Hip-hop cultures and political agency in Brazil and South Africa

Pieterse, E. (2010). Hip‐hop cultures and political agency in Brazil and South Africa. Social Dynamics, 36(2), 428–447. doi:10.1080/02533952.2010.487998

Cape Town
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
Contributing to Urban Debates in South Africa
DOI Title
Hip‐hop cultures and political agency in Brazil and South Africa
Social Dynamics
0253-3952 1940-7874
Edgar Pieterse
Published year
Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
urban youth cultures urban exclusion/inclusion hip-hop affective registers insurgent citizenship



It is assumed in the article that the contemporary urban condition is marked by an increased pluralistic intensity in cities. Coupled to this shift in the nature of the urban context, one can also observe a proliferation of sites of political engagement and agency, some of which are formally tied to the various institutional forums of the state, and many that are defined by their insistence to stand apart from the state, asserting autonomy and clamouring for a self‐defined terms of recognition and agency. This article draws attention to the significance of one category of urban actors – hip‐hoppers – that can be said to occupy a ‘marginal’ location in relation to the state, but one uniquely relevant to the marginalised existence of most poor black youth in cities of the global South, particularly Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. The article demonstrates that hip‐hop cultures offer a powerful framework of interpretation and response for poor black youth who are systemically caught at the receiving end of extremely violent and exploitative urban forces. The basis of hip‐hop's power is its complex aesthetical sensibility that fuses affective registers, such as rage, passion, lust, critique, pleasure and desire, which, in turn, translates into political identities, and sometimes agency (i.e. positionality), for its participants. In the final instance, the article tries to link conclusions about the potential of hip‐hop cultural politics to larger themes in urban studies, such as participation, public space, citizenship and security.

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