Hiphop Studies at Stanford and Beyond

Hiphop studies is an interdisciplinary field of scholarly research into hiphop culture, including its traditional 5 elements of MCing, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti, and dropping science, as well as other artistic elements like fashion; film, tv, and theater; multi-genre writing across novels, theater, and web posts; and other expressive arts. It can be thought of as an extension of the 5th element of hiphop culture, “dropping science” or “dropping knowledge.” 

Hiphop Studies has been rooted at Stanford in the work of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, which has been helmed by hiphop scholars H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang and is now helmed by Dr. Adam Banks and A-Lan Holt. IDA has hosted such hiphop luminaries as Joan Morgan, who originated the term “hiphop feminism”; Wu-Tang Clan member GZA in partnership with hiphop educator Dr. Chris Emdin; and DJ scholar Lynnée Denise.

Hiphop studies is part of the curriculum and organization at other universities including archives at Harvard University, Cornell University, and Tulane University; records of hiphop courses exist there and at other universities including Mark Anthony Neal and 9th Wonder/Patrick Douhit at Duke, Michael Eric Dyson at Georgetown.

Hiphop research is regularly published in scholarly journals from across the humanities and social sciences, especially in education. Some recent special issues on hiphop include:

Hiphop studies scholars often write in the traditions of hiphop languaging and Black and other translingual languaging practices. Many hiphop scholarly texts use a blend of standard English and African American Vernacular English or what Samy Alim has called hiphop nation language. Hiphop studies is transnational and multilingual. Hiphop feminism, as defined by writers like Morgan, Treva Lindsey, Brittney Cooper, and Gwendolyn Pough, draws attention to women, girls, and queer people’s participation in and contributions to hiphop culture.

Peer Review and Peer Referees

What is peer review? Peer review is the process by which vetted peers (that is, other academics) review submissions for an academic journal. It is a community process that protects what knowledge is deemed valid by the academy, but it is also a gatekeeper that can keep out scholarship that critiques the assumptions (like whiteness, coloniality, etc.) of the academy.

Peer review is what makes academic journals different than the popular press outlets like magazines, newspapers, and blogs. While editors in the popular press edit for style and fact check for correctness, academic journals hold work to a higher standard, asking that research contributes something new to a field’s understanding of its subject.

Traditional peer review is “blind, “meaning that the reviewers do not know who wrote the article they are reviewing and the author does not know who reviewed them. Only the editor, who solicits the reviewers based on their knowledge of the area the article is about, knows who is who. Writers often have to make significant revisions; this process can take 1-2 years.

However, academics are beginning to experiment with open peer review. Open peer review is a developing practice that can mean multiple things. It might mean:

  • The author knows the identity of the reviewers and can follow up with them, but it is still a private process between the author, reviewers, and editors
  • The article is posted in a public forum where members of the public (or a vetted community) can comment directly on the draft

The open peer review movement is somewhat related to the open access movement, which rejects the fact that most academic articles are behind an expensive paywall where only people with university library memberships or $$ can read them. 

The Word is an open, peer-refereed journal. This means that the editorial board reads all submissions together and discusses them, then decides whether we’d like to publish it and how. See the Submissions page for more details on our editorial process.