages, September 1995

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Table of contents


Introduction--Coming to Terms: Rap Music as Radical Postmodernism

1. Gettin' Present as an Art: A Signifyin(g) Hipstory of Hip-hop

2. Postmodernity and the Hip-hop Vernacular

3. The Pulse of the Rhyme Flow: Hip-hop Signifyin(g) and the Politics of Reception

4. History--Spectacle--Resistance

5. "Are You Afraid of the Mix of Black and White?" Hip-hop and the Spectacular Politics of Race


Selected Bibliography


Viewing hip-hop as the postmodern successor to African American culture's Jazz modernism, this book examines hip-hop music's role in the history of the African-American experience.


Spectacular Vernaculars examines hip-hop's cultural rebellion in terms of its specific implications for postmodern theory and practice, using the politics of reception as its primary rhetorical ground. Hip-hop culture in general, and rap music in particular, present model sites for such an inquiry, since they enact both postmodern modes of production—the appropriation of tropes, technologies, and material culture—and a potential means of resistance to the commodification of cultural forms under late capitalism. By paying specific attention to the historical and cultural context of hip-hop as a black artform and locating its practice of resistance in terms of a postmodernist reading of consumer culture, this book offers a complex reading of hip-hop as a postmodern practice, with implications both for theories of postmodernism and cultural studies as a whole.

Russell A. Potter is Assistant Professor of English at Colby College. He hosts a weekly radio program, Roots-n-Rap, in Waterville, Maine.