Who’s a Terrorist? Global hip-hop, Palestinian nationalism, personalized (my)space

Curator's Note

The Palestinian rap group, DAM, has successfully navigated the global mediascape in order to both address local Palestinian struggles and engage an increasingly transnational diasporic and cosmopolitan consumer base. They are simultaneously placed and placeless. Their Myspace page offers selected music and videos (also distributed through Youtube), information on their international and local touring schedule, and boasts 12,971 friends. Their website offers lyrics translated into English for their latest album, and directs you to Amazon.com to acquire their latest CD, which can also be purchased through PayPal from the site itself. Their highly politicized lyrics speak directly to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective, as well as addressing other global concerns such as women’s rights. Their song, “Who’s A Terrorist?”, was released over the internet in 2001 and garnered over 1 million downloads to date.

In this interview between the group and a Dutch journalist (in which English and French are the languages of subaltern articulation and global translation), DAM speaks back to Western homogenizing practices that lob all Arabs and Muslims together and critiques the cultural mapping of Western Hip Hop and Islam as antithetical practices. In so doing, the group takes on multiple identities: part activists, part agitators, part educators. They also address questions of glocalization and hybridity, stressing how hip hop as a global/Western genre has been adapted to local cultural values and goals and fused with Palestinian cultural influences.

Let me be clear: I heart DAM, so this next part is painful for me to say, but I am concerned with the ways their glocalization practices are often accompanied by appropriation and reification of blackness as an essential marker of difference and resistance. DAM is not alone in doing this. Performers ranging from MIA and MC Panjabi to Mummy D and Kick the Can Crew often borrow the iconography of commercial black popular culture to articulate political and social rebellion, outsider status, and struggle. I don’t know what quite to make of this. Is it a form of global minstrelsy with the signification of incompetence now replaced with coolness? Can hip hop be a global musical genre that challenges existing power hierarchies without relegating blackness to the universal symbol for “otherness”?

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