9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Images of Self, Strangers and Enemies Building II, C4.07

"A Black Voice": Rap Music and the Construction of Identity among Israeli-Ethiopian Adolescents

This paper studies the interconnections between the consumption of popular music and identity formation among Israeli-Ethiopian teenagers.
A salient phenomenon, extensively documented in academic and journalistic writing in Israel, is that of Israeli-Ethiopian teenagers listening to rap music, wearing hip-hop outfits and sometimes themselves writing and performing rap songs.

The central claim of this paper is that, contrary to the common interpretation, these are not necessarily signs of "identity crisis", neither catalysts of juvenile delinquency or anti-white racism. Drawing on such diverse theoretical frameworks as cultural fields and cultural capital (Bourdieu) popular music and identity construction (e.g. Bennet), black/African Diaspora (e.g. Gilroy, Hall) and Race and Racialization, I will try to show how Israeli-Ethiopian youths, facing gloomy economic and social realities in their communities, utilize rap music and hip-hop culture as means of conceptualizing their experiences as a "black" minority in a "white" society, breaking their seclusion and marginalization in Israeli Society through imagined bonds with the global African Diaspora and developing a self confident, relevant and assertive identity to assist them with the challenges of contemporary Israeli society.

The findings presented in this paper are based on semi structured in-depth interviews conducted with 25 Israeli youths of Ethiopian descent, aged 16-18, between February and July 2007.