University of Wisconsin-Madison ‘Problem of Whiteness’ and ‘Social Justice and Hip-Hop’ Courses Spark Debate

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0125 -- Pictured: (l-r) Chuck D and Flavor Flav of musical guest Public Enemy perform with Tariq 'Black Thought' Trotter of The Roots on September 16, 2014 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images).
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison known for his  “Problem of Whiteness” course is facing criticism again for his new course on the relationship between social justice and hip-hop.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Damon Sajnani, who is best known for his course called “The Problem of Whiteness,” has introduced a new course this semester called “Global HipHop and Social Justice.”

When Sajnani introduced “The Problem of Whiteness” course, it sparked a backlash around Wisconsin. “Race is an ideological structure created for the purpose of global European domination,” Sajnani wrote in a piece on race. “It is designed to be fixed and permanent; to reify the contingent relations of colonial subjugation into immutable identities.”

According to the new course description, students will learn about more than just hip-hop. The course will also cover topics such as colonialism and imperialism.

“Our discussions will develop familiarity with important concepts in Black studies and social theory such as race and colonialism, imperialism and hegemony, structure and agency, identity and strategic essentialism,” the course description reads.

“Can HipHop culture help make the world more just? If so, what theory and praxis best advance this aim? These are the questions that drive this conceptual course,” the course syllabus poses.

Chris Rochester, of the MacIver Institute, condemned the course, arguing that it is reflective of the general decline in the quality of American academic standards. Rochester suggests that although Sajnani deserves the academic freedom to teach the course, it is clear that the course provides little value.

“The idea that a taxpayer funded university is offering a far-left course about hip hop and social justice at a time when many see our academic standards in decline is a glaring example of wasted money and wasted time,” Rochester said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin-Madison defended Sajnani’s new course. The course will help students explore “the roots of musical movements around the world,” she said.

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