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CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation (Le Conseil International pour Hip Hop et Recherche / The International Council for Hip Hop Studies)

Project description

Global study investigates spread of hip hop

Hip hop started in the 1970s as a popular music developed by inner-city African Americans in New York City. Even though it's a highly localised African American music, it has translated easily to far-flung communities and contexts around the globe. The question is why. The EU-funded CIPHER project will investigate. It will conduct the world’s first study of hip hop music and culture. As a knowledge mapping project, CIPHER will crowdsource expressions of hip hop’s local knowledge over the internet and then send researchers around the world to follow up on those expressions, working with local artists and fans. The CIPHER Advisory Board is global, with academics specialised in hip hop from the US and around Africa, Asia and Europe.


CIPHER will launch the global research initiative, Hip Hop Interpellation, pilot a new semantic digital/ethnographic web methodology, and codify the emergent discipline of global hip hop studies. It addresses the central question: why has this highly localized and authenticizing African American music translated so easily to far-flung communities and contexts around the globe? Through this specific question the project attempts to understand the foundational and broadly transferable question: how are globalization and localization related? To answer these questions CIPHER posits the Hip Hop Interpellation thesis, that hip hop spreads not as a copy of an African American original, but, through its performance of knowledge, emerges as an always already constituent part of local knowledge and practice. The theorization thus moves beyond the “hailing practices” described by Althusser’s theory of interpellation—the discursive webs that coerce ideological incorporation—to describing an interpolation that locates other histories within and through hip hop’s performed knowledges.

CIPHER’s semantic web methodology tests this thesis, tracking how hip hop memes—slogans, anthems, and icons—are simultaneously produced by people and produce people. This research clears the conceptual impasse of structural “cultural imperialism” vs. agentic “cultural appropriation” debates and instrumentalizes the methodological distance between ethnographic specificity and big data generality. It does so by creating a feedback loop between digital humanities methods (crowd sourcing, semantic tagging, computational stylometry) and ethnographic fieldwork techniques (interviews, musical analysis, participant observation). The result will be an iterative map of Hip Hop Interpellation/Interpolation created by stakeholders that is transformational of our understanding of culture and/as cultural production and transferable to pressing questions about globalization and l’exception culturelle.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 990 526,25
Western road
T12 YN60 Cork

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Ireland Southern South-East
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)