Appropriation of Language

Oct 28, 2018 | 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM | Main Loft

Alexander Shvarts, Ph.D Humber College

Consumerism Commodifies Rebellious Music Countercultures

Various musical genres originated as acts of rebellion but were then turned into mass-marketed commodities by consumer culture in order to broaden their appeal to a mass audience and make them part of the mainstream. Consumerism is effective in taming expressions of freedom and individualism, including acts of dissent and rebellion, which were expressed in various musical genres.  They get turned simply into means of making money. Consumerism acts as a social control mechanism that prevents countercultures from disrupting the social order.  It does that by transforming deviations from mainstream culture into means of making money and by enticing rebels to become entrepreneurs.  The way it accomplishes this is illustrated by the musical genres, heavy metal, punk rock, reggae, and rap.  Heavy metal, punk rock, reggae and rap all started off as subcultures that symbolized rebellion against authority, but they all later became forms of submission when they turned into commodities.

Tyler Bunzey, MA University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Fight the Power?: The Axis of Praxis in Hip-Hop Diplomacy

Hip-hop has historically been construed as an art that is able to capture the voice of those subjugated or ignored by the state. As a result, it is often construed as antagonistic to the hegemonic power, whether through iconic anthems like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” or through antagonisms between hip-hop and the state like 2 Live Crew’s obscenity trial or Bill Clinton’s infamous attempt to publicly shame Sistah Souljah. However, artists rarely follow this false dichotomy. Hip-hop exists within an ambiguous representational prism, one that can refract resistant practices to oppressive structures and or socially narcotic practices that uphold those same oppressive structures. Next Level, a hip-hop diplomacy program run by the U.S. State Department, inhabits a similar ambiguous space. Next Level is cultural diplomacy program within the heritage of the jazz diplomacy programs of the 50s and 60s that sends U.S. hip-hop artists to various countries in order to “promote understanding and conflict resolution” and “support the professional development of [local] artists” (

This type of diplomacy is part of a neoliberal turn toward Joseph Nye’s “soft power”—a form of diplomacy that privileges socio-cultural person-to-person diplomacy over top-down state-to-state diplomacy—to maintain cultural hegemony within the complex processes of globalization. While participation in such a program seems theoretically untenable for most artists who are supposed to be in opposition to the state, many participating artists express that the program empowers them to create community with international artists and marginalized populations around the globe. Paying particular attention to discourses of complicity surrounding this program, this paper will analyze the boundaries of political theory and in turn suggest that the praxis of the participants as artists and State Department employees complicates notions of authenticity, activism, and hip-hop’s anti-statist position.

Sara Almalla California State University, Northridge

Signing Their Path to Acceptance: Analysis of a Wells Fargo commercial

Wells Fargo’s newest commercial, “Learning Sign Language” is a hit because it directly addresses recent societal developments that include the acceptance of the LGBT+ community. This study uses Jungian shadow theory to analyze the ways in which the techniques identified by advertising designer Jay Chiat, writer Anne McClintock, and marketing consultant Clotaire Rapaille are utilized in the Wells Fargo commercial “Learning Sign Language.” The purpose of this study is to analyze the ways in which these techniques serve to normalize a number of social issues such as same-sex couple adoption and children with disabilities but can also be used (often simultaneously) to reinforce institutional biases and set new and harmful precedents. In doing so, the Wells Fargo commercial takes advantage of at least five of the seven McClintock propaganda techniques to appeal to their viewers and then provide them with information about the world they live in. It represents Chiat’s “truth” of what it is to be a good parent, regardless of gender. Lastly, it accesses both the limbic brain and human shadow to address and expel any lingering social implications about what constitutes a parent worthy of adoption.


Alexander Shvarts, Ph.D

Dr. Alexander Shvarts completed a BA in Russian/Sociology and Honors in Sociology at the University of Western Ontario and an MA and a PhD in Sociology at the University of Toronto. He was awarded the University of Toronto Open Fellowship from 1999-2002. He teaches various Sociology, Crime and Deviance, and Race and Ethnicity courses at Humber College, the University of Guelph-Humber, the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo.  He has presented papers on Russian Entrepreneurs, the Russian Mafia and Russian Jews at several conferences (ASA, CSA, ESS, Kokkalis, EGOS) in Europe, Canada, and the U.S., including Lyon, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Anaheim, and New York. Alkexander has published articles on the Russian Mafia in Contemporary Justice Review, International Review of Modern Sociology, and Michigan Sociological Review, and has also published articles on Russian Jews in Diasporic Ruptures: Globality, Migrancy, and Expressions of Identity and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. His book, based on his dissertation, is entitled Russian Transnational Entrepreneurs: Ethnicity, Class and Capital.

Tyler Bunzey, BA

Tyler Bunzey is a third year doctoral candidate in English at UNC-Chapel Hill studying how hip-hop interacts with the continuum of literacy and orality in its compositional process. He also has secondary interests in intersections of religious orthodoxy and hip-hop. Publications: "New Rhymes Over An Old Beat: A Review of Break Beats in the Bronx [by Joseph Ewoodzie]" in Mark Anthony Neal's digital platform NewBlackMan (in Exile) ( "A Review of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom [by Keisha Blain]" in Mark Anthony Neal's digital platform NewBlackMan (in Exile) ( Entries for Robert Hayden, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, and William Styron forthcoming (2019) in Twentieth Century and Contemporary American Literature in Context.

Sara Almalla

Sara Almalla is an undergraduate student and Mellon student fellow in her senior year at California State University, Northridge. She is going into the field of Sociology and her research interests include gender and sexuality in Muslim communities and the diaspora of Muslim women in the United States.