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Wounded Healing: Forming a Storytelling Community in Hip-Hop Lit

by Marc Lamont Hill - 2009

Background/Context: Over the past 5 years, there has been a growing body of scholarship that examines the intersections of hip-hop culture and classroom pedagogy. Although recent scholarship has persuasively demonstrated the classroom potential of hip-hop texts for promoting student engagement, scaffolding sanctioned forms of knowledge, and nurturing critical consciousness and activism, little work has been done to unpack the complex relations of power that emerge in such classrooms. In particular, we know very little about the ways in which students and teachers are (re)positioned within classrooms that engage in hip-hop-centered pedagogy. This article contributes to the current literature in hip-hop based education, culturally relevant pedagogy, and critical pedagogy by examining the some of the issues and tensions that emerge when teachers engage in hip-hop-centered classroom pedagogy.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study details how the articulation of personal narratives within Hip-Hop Lit, a hip-hop-centered high school English literature course, produced a practice of “wounded healing,” in which people bearing the scars of suffering shared their stories in ways that provided a form of release and relief for themselves and others. This article highlights the complex relationships that students forged with the course’s hip-hop texts, many of which resonated with their own lived experiences. I then illustrate how these relationships enabled the classroom discussions and interactions from which the practices of wounded healing emerged. Finally, I highlight some of the dilemmas and tensions that emerged as my coteacher and I attempted to privilege the stories and experiences of our students and ourselves within the classroom.

Setting: Data for this study were collected at “Howard High School,” a small comprehensive urban high school in the northeastern United States.

Research Design: Data for this 1-year ethnography were collected using field notes, formal and informal interviews, document analysis, and video data.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This article shows how Hip-Hop Lit operated as a space in which members offered and responded to various types of individual and group narratives through the practice of “wounded healing.” Through this practice, students were able to recognize the commonality of their experiences, challenge various ideologies, and produce new knowledge. In doing this, the members of the class forged a cohesive community replete with multiple roles and relations of power. This article points to the need for critically interrogating the ostensible virtues of hip-hop-based education, as well as critical and culturally relevant pedagogies more broadly. This article also underscores the need for more ethnographic research that unpacks the complexities, contours, and contradictions of curricula, and pedagogy that responds to the lived experiences of students.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 1, 2009, p. 248-293
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15215, Date Accessed: 7/23/2021 11:03:39 AM

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About the Author
  • Marc Lamont Hill
    Temple University
    E-mail Author
    MARC LAMONT HILL is assistant professor of urban education and American studies at Temple University. His research interests include youth cultural studies, hip-hop studies, public and counterpublic pedagogy, and neoliberalism. He is the editor (with Lalitha Vasudevan) of Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility (Peter Lang, 2007).
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