A provocative meditation on race, Claudia Rankine's long-awaited follow up to her groundbreaking book Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.
Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society.
The author interviewed ten hip-hop graffiti writers of various race, class, and gender by audiotape and reviewed them until patterns emerged as themes, mainly issues concerning public space and community. She continued her relationship with the participants over a five-year period to observe the diversity and transformation of individuals within graffiti culture.
The study begins with a literature review from Web resources, books, and subculture magazines on graffiti in order to define The Structure of Traditional Hip-Hop Graffiti Culture. This chapter lays the basic foundation familiar to all writers and points to the main issues in order to analyze how individual writers conform to or deviate from the standard subculture. The author addresses the complex issues which are layered behind a residue of illegally painted signatures, characters, and text. There is a need for the voices of young people to be heard, especially those who have found artistic integrity, and awareness of civic and political issues on their own terms. Youth are in an ongoing struggle to construct personal identities and communities that they want to live in. Hip-hop graffiti is only one example where they have created a space, within a peer-run environment, to respect and encourage their political powers, ideas, and skills. The book asks whether an understanding of how adolescents learn outside of school can generate alternative sites for curriculum theorizing.