“Direct” indexicality and re-scaling in the internationalisation of hip hop culture
In popular as well as in academic imagination hip hop culture is seen as something ‘travelling’ around the world, either as part of American cultural imperialism or as part of local counter cultures, or both. The glocal makeup of hip hop is often analysed as being indirectly indexed in indexical fields (Eckert 2008) through qualities and stances of authenticity (Westinen 2014), ethnicity (Simeziane 2010), race (Roth-Gordon 2009), modernity (Pennycook 2007) or knowledge (Johnson 2011). In this paper I discuss the more direct indexicality of hip hop culture in India: I analyse how actors make overt links to the internationalisation of hip hop. I consider two events, the Indo-German Hip Hop Project in which delegates of the German hip hop scene travelled to India to network, perform and host workshops, and the Del4Pol Jam, a charity event created by the Delhi hip hop scene for the injured Polish breaker B-Boy Cetowy. In these events internationalisation is overtly pronounced. To make these direct links meaningful actors seem to engage in semiotic re-scaling.
Blommaert (e.g. 2010) shows that in the contemporary globalised moment language practices orient to polycentric orders of indexicality. He also proposes that the notion of scales offers a way to think about these phenomena as simultaneously operating on hierarchically valued layers. Based on a linguistic ethnographic research among hip hop heads in Delhi (Singh, forthcoming), in this paper I discuss the complex ways in which actors re-scale symbols of the nation/the international and symbols of hip hop culture to make them meaningful messages in the internationalisation of hip hop. Although this re-scaling gives the illusion of directness, the actual indexicalisation is of course indirect. Meaning is constructed with qualities and stances that are ideologically informed by indexical fields of the informal vs. the formal, the real vs. the fake, the sustainable vs. the short-lived, among other binaries, which all also operate on various scales. I suggest that it is precisely a recognition of the scalar ideological baggage of indirect indexicalisation that allows for a critical study of the ostensibly direct indexicality of hip hop internationalisation.
Blommaert, Jan (2010) The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eckert, Penelope (2008) Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12(4): 453-476.
Johnson, Imani Kai (2011) B-Boying and battling in a global context: The discursive life of difference in Hip Hop dance. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 31: 173-195.
Pennycook, Alastair (2007) Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows. London: Routledge.
Roth-Gordon, Jennifer (2009) Conversational sampling, race trafficking, and the invocation of the gueto in Brazilian Hip Hop. In: H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim and Alastair Pennycook (eds.) Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities and the Politics of Language. New York: Routledge, pp. 63-77.
Simeziane, Sarah (2010) Roma rap and the Black Train: Minority voices in Hungarian hip hop. In: Marina Terkourafi (ed.) The Languages of Global Hip Hop. London: Continuum, pp. 96-119.
Singh, Jaspal Naveel (forthcoming) Transcultural Voices: Narrating Hip Hop Culture in Complex Delhi. Unpublished PhD thesis. Cardiff University.
Westinen, Elina (2014) The Discursive Construction of Authenticity: Resources, Scales and Polycentricity in Finnish Hip Hop Culture. Unpublished PhD dissertation. University of Jyväskylä.
Jaspal Naveel Singh
Centre for Language and Communication Research
Cardiff, CF14 3EU
Wales, United Kingdom