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Professor J. Griffith Rollefson: Foreigner In My Own Country”:

Networking “Gems” of Global Hip Hop Knowledge with the ERC CIPHER Team

Speaker: J. Griffith Rollefson, Professor of Music, UCC School of Film, Music and Theatre
Respondent: Dr. Carlos Garrido Castellano, UCC SPLAS

Thursday, 4 May @4pm in The Granary Theatre (Dyke Parade)
an open discussion and wine reception will follow the lecture

In August 2019 the ERC CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation Team at UCC, began laying the groundwork for a first-of-its-kind global networking and mapping of hip hop knowledge flows. By conducting ethnographic research in collaboration with artists, hip hop communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders around the world, the team identifies and examines local “gems of knowledge” in nuanced ethnographic and contextual detail and then networks these gems via thematic and archetypal interrelations—from “ubuntu” and “third eye” to “each one teach one” and “knowledge of self.”  This “CIPHER Method” suggests that it is the shared but ever-changing knowledge base of these diverse, but conceptually interrelated “gems” that connects and animates the diverse communities that comprise the Global Hip Hop Nation (Alim 2006).

In this presentation, drawn from a forthcoming article in the journal Ethnomusicology, I elaborate the intertextual methodology by elaborating my working definitions of “gems” (the things themselves), “gem tags” (the conceptual themes), and “gem networks” (the interrelations and heatmaps that emerge between gems and gem tags) as I prepare for the cultural data analytics phase of the CIPHER project.  To do so, I focus on the gem of anticolonial critique, “foreigner in my own country,” that I track from Ireland’s Denise Chaila, to Germany’s Advanced Chemistry, and Italy’s Sangue Misto, before looking at a potential source—Fanon’s 1956 “Letter to the Resident Minister” published in his collection, Toward the African Revolution (1964).  In elaborating this method, I use examples from my fieldwork in Ireland, Italy, the USA, Japan, Thailand, Mozambique, and beyond, to track some of these interconnected knowledges, archetypes, and mythemes—these “gems”—looking to see how hip hop calls out to and resonates with communities around the world.  Using a theory of “hip hop interpellation” and “sociogenesis” derived from Louis Althusser and Frantz Fanon, I show how these gems resonate with people in these cultures because they communicate a similar “identity of passions” (Ellison, Gilroy, Lipsitz) that speak to postcolonial “structures of feeling” (Williams).  In short, following Pennycook and Mitchell (2009), I look to show how these people and their storytelling traditions were already hip hop and, more broadly, to model how culture works.

J. Griffith Rollefson is Professor of Music at University College Cork, National University of Ireland.  He has served on the faculties of music at the University of Cambridge and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as UC Chancellor’s Public Scholar.  Rollefson is Principle Investigator of the ERC research initiative CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation, which is developing new community-engaged digital/ethnographic methods to map hip hop knowledge flows on six continents (2019-2024).  He is founding co-editor (with University of Cape Town’s Adam Haupt) of the journal Global Hip Hop Studies.  His first book, Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality (University of Chicago Press, 2017), won the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 2019 Ruth Stone Book Award and his new book, Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age, about Jay-Z, Kanye, Trump and the end of capitalism was published by University of Michigan Press in 2021.  For more information on Griff’s work, please visit and


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Institiúid na nDaonnachtaí Feasta

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