Towards a critical pedagogy of possibility: Hip hop and spoken word by Arab-Americans as cultural action for freedom
An American "ideology of miseducation" has led to pervasive misunderstandings about Arabs and Islam (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2006, p. 33) among the general public. This miseducation has fueled the Clash of Civilizations paradigm that has driven relations between America and the Arab and Muslim worlds. The false binary of "us versus them" sets millions of people in opposition to one another. This framing assumes homogeneity within these civilizations as it defines cultures as static constructs and overlooks their interconnected nature (Said, 2003), made evident by those who are both "us" and "them," such as Arab-Americans. To find a new way forward, the clashing civilizations worldview must be deconstructed and replaced with one that seeks greater understanding, one that seeks to humanize and coexist with the perceived "other" without the suppression of difference. Arab-Americans have a significant role to play in building bridges of critical understanding and are in need of social spaces in which to participate in the evolving American democracy. A burgeoning hip hop movement has organically emerged as a vehicle to empower Arab-Americans to counter misrepresented social constructions of Arabs, negotiate identity and construct their own narrative in community, and create new avenues and spaces for democratic participation. This study explores the critical pedagogy of possibility that is facilitated through the cultural production of hip hop and spoken word by Arab-Americans, given the socio-political context, as well as how hip hop and spoken word are contributing to internal dialogue and broadening public space. The study gathered data through written interviews with 29 Arab-American hip hop and spoken word artists, a survey of 386 Arab-Americans, and a document review. The results of the study include a discussion of the intersection of factors that gave rise to hip hop and spoken word within the Arab-American community, the transformative power of a critical pedagogy of possibility, and the ways hip hop and spoken word have facilitated the creation of an alternative space for Arab-American participation and democratic dialogue. The implications of the findings for American schools and universities are discussed, and recommendations for future research are provided.