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Hip-Hop on the Ruhr: Identities, Economies, Politics

Posted: February 20th, 2010 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

2-3 July 2010, Dortmund, Germany

For one whole year, the Ruhr Area will be European Capital of Culture. The extensive program in more than 50 cities will explore many different cultural phenomena. A key event located between scholarship and performance, the conference on “Hip-Hop on the Ruhr: Identities – Economies – Politics” will examine the cultural and economic significance of hip-hop in the Ruhr Area in an international context.

The gap between the practice of hip-hop and the academic discourse has narrowed in recent years as numerous conferences and scholarly publications have dealt with this cultural phenomenon both descriptively and analytically (e.g. Rose 1994, Forman 2004, Bock/Meier/Süß 2007). Especially the interrelation between the local and global has been a focus of research (e.g. Mitchell 2001, Androutsopoulos 2003). The relevance of hip-hop in the Ruhr Area, however, has thus far been largely ignored. Given the attractiveness and dynamic nature of the hip-hop scene in one of Europe’s largest metropolitan area, this is hardly comprehensible.

The structural change of the Ruhr Area is similar to many other former industrial centers in North America such as Detroit, Pittsburgh or Newark. This economic change simultaneously presents huge challenges and embraces opportunities for the region and its regional identity. The reaction to these challenges has been different in different post-industrial locations. In the case of the Ruhr, there been a decisive cultural turn in order to transform existing industrial structures. A former hub of the German and European coal and steel industry, this metropolitan region is rapidly transforming into a center of culture and culture industries.

The conference aims to understand hip-hop on the Ruhr as an important variation of this global cultural phenomenon from both cultural and economic perspectives. Deindustrialization thus provides a special framework for the interpretation of hip-hop culture. Hip-hop on the Ruhr draws on to the founding myth of American hip-hop whose origins are often traced back to the streets and blocks of the Bronx in the 1970s. However the music culture has a distinctive local quality which is specifically characterized by “[…] the proletarian love for the region one grew up in, the shadow of the headgear, the reddening of the horizon when the furnaces are being opened, Kronen beer and the BVB [soccer team]”, as Hannes Loh and Sascha Verlan put it in their key text 25 Jahre Hip-Hop in Deutschland (25 Years of Hip-Hop in Germany, 2006). Against this backdrop, the conference wants to explore how hip-hop deals with a declining industry and its quest for a post-industrial cultural identity: What kind of meaning-making processes take place? What is their connection to the economic context? What place-specific politics are at work?

We understand hip-hop as a part of the wider processes of economic and cultural appropriation characterizing the region. Hip-hop on the Ruhr oscillates between commerce and creativity and therefore constitutes an ‘alternative creative practice’, a new version of the counter culture. Local activists establish their own labels and develop their own distribution systems and marketing channels but nevertheless maintain their credibility within the hip-hop community. The organizers welcome academic and artistic/cultural contributions from a variety of disciplines and genres. The conference topic „Hip-Hop on the Ruhr“ refers to this specific region, but the organizers want to encourage submissions on hip-hop cultures in other regions and contexts outside of the Ruhr Area. The objective of the conference is to examine how these wider issues relate to or compare with the experiences and concepts with hip-hop on the Ruhr. This includes discussions of case studies and theoretical references, work on terminology as well as ideas for a theory of hip-hop in the Ruhr Area.


The principle sections of the conference include (but are not limited to): Identities: “Only Steel is Real.” The various aspects of Ruhr hip-hop will be debated with respect to the founding myths of hip-hop culture, namely the specific way of dealing with deindustrialization, the structural and cultural change on a local and global level, the different ethnic, gender and class identities, representations of as well as the interrelation between the local – the global – the transnational.

Economies: “POTTential.” The creative potential of hip-hop or hip-hop on the Ruhr (in German often referred to as “Ruhr Pott”) as an ‘alternative creative industry’ will be investigated, including the strategies of production, distribution and marketing, the apparent conflict between commercialization and credibility, the relationship between the media and economies.

Politics: “Each One Teach One.” This section will explore the ways hip-hop has found its way into public spaces and institutions, its potential in the field of education including the development of curricula (core and extra-curricular), youth community work, rap pedagogy, as well as cultural projects.

Places: “Hip-Hop is Everywhere.” This segment addresses how the conference topics of identities, economies, and politics are negotiated in a transnational context including the various local appropriation processes that take place in different spaces, cities, and regions.

Organizational Details

Please submit an extended summary of your presentation (app. 5,000 characters or an equivalent of 2 pages, 1.5 space, spaces included) as a Microsoft Word file by 1 April 2010 to the organizers (contact information see below). Proposals should indicate the sections (identities, economies, or politics) or suggest another category. Please submit one version with a cover page (incl. the author) and an anonymous version without a cover page. Presentations are supposed to last up to twenty minutes and can be held in German or in English.

The conference takes place on July 2nd, 2010. It continues on July 3rd with about selected aspects of hip-hop culture, such as beat production, DJing, or Breakdancing. The conference ends on July 3rd, 2010 within the wider framework of the Ruhr-wide Long Night of Youth Cultures showcasing performances by artists from Ruhr metropolitan area.


Sina Nitzsche, M. A.
TU Dortmund
Fakultät Kulturwissenschaften
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Emil-Figge-Str. 50, Raum 0.413
44221 Dortmund
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Jörg-Uwe Nieland
Universität Duisburg-Essen
NRW School of Governance
Institut für Politikwissenschaft
Lotharstr. 53 (Gebäude LS)
47057 Duisburg
Email: [email protected]

Conference Website:


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