February 18, 2009

Alumna studies hip-hop in Bologna

Danielle Goonan ’07 studied hip-hop in Bologna on a Fulbright scholarship.
Fulbright scholar Danielle Goonan ’07 gave a lecture concerning her research on hip-hop in Bologna on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The lecture, entitled “The ReMix: Immigrant Experiences and the Question of Integration within Hip-Hop,” was originally scheduled for Denny 303, but a larger than expected turnout resulted in its relocation to Denny 317. In it, Goonan spoke about the adaptation of American hip-hop culture by North African immigrants in Italy, and how that culture could be used to help integrate this group into Italian society.

“The face of Italy is changing, becoming more diverse” Goonan said, citing Italy’s negative birthrate and explaining that if Italy does not integrate its immigrant population well, problems will arise.

Her presentation addressed aspects of hip-hop that are common from one culture to another, such as the idea of rebellion, societal critique, and a perception of American pop culture as “cool.” However, the Italian hip-hop culture differed. Women were less involved than in America, and identifying as black played a large role in hip-hop culture. Goonan explained that ‘black’ in that case encompassed not only North and South Africans, but also Southern Italians. “Anyone below Rome,” she explained.

She also spoke about her two case studies—a second-generation hip-hop artist named Amir Issa, and a first-generation immigrant from Morocco named LamaIslam, or Issam. Issa, a natural-born Italian citizen, expressed frustration at being placed under suspicion simply due to his skin tone, even though he speaks no Arabic. His lyrics address this, as well as growing up poor and mostly without a father, who spent a great deal of Issa’s childhood in jail for selling illegal substances.

LamaIslam came to Italy when he was ten from Morocco, and developed an interest in hip-hop after that point. His lyrics are in alternately Arabic and Italian, though mostly Italian.

Goonan also recounted that he was proud to be the first Moroccan to open a store on the Via Independanza—“the equivalent of Fifth Avenue.”

Goonan, an American Studies major and a member of POSSE while she was at Dickinson, participated in the MOSAIC Patagonia program and studied abroad in Bologna her junior year. She sought out the local hip-hop music scene, and remembered a specific experience about it. A friend of hers, outside a hip-hop club told her that he saw her as Italian, rather than American.

“He, as a young Muslim man, could in no way have an American friend, but he loved American hip-hop culture,” she explained. “And I went back to figure out why.” Figuring out why led her to hours of interviews, volunteer positions at three different Italian nonprofits and “some bad situations,” Goonan admitted. She explained that it was “the first time I’d ever felt that being a woman hindered me,” and related a story of a interviewee who began to ask if she had a boyfriend, and to ask for her phone number.

Despite any inconveniences, when asked by an audience member of the rigorous Fulbright application process was worth it, Goonan responded “Absolutely.”