Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Alessandra Raengo

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer M. Barker

Third Advisor

Dr. Angelo Restivo

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Derek Conrad Murray


“A Hip-Hop Joint: Thinking Architecturally About Blackness” beings by recognizing that hip-hop visual culture’s rapid global expansion over the last four decades complicates its lasting connection to blackness. Instead of arguing that blackness is the content of contemporary hip-hop, this project considers blackness as the aesthetic that coheres the diffuse genre. Thus, blackness serves a distinctly architectural function in hip-hop visual culture—it is the architectonic logic of the genre. Therefore, this project illustrates the value of alternative definitions of blackness; specifically, this dissertation approaches blackness as a distinct set of spatial relations that can be observed in the many places and spaces hip-hop is produced and consumed. “A Hip-Hop Joint” argues blackness and hip-hop exist in a recursive loop: blackness generates the spatial organization of hip-hop and hip-hop is so racially charged that it produces blackness. As a result, hip-hop images can serve as the site for unexpected encounters with blackness—specifically, visualizing blackness in spaces that are not occupied by actual black bodies. Because visual culture organizes space through the positioning of the black body, this dissertation argues hip-hop images that defy the presumed appearance and visibility of blackness are not only capable of reconfiguring image relations, but also the aesthetics of anti-blackness. This project relies on black studies, visual culture studies, and architectural theory. The visual objects analyzed include: music videos directed by Hype Williams, Beyoncé’s “Formation,”, William Pope.L’s “Claim,” the trailer for Apollo Brown’s Thirty Eight album, and “Until the Quiet Comes” directed by Kahlil Joseph.


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