Fall 2014

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Nitasha Sharma

Photo by Peter Holderness, 2009

Take a close look at the floor-to-ceiling wall of books in Nitasha Sharma’s Crowe Hall office, and among the scholarly works you’ll find texts on the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Sharma, associate professor of Asian American and African American studies and author of Hip Hop Desis (Duke University Press 2010), focuses her teaching and research on the interaction between races and social classes, often using hip-hop as a gauge.

In the spring you taught “Diversity and Inequality at Northwestern University.” What was the goal?

“We’re graduating students who are unaware of questions of race and racism. I always try to have students be truthful and real. The take-home lesson is critical thinking. I’m really trying to highlight inquisitive knowledge. How can we think outside the box and question things?”

What was your message for the class of 2014 when you presented the Last Lecture during Senior Week?

“I schooled them! I asked them to pay attention to artists, not because they might be attractive and beautiful but because they often live outside of the path that we choose, outside of institutions. I also told them to take a stand and know their politics. If you see something, say something. Make people accountable.”

How do you see hip-hop as an academic field?

“Hip-hop studies is growing. You can look at the form of hip-hop and teach English and poetry. You can talk about fiction and reality with regard to an artist and what he or she is saying. You can learn a lot about U.S. capitalism, commodification, the music industry, consumer tastes and globalization through hip-hop.”