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(Editor's Note: Bucknell's Web site is featuring some of the University's newest teacher-scholars. They are among the new faculty members highlighted in the Fall 2007 edition of Bucknell World.)

New! James Peterson video

Self-described “hip hop scholar” James Peterson made a name for himself this summer as someone who could talk on a moment’s notice about African-American culture and its connection to current affairs.

In just the past few months, he has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News talking about everything from the NAACP’s effort to “bury” a racial epithet to the fallout from Don Imus’ remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

“I feel that hip hop culture is a lens through which we can really analyze current events and politics in our society,” says Peterson, an assistant professor of English.

Growing up in Newark, N.J.
Peterson’s interest in hip hop culture is informed by his experiences growing up in Newark, N.J., and as an undergraduate at Duke University, where he studied African-American literature and linguistics. At North Carolina State University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his master’s and
Ph.D., respectively, he studied with scholars who were starting to examine the socio-linguistic connections in hip hop music and culture.

“Through socio-linguistics and studying how people speak,” Peterson says, “I started to see the relationship between rap music and hip hop culture and African-American culture and African-American literature and oral expression.

“African-American studies must include the study of rap,” he adds. “For it to ignore it or look down its nose at it is to ignore the history of jazz, the history of blues, and all the ways in which African-American culture has been brought into the academy. Hip hop teaches the history of the inner city. It teaches the economics of post-industrialism. It emerges from an African-American tradition.”

Hip Hop Scholars
Peterson is the founder of Hip Hop Scholars, an association of academics “dedicated to researching and developing the cultural and educational potential of hip hop, urban, and youth cultures.”

His hope is that the organization will help him develop a “brand” around which he can build his research and raise money for scholarships for students from inner-city neighborhoods.

Peterson’s media appearances have helped make many more people aware of his work and of Bucknell. “My mission as a scholar is not to have just the 12 smartest African-American studies scholars appreciate my work. Don’t get me wrong; I want them to appreciate my work, too. But if a kid in Newark, N.J., sees me on CNN or sees me on O’Reilly and says, ‘Wow, look at that young guy, a black professor at Bucknell, and he studies hip hop.’ If I inspire one kid to say, ‘Hey, I want to be a professor,’ because he saw me on TV, then my life’s work is well on its way.”

Meet other new Bucknell faculty:

Professors eye green technologies
Professors explore language, culture

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Nov. 7, 2007