Center for African American Studies
2018 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellow
Dr. Henson received a Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship for his project titled “Race, Gender, and Bahian Hip-Hop Cultures.” He used the funds for fieldwork in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Examining the “diaspora from below” Henson looks at how Bahian hip-hop cultures are created by people in everyday acts, particularly through music and popular culture.
His research raises questions such as: how can we think about culture as a site of struggle/contestation? How does doing this impact how we see culture-making through the diaspora? Whose voices are marginalized in the African diaspora? These lines of inquiry allow us to see how diasporic movements create their own inequalities and stratifications.
Dr. Henson’s research was done in Salvador, Brazil (known as, “mini Africa” or “Black Rome”) among hip-hop groups whose work highlight African origin themes, cultural products, images, religious practices, etc. Their work questions the romantic notion of the black diaspora that is often perpetuated as their videos take place in favelas and suburbios on the periphery of cities), places that are often excluded from pop culture focus. This brings attention to the racial (and thus, classed) geographies of the city, and the lack of political and economic protections to many black Brazilians. By emphasizing the cultural production in these spaces, this work also problematizes and resists how favela residents are “otherized” by police forces and wealthier Brazilians, and imagines different ways that favela residents can be in relation to each other.