Pedagogies of the “Formerly” Oppressed Hip Hop & Critical Education in South African Social Justice Struggles


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




Artistic and cultural production thrived under South Africa’s repressive apartheid regime despite, and to some extent because of, its draconian censorship measures. For decades before and during apartheid, artists functioned as activists, freedom fighters and whistleblowers. As such, they drew inspiration for their resistance from each other, but also from a constant dialogue with the wider African diaspora and its various civil/human rights movements around the world. This awareness of the global Black struggle informed anti-apartheid and anti-state art, and it also offered necessary alternatives to the kind of education that was available through state controlled institutions of learning and knowledge production. Hip Hop has emerged as one such alternative and today, more than ever before, it represents a major venue of transnational exchange as it remains an unparalleled cultural force in its appeal and influence on youth everywhere. In South Africa, Hip Hop is at once a host for Americanisms and a vehicle for Africanisms that sometimes sit in tension with one another and at other times they coalesce radically. Pedagogies of the “Formerly” Oppressed explores how Hip Hop artist-activists in Cape Town express their perspective on systemic injustice through various pedagogic approaches that amount to politicizing the very process of learning. While resistance during the apartheid era was primarily in reaction to the state, the Hip Hop artists featured in this dissertation recognize the challenge of simultaneously holding the post-94 governments accountable as well as the individual within society. As far as the individual is concerned, Hip Hop practitioners call on personal responsibility and forms of resistance in ways that very much align with Freirian conscientization principles.